Edit this event
- Pixies »
“I remember the t-shirt I was wearing and the exact colour of the sky when I walked into the record shop and pulled Surfer Rosa off the shelf…” “…when my then-girlfriend put the needle to side A and the opening riff of ‘Debaser’ rang out, the spot-varnish of Doolittle’s sleeve glinting like fire in our eyes, I knew I was going to spend then rest of my life with her…” “The day I heard the Pixies had split was the day that music died…”
Throughout the last couple of weeks I’ve felt increasingly exasperated by the nostalgic - not to mention hysterical - coverage of the Pixies in the run up to their UK tour. Each and every article I have read has clearly been written by sad Nick Hornby types clutching onto their old records for dear life and keeping thoughts of their receding hairlines and child support payments at bay with tales of the golden age of indie. How very uncool. For, no matter how much of a fan of the band I am, I feel I’ve been able to keep some sort of perspective on all this madness. Of course, I did get up at 8.30am on a Saturday morning some time ago in order to secure a couple of tickets to one of their London shows. Who wouldn’t? But I also remained level-headed and kept an eye on ticket prices on eBay and the live reviews trickling in from the States. If the Pixies were fat and old and useless, I’d sell them without a moment’s hesitation. Reunion tours are dodgy at the best of times and nostalgia can be a poisonous and insidious thing.
Well - that’s how I felt about things last week. Now sitting down to write this review of the Pixies' show on Thursday night, I’ve discovered that I was wrong about the dorky old indie guys and their incredibly personal reviews. Perhaps it’s because the bad has had a remarkable and lasting influence on modern music that few bands can claim – not only on fellow musicians but also on fans too. You see, this can’t be anything but personal, okay? It just can’t. And I’ve only just realised it. Some bands are just like that.
Pixies have basically been with me for the whole of my conscious musical life. I first heard them when I was fourteen years old, on holiday in Ireland. My cousin had a Pixies tape and I had a shitty no-brand 'walkman'. Sharing a headphone apiece and with a finger firmly planted in the other ear to keep out the noise of the parental car stereo, we bombed around the west of Ireland visiting this auntie and that uncle with the Pixies to keep us company. The album was 'Trompe Le Monde' and I’d never heard anything quite like it. I found out later that the album is generally considered to be their weakest record, largely the product of Frank Black’s enormous ego and the final album before the group’s acrimonious split. At the time I didn’t even know Pixies were no longer. I was utterly captivated with the melodies on the album, the bizarre lyrics and imagery, the way the songs changed completely into something else and then into something else before they finally came to a close. I went home and started to save up for their back catalogue. I was heart-broken when I discovered they’d split up several years before.
And then, last Thursday night, I saw them play live - unbelievable...
The Pixies saunter onto the stage as Brixton’s PA, appropriately, belts out the last strains of ‘Hang On To Your Ego’ by the Beach Boys. Kim smokes a fag. Joey grins and waves to the giddy audience. Frank looks, as ever, like a giant evil baby. He straps on an acoustic guitar that seems toy-sized in his hands and Dave Lovering thrashes out the intro to ‘La La Love You’. “I love you,” says Kim; “I love you,” says Joey; “I love you - I do,” smirks Frank. Just like on the fucking record. Plastic pint glasses rain down from the balcony above. The crowd goes crazy. I think most people, like me, feel like they need to pinch themselves just to prove it's actually real. And everybody sings along.
Now some bands write songs that make sense as sing-alongs; the Pixies definitely aren’t one of them. Although essentially a pop band, their songs are warped and twisted - full of death, pain and ugliness. It is somewhat strange therefore to hear the crowd of almost 5,000 singing joyously along to songs like ‘Wave of Mutilation’ and ‘Broken Face’. And not just singing along to the chorus but keeping up with Frank’s rabid grunts and demonic exclamations, every single one. The audience lifts the performance of ‘Gouge Away’, always a deeply disturbing song, into an exquisitely beautiful thing.
The band remains mostly silent between songs, concentrating on playing rather than padding out the show with the self-congratulatory banter that usually accompanies a comeback gig. The ferocious way in which the band attacks their back-catalogue makes them seem as vital as they have ever been. It's difficult to believe that this is a recently reformed band playing songs that are well over 10-years-old. In fact, the full set list of tonight’s performance is an astonishing testament to the strength of the band’s output – although it does focus heavily on tracks from ‘Doolittle’ and ‘Surfer Rosa’, somewhat ignoring their later work.
The Pixies close the main set with a jubilant rendition of ‘Where Is My Mind?’ – a song missing from the previous night’s show – and leave the crowd absolutely blown away by their performance. The ecstatic audience eventually persuades them to play three encores, including a stomping ‘U-Mass’ and a welcome, joyful reprise of ‘Wave Of Mutilation’. They close with an unearthly performance of the b-side ‘Into the White’ before the band, enveloped in feedback and dry ice, departed the stage for the final time. The Pixies were and are incredibly important to those they’ve touched. Tonight, those ecstatic masses drove them higher still.
- The DiS Community's... 101 Favourite Albums
- DiSsers recommend... Quiet/LOUD songs
- Death Cab for Bass: Mixtape of Songs That Inspired Nick to Play Bass
- Spotifriday #83: This Week as a Playlist ft. Battles, Tom Waits, Strokes, Pixies, Austra
- WIN a behind the scenes pass to this year's JD Set with Tim Wheeler & Emmy the Great
- Pixies make 2004 Coachella show free to download
- Bands cancel shows following Israel's flotilla raid
- In Photos: Pixies @ The Troxy, London