Live Review

Pixies, Electric Brixton, London

Expectations sidestepped, the band sound surprisingly fresh.

Photo © Paul Hudson
As Black Francis walks onto the stage, everyone in the audience has the same feverish look on their faces. Backlit into silhouettes against a wall of magnified glass tiles, the set begins without ceremony when the first bars of The Fall’s ‘Big New Prinz’ shred all nerves into little tiny pieces. He screws his eyes closed as they plough straight into Jesus and Mary Chain’s warcry ‘Head On’, yanking the neck of his guitar down on the riffs and shouting more than screaming. Then they rattle through the songs like a fucking steam train. ‘Wave of Mutilation’, ‘Levitate Me’, ‘Another Toe in the Ocean’ and ‘Velouria’ sound fast and meaty, though the usual bright guitars are muddied in the Electric’s weary soundsystem.

Black drives the band through the set at a ferocious pace, never speaking directly to the audience of 1,500 fans fortunate enough to score a ticket to this tiny show in a Brixton disco. New bassist Kim Shattuck looks as cool as you like in Kim Deal’s spot, which is really the only real way to play it. She’s impressive; drilling out the motifs that make these songs so memorable with depth and feeling but her vocals are so quiet that it’s hard to distinguish what she actually sounds like. Thankfully, no one succumbs to shouting ‘You’re not my real mum’ at her and it didn’t feel weird, as most feared it might.

Some favourites like ‘Debaser’ are noticeably absent but there are also surprising gifts in the set, too. The gloomy romanticism of ‘Indie Cindy’, a ferocious solo by Joey Santiago on new single ‘Bagboy’, the first bonafide scream from Black on ‘River Euphrates’. On ‘In Heaven’ the stage is bathed in acid yellow light and a whomping fuzz works on the crowd like a seance. David Lovering’s snappy drums are amazing to witness throughout, playing close over the snare in a tight cubic foot of space one minute, the next stretched out and rangy, smashing the cymbals all to hell.

For the encore they save ‘Monkey Gone to Heaven’ and end with an astounding version of ‘Vamos’, Santiago clawing at his guitar with a drumstick, Shattuck bouncing and chanting, and Frank, just cold chilling. It’s not hard to please a roomful of devout fans but by giving some of their lesser known songs a run they have sidestepped our expectations and delivered something slightly unfamiliar and fresher for it.

Tags: Pixies, Features

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