The Pixies went back to the future revisiting their first two releases Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa in chronological order, much to the delight of their diehard fans.
This was the third time I had seen The Pixies and it was the third time they had a different bass player since they graced our shores back in 2010, celebrating Doolittle, their most well-known album and my favourite.
I have to give a nod to Carl and Heath here. They are long time buddies and music buffs, and it was thanks to their persistence that I found The Pixies. So it was with some discussion and laughter that we reminisced about concerts past, and started to prepare for the pilgrimage back to Spark Arena.
It was at this point we had a unique conversation about the other support acts. Most at our table agreed there was only one, being The Beths. However one particular member, who shall remain nameless, was adamant there were two, until she reread her ticket stating The Doors open at 7pm. Enough said.
The Beths had come and gone before we arrived with what was a very short set list, but one I heard from others was excellent.
The arena felt full when we arrived. It had been reduced in size, which meant that even those not keen to pogo up the front, including my group, got to see them closer than ever before, this time supported by large video screens to help the effect and flow of the night.
The band members David Lovering drums, Joey Santiago lead guitar, Paz Lenchantin bass, and of course the maestro himself Francis Black, sauntered on stage and were met with a feverish welcome from the crowd. The silhouettes of the band made a perfect backdrop and it stayed that way for most of the night as the video screens lit up the arena.
True to the label on the tin the band kicked off with track one Caribou off Come On Pilgrim. Straight away you knew this concert was not going to be for the faint-hearted. The slow melodic start, sung by Paz, was then torn to shreds with Black screaming venom that might have taken even the purest by surprise.
From there they tore though Vamos, and Isla De Encanta in quick succession, which isn’t too tough given the tracks are around the two minute mark, both dripping with Puerto Rican punk and simplistic three chord riffs.
Things slowed down just a tad with Ed is Dead. The Holiday Song followed sending the crowd of true disciples into a frenzy, and was easily the best track in the first section of the show. The rest of the tracks followed with pace and finished off with Levitate Me.
The thing that grabbed me about this gig was the great cross section of the crowd. From those that were into them when they first started, right through to the latest generation grabbing on to the coolness that The Pixies still demand today. In fact they were so cool not a word was said to the crowd until the second section of Surfer Rosa.
One outcome of playing albums end-to-end and in succession is to see how a band like this evolved. Halfway through the show I was thinking it would have been outstanding if they had included Doolittle as well. The jump between these first two albums is startling, however the foundation of Doolittle was there for all to see.
Bone Machine was a great start to act two, off Surfer Rosa. But it wasn’t until Gigantic when I thought they really had the crowd in the palm of their hands. Things then went crazy as the band stretched out and blew my mind with Where is My Mind.
Just brilliant and you can hear in those opening chords how many other bands since then have been influenced by them. Looking at the punters they were in their happy place as well, some more than others given the puffs of dull smoke popping up over the crowd like the remnants of a forest fire.
Cactus followed, which the late great David Bowie covered on Heathen, which would have been one compliment that Francis would have accepted with some excitement I suspect.
The rest of the songs screamed by with the pedal down to the floor, as they got through their 21 songs in less than an hour, with only one very short break coming from Francis as he went to do something off stage and warned his band not to touch his shit or else… in the middle of the Surfer Rosa set.
The encore was the best I had seen for sometime, which refreshingly kicked off without them leaving the stage. After waving and bowing and saying their goodbyes, they went straight back to business and blazed through the last section with my favourite track Debaser off Doolittle. Now I was in my happy space and with that they played four other tracks off Doolittle, with their own nod to The Jesus and Mary Chain with Head On nicely splitting up the final set.
No Here Comes Your Man, but given this was not a commercial night it probably didn’t fit, and looking at the audience as they poured out in a sea of sweat they didn’t seem to care. This was a night to look back and celebrate a band that is still cool and they know it.
Radio 13 thanks and credits Trevor Villers for all the images featured in this article.