In the end we deliver our applause on a battlefield; torn between demanding time stops so the Pixies of our youth can perpetuate, or let it tick ever onward for better or worse. ‘Into The White’ stands alone as an encore; heralded by relentless clouds of dry ice as the balcony stands to show their appreciation, the floor crowd surge in blind euphoria, and on the stage shadows fade in and out of the strobing lights as they illuminate the billows. Paz Lenchantin’s voice rings through the melee and for the final time tonight the balance tips in favour of moving forward with this enduring band.
“In this conjuring they step lightly away from the nostalgia while acknowledging every part of their 30 year journey to this point”
In these days where music looks back as much as forward, when audiences seek out the instant gratification of nostalgia, it’s as surprising as fascinating that a band could escape the financial trap of being a living tribute to their former selves and strive to become a creative force again. Pixies are doing just that – together longer in the comeback than they were in their original run they see themselves as viable and increasingly it’s hard to disagree. In evidence they present us with ‘Head Carrier’; an album which feels as influenced by their earlier work as it is an evolution of this enduring band and tonight’s epic 36-song set snaking through their catalogue.
This is a band completing their transition. They are moving forward but give the audience free choice; they lay out the old and the new side by side to show that by loving the Pixies of the now you don’t have to compromise the band you loved back then.
Shrouded in shadows, visually the band create space into which their sound can crowd. The stage seems vast as they each play their part, interacting little with each other, less with us out here. And in this conjuring they step lightly away from the nostalgia while acknowledging every part of their 30 year journey to this point.
Latest album ‘Head Carrier’ is Pixies perfectly encapsulated for where the band are now. After the fan anti-climax around ‘Indie Cindy’ (conspicuous in its absence tonight but an album best judged now the shock of Kim Deal’s departure has dissipated) ‘Head Carrier’ makes Paz Lenchantin official as a full time member and manages respectful and wry nods to their classic tracks while burning its own light bright too. Tonight’s set is unsurprisingly heavy on inclusions from this long player and they provide some of the stand-out moments; ‘Tenement Song’ and ‘Might As Well Be Gone’ shine through while the breakneck riotous pace of ‘Um Chagga Lagga’ whirls over and through the crowd, proving this band can still be furious, fun and filthy all at once.
Lenchantin pays her respects to Deal with ‘All I Think About Now’ and we hang in the balance again; do we pine for the Pixie we feel we lost, or embrace the one in front of us? Again we are being shown by the band we can do both.
Which is how, when their classics are dropped into the set it is on current performance not the memory of past glory we judge. Santiago’s guitar a carefully etched pattern on their wall of noise, Black Francis screaming out his sermons, Lovering relentless and faultless in his rhythms, Lenchantin technically raising the game and adding a lightness to their stage presence. This band is not just viable, at times they are vital.
They hit their pace with the audience dropping in ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’ three songs in and then they rise and fall taking in tracks from everything from ‘Come On Pilgrim’ forward, as well as covers of The Surftones’ ‘Cecilia Ann’ and ‘Winterlong’ by Neil Young. There is a growing frenzy in the audience, the band presiding calmly above the slamming mass as the show climaxes with a run of four from 1989’s ‘Doolittle’ as we are driven through with ‘Gouge Away’, ‘Debaser’, ‘Tame’, and ‘Hey’.
This indulgent set certainly provided on quantity and while the energy may have ebbed and flowed the quality never slipped. Pixies are a band well-deserving of their legend status, not only musically but because of their flawed charm, the magic made by imperfect players. They’ve found a way to move forward, to escape the binds of a never-ending comeback and show us a hint of potential once more. Tonight was what was, what is and just enough of what might be to put Pixies where they want to be; masters of their past but more importantly, their future.
by Sarah Lay