- 27 Sep 19
The Pixies were like nothing alternative rock had previously encountered when they slithered from the darkest recesses of frontman Black Francis’ id in the late ’80s . Their songs were cathartic yet wonderfully oddball and disturbing. Consider fan favourite ‘Cactus’, which opens with the narrator in a prison cell wishing his lover would dispatch to him a frock streaked with her blood. Nirvana were bigger, Hüsker Dü more fraught: but the Pixies were the weirdest of them all.
That delicate balance between thunderous and twisted has endured as the band have taken their 2004 reunion to the obvious next level by recording fresh material. True, 2014’s Indie Cindy was a middle-aged misfire, plodding rather than ear-rattlingly perverse. But they did better on 2016 follow-up Head Carrier and this year’s Beneath the Eyrie, both of which at least scraped the underbelly of previous glories.
But make no mistake it was the oldies that got the heart pumping at their sold out Dublin show. Amid spumes of dry ice, Francis – Charles Thompson to friends and neighbours – guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer Dave Lovering and new (ish) bassist Paz Lenchantin began in a circle knocking out the opening riff to ‘Cecilia Ann’. “Quiet-loud-quiet” is the handle often applied to Pixies’ music. This was just loud and louder: a blast of melodic exuberance that shook the Olympia to its gilded rafters.
A new album from a beloved band can be a troubling proposition. Pixies ploughed through most of Beneath the Eyrie. Sometimes it didn’t quite work: not enough people are familiar with the deep cuts, and anyway, they had forked out for an evening of nostalgia. The Pixies solution was to play the recent stuff – AND all the hits.
A rapid-fire 33 tunes were dispatched over the course of a near two-hour performance and most of your favourites featured. A few could, in truth, do with being put out to pasture – ‘Here Comes Your Man’, for instance, feels nowadays like an extended stay in indie disco purgatory. Others remain as dangerous and glittering as they did three decades ago. A slowed down ‘Gouge Away’ left bite-marks and Area 51 paean ‘Motorway to Roswell’ has gained an eerie currency in light of the internet campaign to storm the American airforce base where the little green men are harboured.
As is traditional with Pixies, it was all riffs, no chit-chat. Lenchantin brought muscularity and playfulness (you hardly missed original bassist Kim Deal) while the power trio of Francis, Santiago and Lovering chugged like titans. The evening was ultimately more about wistfulness for the past than the Pixies’ further adventures in nonconformist power pop. But there were moments of true transcendence as Francis unleashed the alien-obsessed eccentric within and beamed us all up to heavy rock heaven.
Photo Credit: Colm Kelly