There is something quite thrilling about going to see one of your favourite bands at one of your favourite venues and not being able to figure out if this is the third or fourth time you're seeing them at this venue. This is probably something that people who’ve lived in big cities all their lives take for granted but when you once lived in the political and cultural wasteland of Apartheid South Africa, where all good bands go to die, it is something that will never grow old.
I think I’ve settled on it being three times. There was the time my long-suffering husband bought me a plane ticket from Johannesburg to London just so I could see Pixies on their Sell-Out tour. There was the Doolittle tour where they played the entire album, in order, for the 20th anniversary of the Doolittle release. I was almost certain that I’d seen Pixies again when they released Indie Cindy but that concert was at Hammersmith and I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever seen one act there and that was the marvellous Nick Cave.
And there is this time.
The Pixies concert at Brixton Academy on 11 July 2016 was different from the others because Kim Deal was not there and the band was playing a lot of new material. I’m not going to sugar-coat it – there was a lot about the gig that was not great. For the first ten songs, there appeared to be no chemistry on stage, especially with new bassist Paz Lenchantin and Frank Black was shouting his lyrics. If you’re a fan of loud, shouty music anyway, there is a fine line between singing and shouting the lyrics and I heard Frank Black do it that night just as I saw Mike Patton do it at Exit in 2010.
The good news is that there is a definite return to the sound of Trompe le Monde both in the number of tracks performed from the album and the sound of the new material – which is great because I love that album – but even I struggled to enjoy a shouty, off-key “Subbacultcha”.
And then the next thing you know…
Pixies finally got their groove back.
Round about the tenth track of a massive 31-song set, the band finally seemed to hit the right note and things definitely started to look up from there. It started with “Levitate Me” and “Isla de Encanta” and from that point on there were far more hits than misses. I’m going to share my five highlights of the evening which, by the end of the night, made it a good concert despite the earlier teething problems.
- Um Chagga Lagga: I’m going to share a somewhat unpopular opinion – I don’t like Indie Cindy. That is not entirely unexpected. In the history of my Pixies obsession, I’ve never liked one of their albums on listening to it for the first time but somehow that initial dislike of Indie Cindy endured. I was therefore thrilled when I listened to the new track “Um Chagga Lagga” for the first time and loved it and hearing it performed at the Brixton Academy confirmed that. It is a great track and sounded great live.
- Gouge Away: This is one of my favourite tracks of all time on an album of utterly brilliant hits but it is usually tracks like “Hey” that steal the limelight in live shows. On 11 July, it was “Gouge Away” where we were treated to what amounted to an extended 12” version of this fantastic track. It was an epic moment and one that will go down as one of my favourite concert moments of all time.
- Rock Music: The best thing about going to a concert with your younger brother and not, say, someone you’d like to impress one day is that you can go absolutely ballistic when one of your favourite tracks comes on. And I did so during “Rock Music”. It should be said that the people next to me were doing exactly the same. And if you’ve noted that one of my favourite tracks was one of their most shouty, you might understand what I meant earlier about Frank Black shouting where he should have been singing. Or maybe not. Pixies rendition of this track was so good that my brother, less familiar with Bossanova than their other albums, asked “what the hell was that?” and promised to give Bossanova another listen.
- Vamos: I’ve always liked Joey Santiago and it wasn’t only because he was the best looking chap in the band. But the thing about Joey is that he’s quiet and doesn’t like stealing the limelight. Well he stole the limelight that night at the Brixton Academy. Joey treated us to an epic, extended display of reverb madness when he demonstrated just how chaotic yet perfectly executed the reverb in Vamos really is. The man is a master and truly brilliant and this track had the crowd whooping with delight.
- Planet of Sound: The thing about Trompe le Monde is that not only is it one of my favourite albums but I can pretty much recite the words off by heart. Nowhere is that more true than the second track “Planet of Sound” which I can recite with actions too. It was their final track of the night, played on encore and I absolutely loved it. My brother, on the other hand, was trying to pretend that he was in no way associated with me.
Despite a shaky start, the evening was a huge success and the crowd went home satisfied. I might not be willing to fork out money on their next concert in November but after hearing some of the new material, I’m definitely going to do so on the next album.
Pixies at O2 Brixton Academy, 11 July 2016
Head On Wave of Mutilation
Monkey Gone to Heaven
Isla de Encanta
Um Chagga Lagga
I've Been Tired
Brick Is Red
Distance Equals Rate Times Time
Where Is My Mind?
Here Comes Your Man
Planet of Sound