Rock icons Pixies owned Brisbane’s The Riverstage (2 March) for a show packed with classics.
Opening with a relaxed, support slot of country guitar licks and organ swirls from psychedelic-Americana group The Murlocs, anticipation for the Pixies was high. The smallest sign of any of the Pixies taking to the stage excited the faithful fans gathered; from lighting tests to soundcheck.Click here for more photos.
When the band did take their place on stage to rounds of applause, they declined greeting their fans. Instead, Black Francis began the opening verse of ‘Cactus’, with his bandmates joining in as he yelled “sing it to me”.Image © Sophie Wakefield
After the thrilling opening, the Pixies didn’t hesitate going into ‘The Holiday Song’, then ‘Nimrod’s Son’. The lack of breaks between songs became the norm for the night, with the band seeming like they wanted to speed through their hour-and-a-half-long set.
Even with the excitement of finally hearing my personal guitar-hero Joey Santiago’s opening riff on ‘Where Is My Mind?’ I couldn’t help feel like something was missing. The members are exceptional performers. Black Francis has lost his ability to scream like he used to, but still has the fury found on the best Pixies songs.Image © Sophie Wakefield
Joey Santiago makes up for his bandmate’s diminished vocals by making his guitar yelp. Drummer David Lovering shows he still has his stamina; never slowing pace as he thumps his kit. The absence of original bassist Kim Deal is noticeable, but new member Paz Lenchantin fits in well.
The group are a well-oiled unit, going through the songs at an assembly-line pace. That might be the problem: the group appear to have lost their manic energy and unpredictability, risking becoming a ‘nostalgia act’.Image © Sophie Wakefield
My disappointment disappeared upon hearing the bassline of ‘Gouge Away’. As the band blasted into the chorus, they had found their rage again. The Pixies’ newfound momentum continued with songs from their latest album ‘Head Carrier’, including ‘Bel Espirit’, ‘Oona’ and the Paz-led ‘All I Think About Now’, all of which work just as well live as their classics.
It is with ‘Debaser’ when I have a wave of awe run over me; something I expected to happen in my first live encounter with my childhood heroes. My excitement returned during ‘Tame’, ‘Velouria’ and ‘U-Mass’. It was inspiring to see the band let loose with the heavy metal screamer ‘Baal’s Back’; the smoke machines giving the impression their amps were overheating from the energy.Image © Sophie Wakefield
As polished as the band were, there was a moment where their guard dropped to reveal the Pixies of old. An attempt at ‘Havalina’ was made, but Black Francis’ vocals couldn’t reach the high notes. After apologising, the group promised to play “another song about an animal”, ‘Snake’, but lost their steam. They quickly recovered with two beloved tracks in a row, ‘Caribou’ and their dazzling anthem ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’.
After closing with ‘Planet Of Sound’, the band came together to take their bows. Demand for an encore was high, and the band delivered by playing b-side ‘Into The White’. The reception to a song not even featured on their albums shows the cultish devotion of Pixies fans.
While they risked becoming a nostalgia band like The Rolling Stones – playing to adults wanting to relive their youth (a middle-aged fan even wore a school dress to the show) – Pixies proved they’ve still got their edge, and have cemented their iconic status.Click here for more photos.