Pixies current Australian tour proves they're still a cut above
There was a time where many of us thought we’d never get to see the Pixies. Then they reformed, toured Australia and just kept coming back.
So seeing them in 2017 doesn’t come with the same heady sense of anticipation as it once did. But maybe that’s part of what made the opening show of their Australian tour so damn incredible.
Seeing them still feels like seeing a vital piece of music history. One of the few truly important bands of our generation.
Let’s start by addressing the two pressing issues for many Pixies fans.
Yes, Kim Deal has left the band. No, it’s not quite the same without her. But if the relationship between her and other members of the band was as toxic as we’re led to believe, then she’s probably in a much better place right now.
We certainly hope so. We love her.
Besides, Paz Lenchantin – one of the best rock’n’roll bassists on the planet right now – does a genuinely stellar job in her stead. They are huge boots to fill and she does so with poise.
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We also can’t deny that the quality of Pixies output this decade pales in comparison to their classic material.
Seeing many of the songs performed on this tour, it’s quickly evident that most fans either haven’t heard or at least haven’t committed any of the songs to memory. But it’s also clear that the songs really aren’t that bad. We just expect a lot from this band.
But what we all came to see were those classic Pixies tracks that have been a huge part of our lives over the past few decades. They played most of them (I would have loved ‘Broken Face’ but you can’t have everything) and they played them with as much vitality as ever.
Black Francis sounded a little restrained on ‘Cactus’ and ‘Nimrod’s Son’ early in the set, but it soon became evident that he was just warming up. Besides, it gave us a moment to truly revel in the incomparable guitar work of Joey Santiago. His snaking, gritty, western/surf-punk breaks are so vital to this band that we were overjoyed and relieved that he managed to make this trip in light of recent issues.
The haunting ‘Where Is My Mind’ also came early, a genius move that threw everyone off-guard, and it’s immediately chased by the jaunty ‘Here Comes Your Man’. By this point no one in the audience regretted stumping up the cash for another dose of Pixies.
By the time the long intro of ‘Gouge Away’ was through and the band had exploded into the chorus, Francis sounded completely devastating. He roared the chorus with as much power as we’ve ever heard from him.
His scream is again coarse, sharp and perfect on ‘U-Mass’, which snapped us back to life after a couple of passable but slightly uninspiring tracks from last year’s Head Carrier and he took it to the next level yet again with ‘Tame’ and the night’s best new song ‘Baal’s Back’, which really saw him push his voice to the limit.
David Lovering’s thunderous drums were monumental in ‘Velouria’, Paz took charge in ‘Caribou’ and the entire band were perfect in their fevered run through ‘Debaser’ and the slow-grooving ‘Hey’.
It all came to a head with ‘Planet Of Sound’, where the band’s significant lighting rig was put through its paces, providing both a visual and aural assault on our senses. And how great it felt. It probably would have been better to end it there rather than with encore song ‘Into The White’, but by this stage we just didn’t want them to leave. We would have sat through anything.
Pixies reframed what a rock’n’roll band could be back on those early records. They were jagged and angular. Aggressive but not overly masculine. Weird but catchy. And, of course, very quiet and very loud.
Their influence is heard all across modern rock; from thrashing teens who’ll never leave the garage to stadium filling superstars. At the risk of sounding overly hyperbolic, seeing them still feels like seeing a vital piece of music history. One of the few truly important bands of our generation.
So, if you’re on the fence about seeing the Pixies again, just go. The band sound as good as ever and those songs are never gonna get boring.