Pixies at Trinity College Dublin, Sunday 9th July 2017
Pixies were never really huge talkers. “loudQUIETloud”, a documentary dating from their 2004 reunion tour depicts the band distanced from each other and barely talking while a buoyant yet frustrated Kim Deal entertains the cameras. Understandable given the band’s history together and their seeming difference in characters. But a refreshing glimpse at the other more dare say boring and empty side to touring as a band.
And as a result of such, thirteen years on, there is practically nothing in terms of crowd interaction or even interaction between each other for that matter. In the wrong light their performance would come off as rote or unenthusiastic. But this is not the case. On this warm yet dreary night in July, like thirteen years ago, Pixies proved themselves to be rock generals of the modern era.
Since then Deal has left the band and two albums have been released. There is nothing played from 2013’s ‘Indie Cindy’. But in amongst a collection of singles, other fan favourites, b-sides and rarities spanning from a sparkling yet fractured career, there is plenty to cheer for from their newest album, last year’s ‘Head Carrier’.
The first of which, Talent, (a wonderfully circuitous ode to a man with a waste of talent) comes after a blistering triumvirate of Gouge Away, Debaser and Wave of Mutilation from 1989’s momentous ‘Doolittle’.
Despite the band’s at times hastily put together setlist, Joey Santiago (guitar) and Dave Lovering (drums) perfectly augment each harmony, howl or yelp from frontman, Black Francis every bit as well as they did nearly thirty years ago.
Deal’s replacement, Paz Lenchantin is visibly stiff and apprehensive, particularly on set closer, Into the White, for which she takes lead vocals. But largely, her performance is unfaultable. Besides, it would take something miraculous to directly replace the inexplicable talents of Deal, especially when being entrusted to bring down the curtains.
It is this rapport and pinpoint-precision that ultimately stands tall above any mishaps in setlist curation and lack of crowd engagement thereof. But then, that’s it. Who says there’s one right way to do things? And that a band must engage in full-on conversation with a several-thousand strong crowd? What’s to say they can’t marvel a crowd from simply rallying through (flawlessly may we add again) thirty-two spectacular songs from their discography?
This was a delightful show. And every bit as breathless yet anthemic as you would have hoped. It is a testament to their talents and accessibility that a band with such a niche sound could lead one of the greatest sing-alongs the capital has witnessed this year.
What is most remarkable though is how despite being in his fifties, Francis’ vocal range is still as expansive as Pixies’ subject matter. This is best showcased during Monkey Gone to Heaven, Tame (I mean, come on, who else would have you screaming the word “tame” over and over again on the grounds of a four hundred and odd year-old college’s cricket grounds?), Caribou and Cactus (which David bowie liked so much he covered it on 2002’s ‘Heathen’).
This doesn’t stop Dave Lovering from performing vocal duties (on ‘Doolittle’’s weird and wonderful, La La love You) however. And this makes you wonder why the magician-drummer has sang on only two Pixies songs to date.
Nearly thirty years on from the band’s debut mini-LP, ‘Come on Pilgrim’, Pixies, despite their hiatuses are still the most captivating rock band around. And show no signs of letting up either. Songs like Talent maintain that surfer rock-cum-grunge-cum-indie-pop-cum-anything in between vibe while still driving them in an exciting new direction and slot in nicely beside old classics such as Monkey Gone to Heaven or Wave of Mutilation.
The most resounding receptions come courtesy of Where is My Mind (which most people will know from having been immortalised by the end of Fight Club) and Here Comes Your Man though. And it’d be difficult to argue that the respective collections which they hail from won’t be their enduring legacy.
Nevertheless the future remains bright. And based on tonight’s performance there remains, musically at least, no tighter unit in rock and roll. Pure magic.