Pixies and The Big Moon, o2 Academy 16 September 2019

Pixies and The Big Moon, o2 Academy 16 September 2019Pixies and The Big Moon, o2 Academy 16 September 2019Pixies and The Big Moon, o2 Academy 16 September 2019Pixies and The Big Moon, o2 Academy 16 September 2019Pixies and The Big Moon, o2 Academy 16 September 2019Pixies and The Big Moon, o2 Academy 16 September 2019Pixies and The Big Moon, o2 Academy 16 September 2019Pixies and The Big Moon, o2 Academy 16 September 2019Pixies and The Big Moon, o2 Academy 16 September 2019

When Black Francis was Frank Black during the 1990’s he played small venues.  They were always packed, but they were small.  At the time I remember thinking how can this be; he was still the same man he was when he was the main songwriter in the Pixies, and was still writing the same beautifully imaginative and powerful songs.  And yet it seemed like he lost a massive amount of support when he was a solo artist.  This swell and slump in popularity is evident even during tonight’s set, as bona fide Pixies classics rub shoulders with new album tracks, and there are roars and there are also silences in a packed Academy – the audiences are bigger now but there is still an air of disquiet throughout.

Before the return of the Pixies to Birmingham’s Academy, the support tonight is The Big Moon who are a four piece band from London bringing their gloriously spiky and inventive set of songs, which are as poppy as they are alt-rocky.  They have a great ear for a melodic hook and the crunchy guitar lines and jagged rhythms are well thought out adding layers of interest. 

They are clearly excited to be supporting their heroes, as they bounce around the stage with youthful glee, and although there is a Pixies influence in their songs, they do inject their own personalities into every note. 

Even being left in darkness for their first song, as the lighting rig has not been turned on, does not dampen their spirits and judging by the audience reaction, their abundant joy is infectious.  With a new album coming out in the new year, they are certainly a band I will be listening out for (by the way, I have deliberately missed out an arguably vital piece of information regarding this band, which will be obvious from the images).

Just as I predicted in my album review last week, the Pixies’ ever changing set list always includes all of the twelve songs from the new album ‘Beneath the Eyrie’ – an album only released three days ago.  Bearing in mind new albums by the Pixies are not necessarily held in high esteem, this is either a brave or stupid thing to do.  My view is that the band’s ability to confound their audience is matched only by their integrity.  The thing is, Pixies seem almost oblivious to the effect they have on their audience: they come on stage, play for two hours, practically non-stop, say almost nothing to the crowd and only acknowledge the room on possibly three occasions… two of them are when they take a bow at the end of the set, and then as they are waving goodbye after a two song encore, the third being Joey holding his guitar out over the crowd making it sound like some crazy distorted theremin.  For many this would be a major criticism, as well as showing a lack of respect for the fans.  However, for me they honour us by trimming all the fat off a live show; how can you feel short changed when you get two hours of non-stop music, played ferociously and with the same feeling as when the songs were first recorded over thirty years ago?

Pixies may have seen changes over their time together and apart, but one constant is each individual musician’s ability to play their part flawlessly.  From Black Francis’ banshee like screams, to Santiago’s squealing Les Paul Custom, to Lenchantin’s perfectly placed backing vocals, to the thump from Lovering’s bass drum, which physically moves you it is so loud.  They power through a set of songs containing time signature changes and breaks, as tightly as any other band I have seen, and with no sense that their love for playing them has become jaded.  This is the third time I have seen the Pixies and they never disappoint.

The highlights for me are the extended intro of set opener ‘Gouge Away’; the stunned faces of those who haven’t heard the new album yet when ‘Silver Bullet’ kicks in and they think it is an undiscovered gem from the Pixies back catalogue; the backing vocals supplied by the audience during the intro to ‘Where Is My Mind?’; and hearing the full power live of the dark and brooding ‘This Is My Fate’ and ‘Long Rider’.  The thing is, despite Black Francis making the setlist up as he goes along (and actually speaking into a microphone to alert the other band members via their in ear monitors as to what to play next), the new songs are beautifully placed amongst older tracks and so I felt there is never a point when the set is dragging, and if the new songs are less well known now, you didn’t have to wait long for a song from their early albums.  The only album not appearing in the set is ‘Indie Cindy’ (although it does make an appearance on other nights).  I am sure there will be some that will consider playing all of your new album a little self-indulgent, but after all this a promotional tour for that album, they are perfectly entitled to play it… and it is really really good.  However, the silences (or certainly dramatic dips in energy from the crowd) for the new songs are noticeable – I even saw an exodus of dozens of fans from the main area by the stage during the period when ‘In the Arms of Mrs. Mark of Cain’, ‘Motorway to Roswell’ and ‘Daniel Boone’ are being played as if they thought the best bits are finished; shame as ‘Where Is My Mind?’ immediately followed.

I feel that the fans who are apt to hate the Pixies now are the die hard fans who feel the band owes them that dizzy feeling they first felt in 1987, when they first heard ‘Come on Pilgrim’.  This is of course impossible, and so love slips easily into hate.  I have only ever admired the band’s music and performances, and tonight is no exception.  On that basis I will continue to do so for a long time.

Setlist:

Gouge Away 

Dead

I’ve Been Tired
St. Nazaire
Rock Music
Gigantic
Classic Masher
On Graveyard Hill
Planet of Sound
All the Saints
Death Horizon
Here Comes Your Man
Ready for Love
The Holiday Song
Bird of Prey
Nimrod’s Son
This Is My Fate
Catfish Kate
Caribou
Debaser
Wave of Mutilation
Los Surfers Muertos
Ana
Mr. Grieves
Cactus
Havalina
Silver Bullet
Bone Machine
Brick Is Red
Long Rider
Monkey Gone to Heaven
No. 13 Baby
Ed Is Dead
In the Arms of Mrs. Mark of Cain
Motorway to Roswell
Daniel Boone
Where Is My Mind?

Encore:

Hey
Vamos

 

Reviewer: Alan Neilson

Photographer: Stephanie Colledge

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