It’s been a while since PIXIES have set foot onto Devon soil, okay, the last time they ventured down this way was for their 2014 appearance at The Eden Sessions but I like to imagine the quartet sitting down in a Devon eatery enjoying a traditional ‘Devon’ Cream Tea en route (cream first of course….non of that Cornish nonsense) prior to completing their journey across the Tamar! I may of course be wrong, they might have a caravan somewhere on the North Devon coast and enjoy short breaks as a band, munching on pasties and eating copious amounts of ice cream in the process, I could of course be wrong….very wrong!
Tonight, they were playing a show at Plymouth Pavilions, where they would showcase a large portion of their latest long player Beneath the Eyrie which only landed on 13th September. This didn’t give the fans a lot of time to familiarise themselves with the new material ahead of the show but hey ho, this is the Pixies and we ALL knew we were in for a treat regardless whether we were singing along to every word or not!
It was great to see a near capacity crowd in the Pavilions, it makes it look SO much better when the auditorium id fit to burst with bodies and tonight was one of those occasions. Having wandered through the bar, I saw all walks of life, middle aged die-hards, hipsters, men in matching chequered lumberjack style shirts (stag-do maybe?) and even an elderly couple who LOOKED like they would have been better suited to a Russell Watson and Aled Jones show but as they were both wearing vintage PIXIES T-Shirts, I imagine they were at the correct show!
Rhod took to the photo pit and I found my balcony seat (we’re not getting any younger!) as the support band took to the stage to open the proceedings.
THE SLOW SHOW are a Manchester based indie-pop quartet who deliver edgy, minimalist piano led pop accompanied by a beautiful baritone vocal. The guitar injected additional colour into the set with its epic but somewhat sombre melodies. A swathe of synth washed over the room as the thought provoking music echoed around the arena. There were some delightfully uplifting moments during the set which demonstrated the bands ability to switch between moody and serious to a lighter hearted, more pop orientated steer.
They sang of drinking gin on one’s own and growing old together with people you love, subject matter that resonated with just about everyone in the room. I hate to compare bands but if I had a gun to my head, I would happily describe them as an off kilter version of EDITORS fronted by the bastard love child of Gary Barlow and Jarvis Cocker.
After a break to rearrange the stage, leaving very little apart from amps, guitars and microphone stands, the lights dipped, up went a roar and PIXIES took to the stage.
I was delighted to see 4 bright beams of natural looking light shining down on the four members as they strapped on guitars and got comfy ready to embark on an epic journey which would take the room on a roller coaster ride throughout their tumultuous and colourful career to date. As Rhod Cooper (photographer extraordinaire) pointed his camera in the band’s direction, it was if a switch had been pressed and off went the natural lights and on came a barrage of photographer unfriendly bright red spots and LED’s from the back of the stage making it very difficult to photograph them. Rhod is a pro in the pit and despite the challenges he faced, he still managed to grab a bunch of pics of the band during the first three songs when he was evicted from the pit to enjoy the remainder of the mammoth set from the balcony with yours truly!
The band have never used setlist during their shows and with me not being the world’s biggest PIXIES fan, I struggled at times to identify each track but I did have a go and managed to capture the names of a number of tracks that appear on their latest long player including ‘Catfish Kate’ and the almost playful ‘oompah’ tones of ‘This is my Fate’ which delighted me, leaving a smile from ear to ear!
Motorik beats, driving bass, tight guitar and Black’s trademark yelp vocals were what people had come to hear and this my friend is what you got, the classics were peppered throughout the set and it was incredible to hear ‘Here Comes Your Man’, ‘Monkeys Gone to Heaven’ and ‘Velouria’ played live in front of a near capacity crowd.
The new material sounded more mature, like a grown up version of the material they knocked out back in the late 80’s but it sounded incredible, tight concise writing and musicianship which proves that they still have the ability to knock out a killer tune 33 years after they formed in Boston, Massachusetts.
Highlights from the set (for me) included ‘Bone Machine’, complete with it’s crunchy chorus, vocal harmonies and driving backline, ‘Cactus’ really hit me as well, appearing on Surfer Rosa, this could easily have featured on their new LP as it sounded as fresh as it did when it was first showcased over 30 years ago.
‘Caribou’ was brash, dirty and intense, the guitar notes cut through you like a scalpel whilst spotlights danced around the room, causing you to wince in pain when the beams struck you like laser beams.
As ‘Debaser’ fired up, so did the audience and it was crowd surfing city on the ground floor as people were deftly plucked from the crowd and ‘assisted’ out of the pit to rejoin the throng once again.
Rather than leave the stage and leave the crowd wanting more, they mimed running away and then back onto the stage again and Black held up one finger denoting that they would be playing one more track to close the show. With that, the band strapped up for the final time and launched into an immaculate version of ‘Gigantic’, a track that many people would know despite probably NOT knowing it was by PIXIES! ‘Gigantic’ is also the word I would use to describe the set, with a PIXIES show, you don’t get the bullshit, no pyrotechnics, no glitter curtains and illuminated backdrop to take your attention off the music, you simply get four musicians pumping out quality music which everyone appreciated. I heard someone say that they were a bit pissed off that they didn’t talk much during the set, I overheard and commented that with a 34 track set, there’s little room for small talk!
All in all, it was an epic experience and one I will not forget for a long time to come. Thank you for coming to see us in Plymouth and allowing so many people to witness one of the most incredible bands on the planet right now!