Pixies at the iTunes Festival 2013 

September 26, 2013

Pixies – Live at the iTunes Festival review

‘Debaser’ wasn’t played. ‘Gigantic’, fittingly, wasn’t played. ‘The Holiday Song’ wasn’t played.

This may sound like the basis for a brutal post-match report. However, as with much in life, the devil is in the detail (and a lot of Black Francis’ lyrics, truth be told). The full picture had a lot more to offer as Pixies graced the iTunes festival last night in their first UK gig since the departure of founding bass player Kim Deal.

Firstly, to any complainants at the notable omissions; if this is the price to pay for the inclusion of four new songs then so be it. Forgive the rhetoric, but isn’t it more important to be established as a relevant entity, then a has-been nostalgia act? It’s a safe bet that half an audience will encourage progression and half will not. For musical integrity’s sake, it is surely important to listen to the former. Like those friends we class as fair-weather, it is only a matter of time before the latter will be lost anyway.

Stepping down from the soapbox, so what of the new material? Well, ‘Bagboy’ and ‘Indie Cindy’ more than pass muster. ‘Bagboy’’s thumping verse and punchy chorus feels similar to songs in their back catalogue but meatier, and not in a ‘Trompe le Monde’ kind-of-way. It offers a strong and recognisable pelt, and more so live than on record. ‘Indie Cindy’ has all the hallmarks of a classic Pixies song. It sounds old in the best possible way. ‘What Goes Boom’ sounds stronger than the Jools Holland performance from the previous night. Only ‘Andro Queen’ remains a misfire. Too much vocal reverb on the recording and rightly exposed as half-baked in a live setting. Mercifully, it is thrown in early and quickly followed by old favourites ‘Where Is My Mind?’ and ‘Here Comes Your Man’, both of which trump up roars of recognition and swaying arms. However, for all the joy that this early dispatch of the familiar invokes, there is a pallid crowd mood between the ‘hits’ (we all know that they hardly warrant the term).

The left-turn of this gig and the twist in its tale is a mid-set acceleration into Doolittle’s ‘Crackity Jones’. Who would have thought that a little known album track would turn the gig upside down and move it from a polite and well-mannered iTunes festival show into a sweaty and mosh-tastic Pixies gig? Do the band members notice? It is hard to say. To their credit, they maintain a thoughtful and devoted concentration to everything they play. One of the most striking things is how tight they continue to be as a musical unit. David Lovering’s drums are nimble and clinical. Joey Santiago is inventive and expressive (during ‘Vamos’, he even removes the guitar cable from thebase of the instrument and toys with the electric charge to create new sounds). Black Francis is full of intent. He never mutters a word in between the songs but he plunders his material with fervent purpose. New addition, Kim Shattuck, offers some stage presence, smiles and a strong anchor to the squalling and charging guitars around her. She holds her own.

The band unleash song after song barely pausing for breath. The eccentricities of their song writing are showcased perfectly, whilst ‘Gouge Away’, ‘Planet of Sound’ and ‘Monkey Gone to Heaven’ provide apt demonstration of their patented quiet/loud dynamic. These songs explode and reverberate around the beautiful architecture of the Roundhouse in the most glorious fashion.

This was a stupendously good gig. It was also a wonderful advert for rock music. iTunes provide a valuable service with this annual event. By broadcasting it as they do, they provide a potent reminder to wider audiences as to the power of music and how this power is (literally) amped up in relatively intimate settings.

As for this Pixies performance, rarely is an audience left genuinely wanting more. Yet, even with the gargantuan set played, disappointment audibly fell as the band trudged off. Heaving masses, bound in sweat, headed for the exits in the warm giddy glow of having witnessed a band reborn. Kim Deal is missed. Of course she is, but if you accept this ferociously compelling live outfit on its modified terms, you may well find a band that offers a soundtrack to your tomorrows as well as your yesterdays. It will be interesting to see what happens and where they go next.

For those unable to attend in person, all iTunes Festival performances will be streamed live to millions of fans in over 100countries via the iTunes Festival app, on the iTunes Store and with Apple TV so music fans can watch live on their iPhone, iPad, iPodtouch, Mac or PC and HD TV. The shows are also available to stream on repeat for a limited time. Check out iTunes for more details.

Pixies played:

1. Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)

2. In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)

3. Andro Queen

4. Where Is My Mind?

5. Here Comes Your Man

6. Havalina

7. Velouria

8. Bone Machine

9. Indie Cindy

10. Break My Body

11. River Euphrates

12. Crackity Jones

13. Something Against You

14. Hey

15. Subbacultcha

16. Brick Is Red

17. Gouge Away

18. Ed Is Dead

19. Bagboy

20. Big New Prinz (The Fall cover)

21. What Goes Boom

22. Cactus

23. Head On (The Jesus and Mary Chain cover)

24. I’ve Been Tired

25. Caribou

26. Planet of Sound


27. Monkey Gone to Heaven

28. Vamos

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