Monday, 12 December 2016

Memories of 2016 gigs #11

#11: Pixies
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff - 7 December 2016
Support: FEWS

I’ve pretty much already written everything I could ever say about Pixies on this site over the past three years. But still I did wonder if I would come away from a Pixies gig in 2016 as invigorated or enthused as I was when I first heard ‘Doolittle’in 1989, or when I first saw them live the following year.

Before I reveal all, I should mention the support band FEWS. I had intended to research this lot before the show, but for some reason never got around to it. They're Swedish, apparently. From where we were stood at the time, I thought they were OK – some good riffs with post-rock and psych influences – but the sound, to me at least, let them down. MrsRobster and Our Mate Colin on the other hand thought they were rather good. In fact, during the interval, OMC bought and downloaded the album to his phone!

I haven’t been near a most pit in nearly 20 years, but I vowed to get as close as I dared to Pixies, so during the pause in proceedings, I left MrsRobster and OMC and headed deep amongst the swarming masses. The place was filling up by now, and the Motorpoint Arena is huge. I never thought Pixies would be able to credibly play it, not in 2016 anyway.  Seems I was wrong though – they relish it. They came on, played Bone Machine and the place went mental. Before long, I found myself just two rows from the front, fighting against a crush but with a great view.

Just like the days of old, Pixies hurtled through their set at breakneck speed, barely pausing for breath as one song relentlessly followed another. There was a heavy dose of the latest album 'Head Carrier' as you’d expect – 10 of its 12 tracks were aired – but this still equated to only a quarter of the set. The whole of the back catalogue got a look in, from ‘Come On Pilgrim’ through to ‘Trompe Le Monde’, a couple of b-sides and the new post-reformation records. I made it in the region of 40 – FORTY – songs in all, spanning two hours, the longest gig I think I’ve ever attended.

Unlike Frank Turner, who I’d seen just a couple weeks before, Pixies don’t include gimmicks or crowd-participation novelties in their act, they just play. They don’t even interact with the audience – no “Hello”, no “Thank you,” and definitely no “HOW YOU DOIN’ CARDIFF?!” (thank god). It’s so straight-forward and effortless – yet still they can send an arena packed with thousands of people into a hysterical sweaty mass, screaming every word of every song back at them.

Black Francis was on fine form. Sure, he’s put on quite a few stone since I first saw Pixies, but his voice is in fine fettle. “He’s still got the best scream,” MrsRobster reckons, and she’s not wrong. Paz Lenchantin fits in so well it’s as if she was always in the band. You can argue all you like about how “she’s not Kim Deal”, but if you want to make fucking stupidly obvious remarks like that then why bother saying anything at all, quite frankly. I think she’s great. Dave Lovering still gives it his all, clearly enjoying every moment, especially his lead vocal turn on La La Love You. My only slight reservation was with Joey Santiago. It’s known he’s had a couple of problems recently, going into rehab before the tour. While he played a decent show overall, I got the impression he was going through the motions a bit. During Vamos, he seemed to decline the opportunity to do his usual extended solo bit and just made a few noises before signalling to Frank that he was done. Shame, as I always enjoy that part (last time I saw them he set his guitar on fire a la Hendrix...). To be honest though, that’s just a minor quibble.

Picking highlights is petty I suppose, the whole thing was just a blast. But I’m not above a bit of pettiness, so I’ll probably go for Rock Music, Velouria, Um Chagga Lagga, Caribou, I’ve Been Tired, Winterlong  and everything they played from ‘Doolittle’ (9 songs, but especially Debaser and Crackity Jones).

It passed so quickly, I had no idea they’d been playing so long, but alas it reached the end. The band assembled at the front of the stage and took their bows, accepting the adoration of us sweaty pit monsters. Someone turned the smoke machine on and they disappeared behind a thick white fog. Except they didn’t leave the stage. Instead, Paz fittingly led an airing of Into The White before Pixies finally bid farewell and departed. The finest example of a non-encore I’ve ever seen.

And there I was – hot, sweaty, stinking like a pig and utterly destroyed by the might of the finest band on the planet who, once again, successfully restored my faith in existence. While I still have a few nagging doubts about the new album and where it stands against their other work, I cannot deny that Pixies never fail to awaken every dormant cell in my aging body. Emerging from the sweltering crowd, I realised I hadn’t felt so alive in years! All the same, I don’t think I’ll enter another mosh pit in a hurry, at least not until the next Pixies tour comes around.



  1. What a set! Thanks for taking us there, Robster.

  2. Sounds great. Sorry I missed 'em now.

  3. Delighted it turned out to be as memorable a night as I had seeing them in Glasgow. Was astonished at how well they carried things off - the new material sounded great on the night and hearing it in the live context enable me to revisit 'Head Carrier' and be a bit more positive than I was on first couple of listens