Sunday, 22 December 2019

Memories of 2019 gigs #5

Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff - Friday, 13th September 2019
Support: The Big Moon

I suppose it had to happen sometime. Pixies' seventh album 'Beneath The Eyrie' released this year is their first duff one. Its mid-tempo melancholy failed to ignite the spark that explodes in me when I listen to them. Such a disappointment. But Pixies in the live setting is an altogether different prospect. Some of the songs from their previous record 'Head Carrier' didn't come to life for me until I saw them on that tour. So there was hope.

Opening on this tour was London four-piece The Big Moon who were about to release their second album. They've gone more synth-based for this record, which is a shame, but they still exuded a lot of energy onstage, winning over an audience that grew throughout their set. Their first album 'Love In The Fourth Dimension' is well worth checking out. The new one might be too, but it's not out 'til the new year.

Pixies are known for trying new ideas for their live shows. On this tour, they emerge onto the stage with no set list. Instead, Black Francis has an extra mic into which he says the next song to be played. Fellow band members, sound desk and lighting crew pick up the instruction via earpieces and are expected to be ready. It's a neat idea, but it does mean there are pauses between many of the songs, not something you usually get at a Pixies gig. There was also one occasion when drummer David Lovering seemed to mis-hear a song title and started playing something entirely different to everyone else...

Kicking off with Where Is My Mind? and Here Comes Your Man, it seemed we were in for a set of unbridled classics, although one thing concerned me even at that early point - they're not exactly songs that gets a mosh pit going, are they? And that, sadly, set the scene for the night. A couple of new songs followed and any early optimism dwindled.

To be fair, the show took place on the same day of the new album's release so most of the songs hadn't been heard by the audience before. However, I had obtained a pre-release copy a week before so was getting familiar with it, and I have to say it was difficult to see how these songs would wow an energetic crowd wanting to let themselves go. My concerns were justified. When we got a Debaser or a U-Mass, we then got a Ready For Love or a Los Surfers Muertos. I mean, slower songs are OK - Pixies have always slowed down the tempo with songs like Ana and the 'surf version' of Wave Of Mutilation (both of which were present tonight) - but the audience has for the most part been very familiar with these songs, and you generally get something upbeat and raucous to follow. On this occasion though, things just went flat and rarely took off again, not to mention these new songs are not nearly as good or memorable.

OK, so when Paz did Gigantic, it went wild. Bone Machine, Gouge Away, Head On and the aforementioned Debaser all met with similar chaos. Even On Graveyard Hill from the new album, one of its rare upbeat numbers and one of the best things they've written since their comeback, was greeted with fervour (probably because, as the lead single, it had been out for a couple months prior). But just as things seemed to get going, they chucked in another mid-tempo plodder and the momentum was lost. The most ferocious the set got was the humongous blast of Rock Music, which was followed by... well, nothing initially. The band did their customary coming together at the front of the stage, bowed and left. Well, Paz and Joey left. Charles and Dave remained, had a chat, then ushered their bandmates back onstage. Paz looked amazed as she returned - Pixies don't do encores. Yet tonight, they were doing an encore! A single song, Hey (again, not a particularly fast one), and then they went for good.

I had vowed to dive into the moshpit once things got going, like I did the last time they played here, but instead I remained with MrsRobster throughout the show as I never felt excited enough to head down the front where there may have been an intermittent pit. You know how she can sum things up in just a few words? Afterwards she said: "It was weird, wasn't it?" And that is all you need to know.

Here's one of the new songs and an extraordinarily brilliant version of an old favourite, performed just two days before the Cardiff show...

1 comment:

  1. So, you don't like the new album? Ha. Kidding. That's a bummer about the show. I haven't seen them since the Doolittle anniversary shows when Kim was still in the band. Chances are that was it for me, but they will always be one of my favorite bands no matter what they are doing now and what they do in the future. They were untouchable for a few years there, weren't they?

    I know you aren't into Christmas and all of that, but I do hope you're having a nice time with the family and that you had at least a little time with everyone at home. I'm sure it gets tougher as they leave the nest.