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Pixies, Albert Hall. 13th March 2024

My head isn’t in the best place this evening. I’m hoping maybe that some time with the Pixies will cheer me up. This is the middle date of a three date run at Albert Hall, playing both Bossanova and Trompe le Monde in full. Most bands are content playing one album, but not the Pixies. Although IST IST did do three in full in one night, take note Frank, Joey, David and, no not Paz. She’s been somewhat controversially replaced with Emma Richardson (ex Band of Skulls). Best not dwell on that though, like I said I’m feeling a bit fragile. Truth be told, although I love both these records and like I suspect many in this sold out church like venue, I’ve played them to death. It’s been a while though. So as ‘Cecilia Ann’ opens with those surf rock riffs, the years melt away. The songs of course come thick and fast. After some intro chatter from Frank explaining why they’re just Pixies without the prefix, they waste no time. They’ve over 30 songs to smash though after all. ‘Veloria’ is the first we get to hear of Emma’s vocal and it’s good, fitting in perfectly. She nails the bassline to ‘Is She Weird’ too. I love this song and it’s all about the bass. A lot of the songs are, but they sound tight as ever. Franks voice never seems to age. True there’s not as much screaming on Bossanova, but there’s snippets like on my favourite ‘Dig for Fire’. This album might not be the first one you think of when talking about Pixies, but there’s some absolute classics on it, like ‘Down to the Well’ with its maelstrom guitars and air of menace. Albums in full can be little odd live though it must be said. They’re not really designed for this are they and you can’t craft a set in the same way with a predetermined playlist. So there are ups and downs. ‘Hang Wire’ is totally different to ‘Stormy Weather’ and it does pull focus on there being a lot of different ideas here. I’m guessing that ‘Havalina’ doesn’t get played live much either. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before. There’s little ceremony. As Bossanova closes, Frank simply states “Okay here’s the next part” and bang they hit us with ‘Trompe le Monde’. It’s fast and furious and quickly followed by the fierce ‘Planet of Sound’. Both Joey and Franks guitars sound deadly and the crowd roar as it slams to a close tells you everything you need to know. Much as Bossanova is a brilliant collection of songs, Trompe sounds much better live. It’s faster which helps. ‘Alex Eiffel’ gets all the big lads at the back bouncing. ‘The Sad Punk’ cleverly takes all the speed in its stride for its first half, before stripping back and hitting the breaks, giving Frank space to scream and the crowd time to prep for the oncoming ‘Head On’. I love Mary Chain, but this has to be one of the best covers ever AND it’s followed by ‘U-Mass’. Fucking hell it’s powerful. That teasing megawatt riff, building to the “ITS EDUCATIONAL” line which I was expecting to be screamed back, but the crowd are maybe too stunned and let Frank do what he does best. It must be said it’s all rather civilised. Even on the floor. There’s pockets of enthusiasm, but it’s mostly appreciative nodding. Granted ‘Letter to Memphis’ and ‘Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons’ are rather beautiful. This is Pixies strength. They can be both beautiful and terrifying, sometimes in the same song. My arse is going numb though, so it’s time to stand for ‘Space (I Believe In)’ which sounds awesome, that is until ‘Subbacultcha’ threatens to blow it and everything else away. Frank playfully calling this and ‘Distance Equals Rate Times Time’ “deep cuts”. This is an album that does work well live though, its builds through ‘Lovely Day’ before reaching the sublime ‘Motorway to Roswell’. As the album closes I’d be happy, we’ve had 90 minutes already and it’s passed in a flash. We get more though, including one that I’m not sure I know, or at least can’t name. It’s a slow lament and makes me feel a bit sleepy but in a good peaceful way. Everyone must have a numb arse as the upstairs springs collectively to its feet for a singalong to ‘Here Comes Your Man’. That continues for the rest of the night with the slowed version of ‘Wave of Mutilation’ setting up ‘Where Is My Mind?’ Oddly I find myself asking that very question. It may descend into another negative spiral, but for nearly 2 hours tonight, it’s was calmed by a band that’s still, after all this time, one of the best live bands around.


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