Pixies review – dark pop that soars and still rocks | Pixies

AAn open-air amphitheatre, with a beautiful blue sky, is not the obvious setting for a group whose catalog includes songs about murder-suicides and biblical murders. Yet as Here Comes Your Man begins the first of many chants, the setting serves as a reminder that despite all the attention to their lyrics and electrifying noise, they really can make an indecently good pop band.

It’s been more than three decades since the inimitable blend of surf rock, Puerto Rican atmosphere, hardcore punk and quiet/loud dynamics had such an influential impact. Today, the original members are now middle-aged men, but vocalist/guitarist Charles Thompson IV – formerly known as Black Francis, then Frank Black – puts his whole being into his singing. Drummer David Lovering never misses a beat and fiercely inventive guitarist Joey Santiago has become quite the showman. He takes off his hat – revealing a shimmering paste – and uses it to emit strange sounds from his guitar. There’s no Kim Deal, of course, but Argentine-American Paz Lenchantin fills the musical role of occasional bassist/vocalist with aplomb without, of course, the co-founder’s signature weight.

Although the Pixies have made four coldly-received albums since their reformation in 2004, the 30-song setlist comes mostly from their 1986-93 imperial period. There are three covers and Saint Nazaire is a raging, menacing climax to Beneath The Eyrie’s Cramps-y 2019. Otherwise, there’s just one song from the upcoming album, Doggerel. There’s a moon ona werewolf-themed antics (“I don’t like fighting, I don’t like spitting / I like a steak without pepper”), receives a fairly warm reception among the classics.

A black cloud overhead arrives, appropriately, for Gouge Away and Wave of Mutilation. The environmental anthem Monkey Gone To Heaven rings with captivating foresight. As darkness descends, Thompson withdraws his infamous scream and Gigantic, Bone Machine, Planet of Sound and Where Is My Mind are thrilling. The leader says only one word to the audience all night – a “Hey!” shouted enthusiastically. – but anyway, enough is enough.

The Pixies play Hyde Park, London (with Pearl Jam) on July 8. Then turned.

Corina C. Butler