Pixies at Roundhouse
Ordinarily, the prospect of a 100-minute, 37-song strong set from one of America’s finest indie rock exports would leave anyone without a ticket with serious FOMO, especially when that band is as seminal as Pixies. However, when one factors in that they are notorious for their taciturn onstage presence and that more than a third of their setlist is made up of material from their last three LPs, those who missed out should find their anxieties allayed; indeed, in comparison to the last time Pixies were at the Roundhouse (for a five-night residency on their Come on Pilgrim… It’s Surfer Rosa tour of 2018), this is distinctly less memorable.
Even if they are tight throughout – which is the least one can expect of a band that has been on this Doggerel promotional tour for the last five months – there is little about any airing from their recent LP (aside from There’s a Moon On) that is aurally engaging. In fact, the vibe of the gig palpably sags at the misguided moments where they choose to play four or five tracks from the new record back-to-back. Fortunately, when frontman Black Francis swaps his acoustic guitar for an electric model, there is a distinct sense that the fan’s ears prick back up.
This is not to say that him holding the acoustic equates to playing newer material; it’s just that the crowd are more energised, attentive and engrossed with the opening chord sequence to Where is my Mind? or the acoustic riff to Here Comes Your Man than they are for the leaden-paced The Lord Has Come Today or Vault of Heaven.
There is no doubt, though, that the group are prime viewing when they are fully electric – even its members seem rejuvenated during these moments. Bassist Paz Lenchantin starts pogoing on the spot when lead guitarist Joey Santiago and Francis’s spiky opening notes to Wave of Mutilation ring out around the Roundhouse. Even drummer Dave Lovering morphs from torpid sticks-man to a frantic skin-hitter during the frenetic Something Against You and Isla de Encanta.
The highs of the gig are high, but the lows are low. Ultimately, though, there is no denying that it is the strength of the earlier moments of their back catalogue that stop Pixies’ performance from being as forgettable as the album the tour is promoting.
Photos: Nick Bennett
For further information and future events visit Pixies’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Vault of Heaven here: