Pixies have always been a band with a formidable live reputation. Those lucky enough to have caught them during their 80s heyday seem to recall the gigs with a misty eyed reverie bordering on the religious. Since their second coming a little over a decade ago, the band have been regular visitors to these shores and though they might be older, they have proved that they can still rock with the best of them. Recent Olympia shows have been gig of the year contenders but the Bostonians have always been at their best with a roof over their heads as confirmed by their somewhat underwhelming open air sets supporting Arcade Fire and Red Hot Chilli Peppers in summers’ past. This may have led some to wonder whether the serene surroundings of the Iveagh Gardens would be suited to the raucous stylings of Frank Black and co. Thankfully we need not have worried.
Tonight’s gig is a blistering rattle through the foursome’s back catalogue of mangled rock classics and deranged pop songs, each one crammed with enough ideas and innovation that it is easy to see why none of their imitators have really come close to replicating their magic formula in the past thirty or so years.
All of this is not apparent immediately however. Things start out a little slowly with the band warming up with some deeper cuts – ‘Velvety’, ‘Isla de Encanta’ and ‘Tony’s Theme – and it’s clear from the chatter and lines at the bars that many in attendance aren’t familiar with the songs. It doesn’t take long for things to pick up though with a one-two punch of ‘Where Is My Mind?’ and ‘Here Comes Your Man’ helping the crowd find their voice and from there on in the mood is celebratory with the crowd matching Black’s every shriek and howl. The band boast an embarrassment of riches as they casually reel off ‘Wave of Mutilation’, ‘Gouge Away’, ‘Tame’, ‘Bone Machine’, and ‘Velouria’ without breaking a sweat. It doesn’t get much better on a summer’s evening.
On previous visits, Pixies’ set lists have been mostly from their earlier work but with new album Head Carrier’s release date only around the corner, the band manage to work in some new material in between the hits. Recent single ‘Um Chagga Lagga’ sounds better in the live setting than on record and another new song sounds promising, even if it is clear that most in attendance are here for the oldies.
Each member of the band is on fine form tonight. Joey Santiago’s guitar lines are razor sharp as usual and Paz Lenchantin, the bassist tasked with the unenviable job of replacing Kim Deal, proves herself a worthy successor with her tight basslines and excellent harmonies. The encore is short and sweet with the band tearing through a snarling version of ‘Debaser’, leaving the crowd screaming for more. While it might now be hard to recall a time when Pixies weren’t a fixture on the live circuit and they might not hold the same thrill as when they first reformed, there are still few better ways to spend a summer’s evening that watching Boston’s finest blast through their back catalogue in the surroundings of the Iveagh Gardens.