We Irish really are a lucky bunch, despite what the papers would have us believe. The Pixies reform, allowing a new generation to experience their pop-grunge mastery, then decide to celebrate the 20th anniversary of landmark second album Doolittle with a world tour that begins in Dublin, allowing them time to rehearse as well as catching some comedy at the International Bar and bigging up Father Ted.
What makes these three Olympia dates extra special however, is that they are the smallest shows the band will play anywhere on the jaunt. The closest, London’s Brixton Academy, is four-times the capacity of the Dame Street venue. What’s more, all the stage effects, sound-wizardry, film equipment and other fancy doo-dahs are absent for these shows alone, and are awaiting them over in UKland. This is as intimate and stripped down as you will get with the Pixies outside of 1989, and we should feel very, very privileged about that.
Oh yeah, no support either, a wise move, as if to acknowledge that tonight is about no one else. At 9 o’clock sharp, the quartet strolls on to an immaculate stage to a ferocious roar of approval. They haven’t played a note and tonight is already a -dear diary’ occasion. The setlist is the album in its entirety, but Kim Deal, grinning and giggling for the whole night, announces that we’re starting off with a few b-sides, which is good news because there are a couple of computer programmers near us who look like the occasion might be getting the better of them. -Weird At My School’ with its desperado guitar strum is a perfect way for a hugely expectant crowd to get their heads around what is taking place before their eyes.
Everything is perfect. Black Francis’ orange-peeling screams and howls are never skimped on. He’s silhouetted for these opening songs, and his Kurtz-like outline, bobbing gently with Telecaster, is a mental Polaroid that State will recall on its deathbed. Joey Santiago’s sky-scraping guitar outro on -No. 13 Baby’ is like goosebumps exploding. Deal’s rumbling, ego-free basslines and vocal replies are rightly prominent in the mix. One of the biggest cheers, in a night of continual cheers, is reserved for David Lovering’s lead vocal on -La La Love You’.
Francis is a man of few words all night, leaving it to Deal to chuckle out pleasantries to the salivating audience. When -Gouge Away’ has come to an end, he merely waves and smiles from the front of the stage with his bandmates, before ambling off. They return to yet another deafening roar and ease into a slower demo version of -Wave Of Mutilation’. They finish off their encore with one final b-side -Into The White’, the longest tune played here tonight, and one which approaches euphoric territory during its extended outro.
When lauded rock groups reform, the expectations can never be lived up to because some new element or impetus is now present. Squeezing past the grinning sweaty faces, State, now frothing, tries to make sense of how the Pixies had just pissed on those expectations from a height. Was this the night when the exception proved the rule? Quite possibly.