Reviewed on Tuesday March 7
Pixies’ latest Sydney show was, without a shadow of a doubt, a wonderful testament to their body of work.
It’s a catalogue that draws influences from a wide range of places; so much so that David Bowie, a public admirer of the group, once paraphrased the famous Sex Pistols myth – that anyone who attended Pixies’ early gigs had then gone on to form a band of their own.
Now, back in Australia to support 2016 album Head Carrier, Pixies’ noisy dialogue penetrated a packed Hordern Pavilion, as they blazed through a 30-song performance of songs taken from across their canon. Underscored by Paz Lenchantin’s bubbling bass and original drummer David Lovering’s insistent consistency, they hit full stride off the bat with ‘Gouge Away’, maintaining an immersive and manic energy throughout the night.
Pixies’ recent recorded output can be characterised by its sense of restraint. It’s a little tame – perhaps missing what one seasoned fan described on the night as “the furious dialogue between [original member] Kim Deal and Frank Black”. Officially replaced by Lenchantin, who offers her own sharper singing style, it would be remiss to ignore the dynamic shift from the odd couple of Deal and Black to the current Pixies lineup.
There was more than a hint of the band’s former chemistry, though. The unmistakable snarling and shrieking of Black’s falsetto is still present, and he has lost little of his gravitas, whether in the deranged Spanish chatter of Head Carrier’s ‘Vamos’ or the haughty barks and drifting drawls of standout ‘Hey’.
What couldn’t be ignored was Pixies’ incredibly cathartic affect and unstoppable pulse. They renewed old material (‘Wave Of Mutilation’, ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’) and their weaker, younger songs alike (the mildly psychotic ‘Um Chugga Lugga’, which is about as good as they’ve been for a while).
The woefully underrated six-string architect Joey Santiago, whose sonic palette so memorably coloured their initial period, was masterful, flavouring the set with his dissonant inflections. The twang and chatter of his guitar experiments was just about the best part of the performance, though the band was incredibly tight as a unit.
Some might argue that Pixies have, with their most recent albums, drawn closer to a literal embodiment of the ‘Debaser’ term they coined all those years ago on Doolittle’s unforgettable opener. Based on their performance at the Hordern, I’d soon put that thought to rest.