herald

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Gig review: Pixies thrill and terrify

THEY don't say much. Actually, the Pixies don't say anything at all. The absence of one Kim and the presence of another might have something to do with that. Had the band not parted ways with Ms Deal, their indie-icon bassist, earlier this year, you suspect the fans on the floor would have had further reason to lose their minds.

But the Boston quartet was never just about one member – it was about two. Charles Thompson IV (are we no longer calling him Black Francis?) will always be the face and voice of this band. Kim Deal's irreplaceable? Maybe, but let's be fair – Kim Shattuck (her capable stand-in) is doing a pretty decent job. She also wears the expression of a fan who's just landed the greatest position in rock 'n' roll.

Granted, one of the most influential US guitar bands of the late-80s/early-90s would be lost without drummer David Lovering's enviable flair and guitarist Joey Santiago's impeccable fretwork, but, for the most part, it's all eyes on Thompson. Half the time you wonder what he's harping on about, switching from crazed acoustic band leader to mellowed electric guitar hero.

"In Heaven", offers Thompson (48), "everything is fine." It certainly feels like it. Nine years into their reunion, Pixies 2.0 have officially lasted longer than the first round. They finally put out a new EP in September. On Indie Cindy, Thompson wonders if we'll reaccept this lot into our hearts. It sounds like everything else from back in the day, so why not?

Effective

There are more than two dozen songs in this set list (it's easy to lose count); some of 'em short, and most of 'em effective. Less whiny and melodramatic, Thompson's vocal has aged finely too.

An authoritative figure in fuzzy, American alt-rock, he is, nevertheless, capable of enjoying himself. On Here Comes Your Man, Santiago's surf-rock boogie takes us all some place warmer. You'd miss Deal on the raucous Debaser, or even Hey – a minor quibble.

Nobody does the quiet/loud switch better than this lot, and Thompson's amazing voice has the ability to both thrill and terrify in equal measure. Indeed, you'd be hard-pressed to find a band of professionals more in sync with each other's talents. One of the greats.

4/5

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