December 13, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Pixies, Brixton Academy, 7th October

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.

It’s been a very very long time since I was the youngest person at a gig. Heck, a lingering tendency to go watch bands which NME likes means it won’t be too long before I am literally old enough to be mother to some of the crowd. And then there’s Pixies at Brixton Academy…

In all honesty it’s quite unlikely that I was the youngest person there, but in the spread of crowd around where I was there were certainly no obvious examples of people who were younger than me. About ten years older seemed to be the average, not unsurprising really. After all, the Pixies influenced Nirvana, and it has been nearly twenty years since Kurt Cobain’s self confessed attempt to rip them off, aka ­Nevermind, was released.

The four night residency was a bit of an occasion clearly because it definitely attracted gawpers. Gawpers can be the most annoying thing at a gig, standing there impatient for the hits, unresponsive to anything else. Their ilk had already caused Ladyhawke to fall a bit flat earlier in the year, and in typical luck I landed near some.

Considering we had been warned in advance that this was them playing their most famous album, Doolittle, in order, in entirety, it was nice that they started not with the familiar bass rumble of ‘Debaser’, but with some of the album’s b-sides. The gawpers were displeased (“Why are’t they playing the album?”) but at least it allowed us to work out where these eejits were stood and try and sidle away. Oh, and the b-sides are pretty cool, continuations of Doolittle’s style without being ripoffs of any of its tracks. And then that bass rumble…

Rumble rumble – from

Playing classic albums live and in order is rather in vogue at the moment, which is interesting considering that there’s very very few albums which really work in that context. There’s an interesting story about the tracklisting of U2’s Joshua Tree album, that it was sequenced because Kirsty MacColl, at that time married to U2’s producer, presented them with her ideal tracklisting – her favourite song first, then second favourite, then third and so on. Most albums run out of steam by the end, sag in the middle, frontload the singles in the first half, or generally do things which don’t work in a live context. No one wants to end a gig on a slow, not-particularly notable album track (cf. Arcade Fire, Manchester Apollo 2007, thinking ‘Ocean Of Noise’ is how one ends a set, tisn’t) and yet this is what many many albums end on.

Fortunately in this context Doolittle is special. For a start it ends on ‘Gouge Away’ which is heavy, intense, loud, fast and bloody wonderful. Doolittle is not an album which goes gently into the night. Secondly all the well known tracks are spaced out throughout the album. ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’ is track seven. Thirdly it’s a really well paced album, tracks work well together, and it’s one of the most coherent albums of all time, if nothing else. In short it really worked live.

There was also the stage design which features huge screens projecting some of the best live visuals I’ve seen in a while. Whether it’s (biologically accurate) hearts running around during ‘La La Love You’, or the adorably cute footage of the band gurning and laughing at the audience (Frank smiles!), it was all very entertaining.

From Drowned In Sound’s rather excellent gallery –—pixies-brixton-academy-london/photo/2#photo – check the lot out.

The encore was a little less satisfying, partially because we got ‘Into The White’ rather than ‘Gigantic’, and partially because they kicked it off with ‘Wave Of Mutilation (UK Surf)’, a version of the song they have played rather a lot at gigs recently, which prompted the gawpers to loudly shout “You’ve already played this one”. If ever there was an indicator that these people knew ‘Debaser’ and nothing else, that was it.

Still, they didn’t ruin it. The jury’s still out on whether whole album shows work, but this is a definite case in favour.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Sue

    I disagree, I think it’s good when they play their well known songs because they are usually the best ones. Some of the tracks bands play are rubbish (my husband said that). I remember vividly going to see REM (I didn’t go with my husband) and the last song they played was “Man on the Moon” and coming out of the stadium into the hot summer night air and having it ringing in my ears all the way home from Cardiff and all the next day, that moment of sheer bliss has never left me, they may not have the edge of The Pixie’s in your opinion but to me they are the ultimate when it comes to live performance, they’re something else, man.

    On the theme of “a gig every month of 2009” last weekend we went to the midlands as we had a function to go to on Saturday night. We decided to go up early and when we got to our hotel on Friday evening we found “Imagine the Beatles” were playing at the hotel that evening. We managed to book ourselves in although it was an office party night and had a whale of a time. In all honesty “The Beatles” weren’t that good and what made it worse was that they played very few of The Beatles hits ie their best songs. This didn’t spoil our evening as there was also a disco after they’d left and we won a bottle of champagne, I won’t say why because I’m too embarrassed!

    I don’t understand why you call these people “gawpers” (I think they could justifiably call you intolerant) though I am an avid “people watcher and listener in of conversations” myself. For instance, on Thursday I was in Sainsburys when I saw these three young women looking at the magazines and saying things like “I can’t believe it”, “I’m so shocked” and one of them clasping her throat and uttering “It’s unreal”. I thought someone close to them had died until I realised they were looking at a picture of Cheryl Cole and apparently her relationship with her husband had broken down. I think it was the “It’s unreal” comment which reallly got me, I thought “You’re telling me, it’s unreal!

    Another overheard conversation was one woman saying to another “there don’t seem to be many weekends before Christmas this year”, the other woman said “I think that’s because Christmas falls on a Friday” the first one said “Yes, there just aren’t enough weekends to fit in what I want to do.”

    13 Dec 2009, 20:42

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