Pixies kicked off the European leg of their latest tour in the sleepy retirement town of Bexhill-On-Sea. On the East Sussex coast, in the Art-Deco magnificence of The De La Warr Pavilion, Pixies took to the stage to begin an extensive tour in support of their latest album 'Beneath The Eyrie'. With Pixies seventh studio album about to drop only hours later, it was a chance to see the middle-aged Bostonians perform some of their latest, and greatest, songs in a unique venue.
Before the gig, Black Francis (a.k.a Frank Black/Charles Thompson) strode imperiously across the roof of the 1930s Modernist masterpiece, surveying the squally sea before him. There was an early start, 8pm, as there was no support act; just the four Pixies and a sell-out crowd eager to see the seminal band.
Pixies, it seemed to me, are one of those bands that you should endeavour to see at least once in your lifetime. Despite a claim to the contrary from Scroobius Pip, Pixies are not 'just a band'; they were, and still are to a lesser degree, a very important, influential and inspirational group. Aside from the band's ten year hiatus, in which they were all individually creative, Pixies have always been seen as a band that lead rather than follow, that push their sound further forward and are forever exploring their sonic boundaries.
'Beneath The Eyrie' marks the band's third album in five years and has already given up two great singles in 'Catfish Kate' and 'On Graveyard Hill' so the anticipation surrounding the latest release and its accompanying tour has been building steadily. The atmosphere in the pavilion was clearly one of contained nervous excitement and high expectation.
Pixies took to the stage bathed a green light just after 8pm and wasted no time in setting about 'Gouge Away'. The last song from their 1989 album would be one of nine the band would play from Pixies sophomore record 'Doolittle'. Their second song was an early airing for material from 'Beneath The Eyrie'. The rousing, mildly anthemic, gothically-channelled 'On Graveyard Hill' sounded assured and powerful before crowd favourites, and band staples, 'Monkey Gone To Heaven' and 'Cactus' gave the crowd a nostalgic high.
The mammoth 34-song setlist veered between old and new all night, with songs from every album as well as a couple of covers, including The Jesus & Mary Chain's 'Head On'. For the most part, Pixies were as tight and polished as you might expect from a band now performing in their fourth decade; there was only a hint of a waver as they debuted 'Daniel Boone'. The new, slower and gentler song from the pen of Frank Black didn't quite have the feel of a song he and the other Pixies were completely comfortable with. Whether it was first night nerves or not, it was a rare moment of vulnerability shown on the night. At the risk of offending devoted Pixies fans, if anything a large proportion of the entire evening could have been viewed as a little sterile because of the accuracy in the performance of their songs (I think I was expecting more of an snarly edge to proceedings if I'm honest). Throughout the whole night there was no interaction with the crowd, not even a thank you, none of the songs were introduced and there wasn't really much communication between band members; it was quite workman-like in many respects.
Mild criticisms aside, Pixies played and performed some fantastic versions of many of their most iconic and memorable songs from their very impressive back catalogue. A pumped up, ferocious 'Debaser' followed a dark and impassioned 'Bone Machine'. New track 'Death Horizon' headed up a much appreciated and very lively 'Here Comes Your Man'; a song that FB said he had not liked much originally in an, at times, excruciatingly painful interview recently on 6Music with Steve Lamacq. It drew the biggest applause of the night so far before 'Where Is My Mind' whipped the crowd up further a little later on.
Pixies debut album 'Come On Pilgrim' was given its fair share of air play with 'Caribou', an on-point and immediate 'Nimrod's Son', and penultimately a percussively perfect 'Vamos' being given a enthusiastic delivery (Dave Lovering's drumming was a particular highlight of the night, his performance was outstanding). 1990's 'Bossanova' also gave up a couple of delights by way of an intense, feverish and manic 'Rock Music' and latterly the much more sedate and melodic harmonies of 'Velouria'.
Pixies nearly made it off stage after they'd performed 'Vamos' but such was the reaction of he crowd; the massive applause, the appreciation and the warmth that was emanating from the floor; that they more-or-less immediately made the decision to stay on for one more song, 'Ana'. Finally, the band took their bows and soaked up the very appreciative applause from a seemingly very satisfied and entertained audience. The music had been excellent, the performance polished and professional and the setlist couldn't be faulted (Except, according to at least one audience member, for the exclusion of 'The Holiday Song'). A "hello", "thank you" or even a "goodbye, you've been great", wouldn't have gone amiss but, hey, you can't have it all!