The Zoo, Brisbane
31 July 2010
A few nights before this Pixies warm up concert for Splendour in the Grass, I had a vivid dream. In it I was the tour manager or press officer for the band and they were being put up in a luxury hotel with a huge swimming pool which they were swanning around in and (in)famously not getting along and refusing to do the show. It ended with me giving them a “look all the great rock’n’roll bands are dysfunctional, but when you’re on stage for that hour and a half you come together, that’s when you work, that’s when you function!” speech. And then I drove them to the Zoo in a black hummer.
On the actual night there was no hummers, no hissy fits and no animosity, well none visible to the audience. Deal and Francis were almost within three meters of each other (surely breaking a clause in their contact) and while there wasn’t much banter or eye contact between the two, it wasn’t like Mr. Black gave either audience or bandmates any recognition and they did share a joke at Lovering’s expense towards the end of the set.
Never seeing them in their first wave I can’t tell you exactly how they’ve aged but the Pixies were always unlikely looking rock stars — the guys were balding back in the late ‘80s, and Frank has never been a slender gent, so the 2010 Pixies really didn’t look all that different from press photos dating back twenty years. Black Francis, surely a millionaire by now, looks like he buys his clothes from K-Mart’s bargain bins, Joey Santiago a shifty looking metal rocker, Dove Lovering a mild mannered maths teacher or accountant, while Kim Deal… well Kim Deal is still cool. But their looks have always been deceptive as they soon proved: Santiago was a consummate guitarist, playing the main riffs and lead breaks faultlessly, Lovering pounded the bejeesus out of his drum kit while Deal plucked those timeless bass riffs perfectly and her sweet backing vocals proved a nice respite to Francis’ sing-speak-scream, who with his eyes closed most of the time, played rhythm guitar with focus and intensity.
Although the Pixies had visited Brisbane only back in March this time the set list was uninhibited by the myopic focus on Doolittle. Thus we got the full spectrum of the Pixies’ canon from the punk infused scream-a-thons (“Rock Music”, “Broken Face”, the Spanish language “Isla De Encanta”), to the classic trading of bass heavy verse/guitar distorted chorused anthems (“Bone Machine”, “Gouge Away”, “Gigantic”, “Hey”), bubblegum pop (“Here Comes Your Man, “Dig for Fire”, “Monkey Gone to Heaven”), flirtations with heavy-rock (“Allison”, “Planet of Sound”) and riff-bliss indie rock (“Velouria”, “Head On”, “Debaser”). With twenty-eight songs, four more than their Splendour set, no one in the audience who witnessed this show — a gift from the heavens if ever there was one — was complaining.