Even 12 years after their reunion, any surfacing of the mythic Pixies still draws a crowd, selling out the near-5,000 capacity Brixton Academy in short order. And even an hour before they’re due onstage, the venue is already at least half full and you could slice the anticipation like an eyeball.
And despite – or because of – this, Leamington Spa’s Coves get a warm reaction. Draped in a black cape, Beck Wood swoops onstage as John Ridgard splashes fuzzy washes of guitar over the walls of the Academy, taking full advantage of the acoustics. They quickly shimmy into Cadavalier’s menacing swagger, Ridgard’s lean lines full of the kind of surfy twang Pixies employed on Cecilia Ann; a perfect fit. I’m Not Here follows, a nagging melodica loop adding colour to the bassy lope.
Unfortunately, the sound isn’t perfect – hitting the headliners too, their 32(!) song set only really taking off around the 11 mark – and by Tripping Over Lust, it seems to be a problem onstage as well, leaving the vocals a little out of tune. It’s a shame – a lot of what made Peel so enjoyable was down to Wood’s darkly melodic tones, a shift from the hushed, Hope Sandoval sound on Soft Friday to somewhere between Curve‘s Toni Halliday’s stormy croon and Kim Wilde (this is, of course, A Good Thing).
They fight on, gamely, through the prowling, funky I Just Don’t Care, despite the PA stage left cutting in and out, and it all does nothing to dampen the spirits of the crowd. By the time the driving goth-pop of You’re Evil kicks in, they’re sounding great again, and you can tell Wood loves every minute they spend onstage. It’s rare to hear shouts for an encore after a support slot – particularly given the devotion in the room for the headliners – but Coves have worked harder than some. When they come, after a muscular, megaphone-assisted take on Soft Friday’s swirling No Ladder, they’re deserved.