It was the gig that was over a decade in the making, rendering it the hottest ticket around and one of the most hotly-anticipated musical events of recent years. Tickets were snapped up in under an hour many weeks ago, and the likes of Chris Martin, Jude Law and Jonathan Ross were in attendance. This was definitely a night to savour.
Delays wandered onstage and squeezed out a commendable set for an apathetic and half-empty Brixton Academy. There were no hard feelings, however – the band as well as the fans realised that they were never going to steal the show, and instead provided some agreeable noise to pass the time. Songs were greeted with sporadic applause, the biggest reaction inevitably saved for Greg Gilbert’s “Goodnight, enjoy the show!”.
The level of excitement underwent a crescendo from “This is going to be amazing” to “I can’t believe what’s about to happen” via “I feel a bit sick”. Whilst the sounds of the Beach Boys over the PA calmed to a degree, it also appeared to reveal that Frank and Kim are happily allowing by-gones to be by-gones (Hang On To Your Ego, a song covered by Frank following the acrimonious Pixies split, was relayed twice, as all long term fanatics will have noted).
And then there was nothing left to do but become immersed in an ovation worthy of an ovation itself. Four figures strolled towards their instruments: David waving enthusiastically from behind his drum kit; Joey smiling in awe through his arty facial hair; Kim also beaming, and not looking a day older; Frank (or should that be Francis now?) grinning like the cat who got the cream. The crowd swelled forwards and suddenly dreams were a thing of flesh and bone. This was, after all this time, the first Pixies gig back in England, where they were received and understood best a decade ago.
To the surprise of all, the set opened with the b-side cover of Neil Young‘s Winterlong. It wasn’t the intense onslaught expected, but hearing Kim and Frank harmonise as if they were twins was an altogther momentous occasion. The albums were undeniably great, but nothing could justly represent the beauty of Kim’s live singing voice. It really was that good.
Like the songs themselves, the set bounced easily from loud to quiet, with the comparatively serene Winterlong followed by Nimrod’s Son and The Holiday Song in quick succession. Things heated up further with a literally awesome rendition of Vamos that saw Joey put his guitar down and play it with a spare David Lovering drumstick. The crowd was frenzied anyway – it was the equivalent of handing a hyperactive child some Red Bull.
The rabid Vamos made way to a teasing new version of In Heaven in which the screamed section was phased-out in favour of seemingly endless Kim-led choruses. The UK Surf edition of Wave Of Mutilation kept us blissful for a further few minutes before the heat was turned up once again. Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde were virtually ignored in favour of Come On Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, but there were no complaints.
Every song, as you’d expect, was incredibly strong. Velouria, Dead and No. 13 Baby made up a succession of live monsters that could hardly be bettered by a single band, and only a final combination like Broken Face, Something Against You and Tame could have wrought five more minutes of mayhem from an already exhausted crowd.
As Tame ended and the Pixies set down their instruments to wave and bow, the thousands in attendance roared with approval, a cry that never dimmed until the four returned for a three song encore. We may not have heard Where Is My Mind?, and we may have called for a second encore without success, but at the same time we had witnessed an almost religious rendition of Hey! and, as the rising feeling of euphoria confirmed, possibly one of the greatest experiences of our lives. Death to the Pixies? You couldn’t be further from the truth.