On a beautiful September evening in Leeds Ali Wortley sets off to the O2, hoping to plug a long-standing gap in her history of live performances.
I must say I was very happy to see that Pixies are touring again – and with new material, promoting their new album ‘Beneath the Eyrie’. Incredibly, this is the first time I have seen Pixies live which is most odd, bearing in mind I spent most of my student years listening to them.
I have, however, had the pleasure of witnessing Frank Black play live during the Pixies disbanded years, so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. Yes, of course, it would have been wonderful to see the original lineup before the departure of Kim Deal, but we can’t have everything, can we.
The Big Moon
Supporting the Pixies on their UK and Ireland tour is ‘Big Moon’, a London based four-piece all-girl outfit formed by the very tall and slim Juliette Jackson. I wasn’t familiar with the band at all and was surprised to learn that their debut album released in April 2017 was nominated for a mercury music prize, most surprised as I usually make an effort to listen to all mercury prize nominated albums, so I’m not sure what happened that year!
I must confess I started off a little cynical and maybe overly critical (probably something to do with me being a middle-aged indie chick with an internal negative dialogue which wasn’t helped by the arrival of four fresh faces and lithe bodies on stage). However, I did warm to them: they were relaxed, natural, with no pretension and technically sound. I warmed to them even more when I spotted them on the balcony shortly after watching Pixies full set and jumping around dancing. I’ll now make up for my oversight in 2017 and listen to their nominated ‘Love in the Fourth Dimension’ album. In all, a pleasant surprise and a great opener to the evening.
I’m finding it really hard to write a review of the Pixies performance as I’m honestly still catching my breath. From the moment they came on stage until the finish at 11pm, they didn’t let up at all, a continuous onslaught over 2 hours of tracks both new and old, and for a band who does three to four-minute length songs on average, that’s a lot of tracks. As one track finished, David Lovering would bang the drum sticks together for the instantaneous start of the next. We were given no time to think, or to applaud for that matter.
It was, of course, a performance as you would want and expect from an iconic band with such longevity; hit filled, taking the older members of the crowd back twenty (plus) years and recreating the mosh pits front and centre of the stage. The classic tracks sandwiched the new perfectly throughout the night. The new songs tended to be accompanied with more lighting effects, maybe to allow the hit hungry crowd to accept them more, but even if that wasn’t intentional, it worked. The blend was of old and new, loud and acoustic, melodic and tumultuous, which ebbed and flowed throughout the whole set, leaving us both exhausted and exhilarated, state surely mirrored by the band.
We managed to squeeze a reluctant encore from them, as in the face of overwhelming appreciation from the crowd, they felt impelled to deliver on final bonus song. At the end, all four members came to the front, arms around each other, looking deservedly happy with their time at the O2. A cute little shuffle so Frank wouldn’t bang his head on the microphone as they bowed, and then away.
Having dismissed my regrets of not having seen them perform previously, my only regret now? I really should have bought the t-shirt!
All photographs by Mark Wheelwright.
From muddy fields to plush theatres, Ali is a hardened music festival goer and avid opera and ballet enthusiast.