@Newcastle O2 Academy, December 3 2016

Influential American alt-rock quartet Pixies returned to Tyneside for the first time since 1990 with a line-up almost intact from their last visit more than 25 years ago. With lead guitarist Joey Santiago returning from rehab earlier in the week the only change in personnel was Paz Lenchantin – an increasingly familiar face on the bass guitar.

As support band FEWS left the stage it was nearing 8pm and there was a tingling sense of anticipation rising in the O2 Academy as an eclectic audience readied themselves for what was to come. At half past eight a sharp dressed Black Francis and co. emerged from the darkness and with little standing around shot straight into their opening song Gouge Away –  a perfect way to showcase their trademark quiet-loud change in dynamics.

This kicked off a dramatic change in setlist from those previously used for their Head Carrier tour. Monkey Gone To Heaven came third in a 29-song marathon and clearly highlighted Francis’ outstanding vocal range as he effortlessly screamed out with a high degree of control.

Whilst the band exploited their set to promote their new album the new tracks were well dispersed between many older, crowd-pleasing classics from an extensive back catalogue.

The band placed all of their energies into the music – leaving no room for small talk.

Mid set Francis switched from his electric guitar to an acoustic as the band played several tracks from early albums: Mr Grieves deserves an honourable mention as the change in tempo from verse to chorus got the crowd moving again after Lenchantin sang All I Think About Now – a ballad in honour of former bassist Kim Deal.

Towards the end of the set, singing duties were passed to drummer Lovering for La La Love You and the stixman captivated the audience with his contrasting vocal style.

Half a dozen songs later the band brought an energetic performance to an end with the explosive Debaser provoking immense applause before literally disappearing in a puff of smoke. Offering a final twist in the plot the band remained on stage to play one more song (the only constant in an ever-changing set) despite being invisible to the crowd through the thick haze of smoke. Then they were gone. Into the white…

Pete Allonby