The Pixies @Newcastle O2 Academy, September 21 2019

Where do you start in reviewing a band held in such high regard for so many years? I could try the too cool ‘yeah, it was ok’ tone or the gushing ‘OMG’ blueprint and I’m sure there will be reviews reflecting both approaches. But neither are what I want to say about a genuinely unique experience.

It was a bittersweet night for me – remembering a dear friend no longer with us whom I first bonded with over The Pixies. Long periods of a wonderful set were spent with a smile on my face and the band were only part of it.

But what a band they are! Sticking religiously to the old adage ‘let the music do the talking’, Black Francis and co. took the stage and hit the crowd with a two-hour set of 39 songs (yes, you read that correctly – 39!) with nothing but a simple wave of thanks and a bow at the end.

Through the night they played every track from their latest album and if many of those songs are growers it won’t take long before they find a permanent home in the Pixies’ live set: On Graveyard Hill and Los Surfers Muerto, in particular, slotted in seamlessly alongside classics like River Euphrates and Caribou.

The band couldn’t be accused of sacrificing old for new even though the new album was played in full – the nine tracks from Doolittle and six from Surfer Rosa alone would have made for a Pixies’ fan’s dream set. But the band also dipped into Bosssnova and Come On Pilgrim. Hell, they even threw in Winterlong – the Neil Young cover from Dig For Fire!

There was no setlist – just signals and nods and words from Black Francis. Dave, Joey and Paz followed his lead even though a false start to Here Comes Your Man raised a chuckle before the band nailed it! Take a look online at the setlists and it’s been different every night with some big hitters rested and openers played mid-set. This is not only a band on top form – but having fun with it.

For anyone to say ‘oh but they didn’t play…’ at this show would be nit picking to the max. With Nimrods Son, Bone Machine, Where Is My Mind, Wave Of Mutilation and a glorious Gouge Away all in the same set, Newcastle’s fans were the spoiled brats of this tour.

Then to crown it all off a capacity crowd was treated to Debaser – sending the already sweat drenched masses into one last Saturday night frenzy.

It worked out at about £1 per song. Value and quality from the peerless Pixies.

Words And Pictures By Gordon Armstrong