REVIEW: Pixies, O2 Academy, Newcastle

Black Francis of Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Black Francis of Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

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Pixies are one of those bands who have gone down in music history as real game-changers.

Emerging from Boston, Massachusetts, in 1986, the alternative rock outfit were pioneers of the quiet-loud dynamic which inspired the likes of Nirvana and Radiohead.

Always a cult band rather than one which sold millions of records, they nevertheless left their mark before disbanding acrimoniously in 1993.

I never saw the original line-up, whose last performance in the North East was at Newcastle Mayfair way back in 1990, and never thought I would.

For although frontman Black Francis reconvened Pixies back in 2004, their UK appearances since then have been restricted to London, Manchester and various festivals.

So it was with a real sense of excitement that this tour included dates in the provinces too, and was rewarded by an almost-instant sell-out.

Thus it was that 2,000 fans - including many who, by virtue of their age alone, had never seen Pixies - flocked to the Academy for this gig, which sold out in less time than the band would spend on stage.

Original guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering are on board, but the main talking point among diehard fans has been the absence of bassist Kim Deal.

Although involved in the band's reunion, she left in 2013, and was replaced first by Kim Shattuck of The Muffs, and, more recently, and on a permanent basis, by Paz Lenchantin.

Purists insisted that Pixies weren't the real deal without Deal, but their latest album, Head Carrier, and the shows on this tour have surely put paid to that nonsense once and for all.

Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Although Lenchantin's voice is uncannily like Deal's at times, she has her own style of playing, and has fitted seamlessly into the line-up.

There's no doubt who's the main man though: Francis, shaven headed, bespectacled and clad from head to toe in black, looked every inch a preacher - and in a way he was, as the fans lapped up songs old and new.

There were none of the "hey Newcastle, how ya doin'?" sort of platitudes trotted out by most singers; he didn't utter a word to the audience during almost 90 minutes on stage.

Instead, he did what he does best, lining up the classics the fans wanted to hear alongside the new material his band was here to promote.

Black Francis of Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Black Francis of Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

As you'd expect, the latest album accounted for a big chunk of the set - nine songs in all.

Lead single Um Chagga Lagga, just two songs in, was sandwiched between classics Gouge Away and Monkey Gone To Heaven, demonstrating the unshakeable confidence Francis has in his new work.

It wasn't misplaced, as Classic Masher, Talent, Baal's Back and All I Think About Now (featuring Paz on lead vocals) sat comfortably alongside old favourites like Bone Machine, Wave of Mutilation and Where Is My Mind?

The band sounded superb, the fans bounced along to the new tunes with almost as much enthusiasm as the old ones, and when they wheeled out arguably their best song, Debaser, as the final number of a 28-song set, the whole place went nuts.

They weren't quite finished though, as there was one more twist to come on what will surely go down as one of the greatest nights in the Academy decade-long history.

Dry ice blasted from the stage filled the venue like an impenetrable fog, and although you couldn't see them, you could certainly hear Pixies as they ended the night with Lenchantin taking lead vocals on Into The White, a B-side originally sung by Deal.

Joey Santiago of Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Joey Santiago of Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

That was surely a sign, if any were needed, that she's here to stay, and you'd hope the naysayers will back off and just be glad the Pixies are back among us.

Long may they reign - but please don't make the North East wait 26 years for another visit.

Black Francis of Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Black Francis of Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Black Francis of Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Black Francis of Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Joey Santiago of Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Joey Santiago of Pixies at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Pixies bassist Paz Lenchantin performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Pixies bassist Paz Lenchantin performing at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.