LIVE REVIEW: Pixies, O2 Academy, Newcastle, 21 September 2019

Pixies played a huge 39-song set at the O2 Academy in Newcastle as part of their 2019 European Tour. Pic: Gary Welford.

The last time Pixies played Newcastle’s O2 Academy, the appearance was their first in Newcastle for 26 years. Arguably one of the most anticipated shows the venue has ever hosted, the opportunity to catch the Boston legends in the North East on a relatively small stage felt like an unmissable one-off; as the band’s storming performance made for a truly memorable evening.

Pixies played a huge 39-song set at the O2 Academy in Newcastle as part of their 2019 European Tour. Pic: Gary Welford.



Given that less than three years have elapsed since then, it’s little surprise that the energy in the room isn’t quite as fervent for tonight’s return. Even so, it’s a Saturday night, and a visit from one of the greatest, most influential rock and indie acts of them all is never unwelcome. Certainly, the show suffered from no fall in demand, with tickets disappearing in a matter of minutes.

Pixies played a huge 39-song set at the O2 Academy in Newcastle as part of their 2019 European Tour. Pic: Gary Welford.

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The band’s reunion since 2004 hasn’t been without controversy, with largely so-so new material and the absence of iconic bassist Kim Deal sore points among many fans. In Paz Lenchantin, though, they’ve a more-than-capable replacement, and from the get-go tonight the show finds the current incarnation in fine form – particularly frontman Black Francis, whose voice is in decidedly finer fettle than on the band’s new album, Beneath The Eyrie.

Unfortunately, having found the backlash against predecessors Indie Cindy and Head Carrier a tad unjust, I must confess to finding this latest offering a disappointment. As such, segments of tonight’s show are – for me at least – an exercise in patience, as the quartet are as interested in offering the new record a thorough showcase as they are in rolling through beloved late ‘80s and early ‘90s cuts. It’s not without its bright spots – the soaring Long Rider, the quintessentially-Pixies On Graveyard Hill – yet by and large the evening’s peaks come from familiar sources – the majestic single Velouria; a sensational, extended Gouge Away.

Pixies played a huge 39-song set at the O2 Academy in Newcastle as part of their 2019 European Tour. Pic: Gary Welford.



Although a healthy helping of classics is all but assured, the band’s famous policy of arriving onstage without a setlist ensures no Pixies show is ever predictable. Tonight’s monster 39-song offering, though, is the type that even the most po-faced detractor would struggle to deny – even before a celebratory finale of Debaser, delivered following an interlude which was less encore break, more faux ending. 

Such was the whirlwind that’d preceded it, the fact they’d omitted arguably their best-loved song had slipped my mind – the kind of improbable brain freeze which seems all the more commonplace in the presence of true greatness.

Pixies played a huge 39-song set at the O2 Academy in Newcastle as part of their 2019 European Tour. Pic: Gary Welford.
Ali Welford
arawelford@aol.com