Monday, 14 July 2014

Pixies - Manchester Castlefield Bowl

For once, the North West has come up trumps with some idyllic summery weather. Manchester is basking in glorious sunshine and this superb venue - Castlefield Arena (aka Castlefield Bowl) - plays perfect host for this eagerly awaited appearance by the legendary Pixies.  This will be no nostalgic trip down memory lane just to line the pockets either. Pixies have come roaring back with their first new material in 23 years. Having lost one, dismissed one, then gained a new bassist and now finding themselves headlining festivals to help soothe the pain of their loyal army of world-wide fans who have missed them so much.

Royal Blood have found themselves on some very impressive bills of late. And no wonder. The year has catapulted them via live performances and radio airplay into the eyes and ears of a growing number of admirers. All without a sniff of a debut album, yet. The Brighton duo are on fine form too, and with songs like 'Come On Over' and 'Figure It Out' to slot into a set of this importance they look to have gained a few more admirers from Manchester today.

Maximo Park are perilously sandwiched inbetween the new kids on the block and the Daddies of alternative rock. It's a tough call and a tough gig. Royal Blood prove difficult to follow and everybody now has eyes only for the headliners. That's not to say there aren't moments of Indie Rock goodness. Paul Smith was a born frontman and always seems such a gent. 2005's 'Graffiti' never fails to awaken the indie boy in me and more recently 'Leave This Island' with its laid back groove approach is a pleasant enough tune.  But I suspect at a good 16 songs or thereabouts long set, that the will and desire of the people here to fast forward to the main event is rapidly becoming apparent.

It's a very special moment when the Manchester crowd catch a glimpse of the Pixies stage-side, seconds before the band are due on. A huge cheer echoes around Castelfield Arena as their long wait is finally over, and this highly influential band are complete once again with Black Francis, Joey Santiago, David Lovering and new bassist Paz Lenchantin in place of the departed Kim Deal. For the next ninety minutes or so, the band lash through a set almost thirty songs to the good. They come fast and furious - by the second song of the set they're giving us 'Debaser' and it's unmistakable opening bass notes.  New album Indie Cindy's 'Bagboy' and 'Magdalena' straddle the likes of crowd favourites 'Crackity Jones' and 'Mr. Grieves'.  Perched as we are on the hillside, we get a glorious overview of the entire spectacle in front of us. Older bones are moving generously down the front probably for the first time in a little while in some cases. Everybody's singing wildly and at full throttle for 'Here Comes Your Man' and 'La La Love You'. 'Green's And Blues' lights up the audience in the song titles colours as the sun finally begins to disappear.
The band play at close proximity together in the centre of Castlefield arenas vastly wide stage, keeping this special chemistry fizzing through hit after hit. The set all too quickly reaches its climax. 'Monkey Gone To Heaven' inevitably draws the biggest cheer, rivalled only perhaps as 'Gouge Away' eventually kicks in after an extended bass opening. 'Where Is My Mind' encourages us to sway in time and reach for those high notes before the final track of this astonishing return - 'Vamos'. Joey Santiago somehow manages to plug in and play 3 guitars at once. Feedback screams around the venue before Black Francis returns to centre stage and Santiago ditches all guitars in favour of just the noise from a jack lead. They wave a long, long goodbye from all corners of the stage to the rapturous fans in front of them. Not a word from Francis, just like throughout the set, apart from those magnificent, familiar lyrics. Pixies have blown away a few thousand minds tonight, crossed off a number of bucket lists and restored some faith in music again.
        Words  - Pete Jackson