We Review Pixies at Band on the Wall, Manchester. What happened?

Barely 36 hours have passed between the show being announced and Black Francis et al taking to the stage at Manchester’s recently revamped Band on the Wall. Having unsurprisingly sold out within minutes, and with the band having not played a show this intimate since reforming in 2004, those in attendance know they’re about to witness something special. Coinciding with the hottest day of the year, the air-conditioned venue provides some much welcome relief; as Pixies hit the stage at 8pm sharp, the temperature is still in the 30s.

Anyone who has seen the band before knows their sets are long, breathless affairs, and with no support tonight, it’s clear that even for them, tonight’s is going to be a long one. They don’t disappoint. Though having played Manchester just two short weeks previous, tonight’s set feels very different from their open-air offering.

Opening with ‘Ana’ is a marked change from the usual weighty track that kickstart your typical Pixies set, but tonight is anything but that. With an almost 40 strong setlist and two glorious hours spread out in front of them, Pixies have room to break from the usual formula. And that’s just what they do.

Though said set is always career spanning, tonight sees Dolittle aired in almost its entirety, likewise with mini album Come on Pilgrim. Elsewhere, deeper cuts, covers and brand new material from the forthcoming Doggerel all populate the set.

As expected, there’s nothing in the way of crowd interaction. After all, why waste time talking when you have such a sprawling back catalogue to entertain your fans with? There are smiles though, and it’s clear that the band are enjoying the freedom tonight’s show offers. It isn’t so much a show as it is a celebration, and it’s fantastic to be able to hear tracks you otherwise wouldn’t at a typical Pixies gig.

Of course, those lesser-known tracks do seem to cause the occasional lull in proceedings, offering the crowd a little respite in what’s otherwise a breakneck set. This being Pixies however, we don’t have to wait long for another classic to rear its head.
And of those there’s many. ‘Caribou’, ‘Monkey’s Gone To Heaven’ and ‘Gigantic’ all make mid-set appearances whilst fan-favourite ‘Here Comes Your Man’ provides the evening’s first true sing-along just three songs in. By the time ‘Debaser’ gets a raucous outing, the fans are in their element and it’s clear we’re into the home stretch of an enormous set.

As the final notes of ‘Bone Machine’ ring out, the band take their bows and exit stage left to a thunderous applause. And just like that the crowd are left blinking into the house lights, and breathless from what they’ve just witnessed. And though the band’s seminal hit ‘Where is My Mind’ remains absent from the setlist, it really doesn’t matter, tonight wasn’t about the hits, it was about the band, and what they mean to the 500 people lucky enough to be in attendance this evening.

Photo by Neil Winward