Photo: Travis Shinn via Fear PR

Pixies Injected Ferocity Into the Performances on “Live in Brixton’

Four sold-out shows from Pixies’ critically-acclaimed 2004 tour are in a stunningly comprehensive box set. The power and snarl of Live in Brixton are undeniable. 

Live in Brixton
25 February 2022

When the Pixies reunited for a string of shows in 2004, the entire music world went up in a collective shout of “Shut up and take my money!” Any cynicism about legendary bands hitting the road once more to rake in some easy money went out the window as the heavily influential Boston band played one sold-out show after another. For the most part, Bygones were bygones as Frank Black (aka Black Francis, aka Charles Thompson) and Kim Deal buried the hatchet, teamed up with Joey Santiago and Dave Lovering, and sent millions of Pixies fans home happy.

That June, Pixies played four sold-out nights at London’s Brixton Academy. All four shows are now available for purchase in their entirety, though the pressings are very limited. Whether you spring for the eight CDs or the eight LPs, each show is encoded on colorful discs, and a different band member’s silhouette adorns the cover. The performances were extraordinary occasions for both the band and audience, something that the Live in Brixton recordings can’t hide, no matter the blemishes.

With a fanbase so unconditionally overjoyed at the band’s reunion, the Pixies could have easily played the same set four nights in a row, and no one would have complained. Fortunately, they didn’t do that. Sure, the Pixies only released four full-length albums and an EP during their first run, but that doesn’t stop them from juggling things from night to night. All four shows lean heavily on Come on Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa, and Doolittle for material, but the heavily-covered “Where Is My Mind?” didn’t get played until the second night. The first show, 2 June, starts with a cover of Neil Young’s “Winterlong”, a song only available on his Decade compilation.

There is no stage banter, but Pixies strike hard with old favorites like “Debaser”, “The Holiday Song”, “Monkey Gone to Heaven”, and two versions of “Wave of Mutilation” (those familiar with the band’s b-sides are well-versed with the difference). They begin to loosen up by the second night. Black even talks to the audience, complaining how a recently-pressed compilation omitted the first “Hey!” from the song “Hey”. He sounds like he’s short of breath on “Crackity Jones” and mistakes the introduction of “Is She Weird” as “Gouge Away”. The first two nights end with the b-side “Into the White”, that trippy punk freakout sung by Deal.

By the third night, the Pixies’ onstage momentum is matched by the occasional squalls of guitar feedback. The overlooked roar of “U-Mass” makes its second appearance while “Planet of Sound” closes out the night. Conversely, it becomes more difficult to tell the differences between one rendition of “I Bleed” or “Caribou” from another. Sure, it’s a mark of the band’s professionalism to give the crowd a consistently excellent show night after night, but it also requires the consumer of box sets to divvy up their listening session. And when one performance of “Gigantic” rocks just as hard as the one before it, it’s hard to complain. Besides, Santiago’s improvised noise storms of “Vamos” provide plenty of variety for a band that was never really known for jamming.

Pixies use another cover to kick off their final night, their’ rendition of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On” that initially appeared on Trompe le Monde. Black gets plenty of screaming in upfront and guides the band through their last renditions of “Broken Face”, “Cactus”, “No. 13 Baby”, “Tame”, and a whole host of songs that would easily make up most Pixies fans’ dream playlist. Their final night concludes with another racket-drenched “Vamos”. Santiago reportedly damaged his Les Paul badly during a rendition of “Vamos”, but I can’t make out which one. After all, they played the song each night.

Pixies injected the same ferocity into these shows as they did in the old day, judging from sound alone. Granted, the only thing I have for comparison is the live disc that came with the Death to the Pixies compilation pressed by 4AD in the ’90s. Without having attended either show, I can tell you that the vitality that drove the 1990 show is still intact in 2004. Black doesn’t phone it in, Lovering doesn’t miss a beat, Deal is there for every vocal harmony, and Santiago makes his guitar scream like a man on a mission. Say what you will about the three albums Pixies have released since Deal’s departure – and people have said plenty – but the power and snarl of Live in Brixton is undeniable. 

RATING 8 / 10