Dolittle by the Pixies was an album that was as much a part of the UK indie zeitgeist of the late ’80s as Dr Martens, unattractive clothing and a pint of snakebite and black.
A few albums later the Boston band ceased to exist, but after reforming in 2003, and losing charismatic bassist Kim Deal along the way, they’re on their uppers and back with a seventh studio album, Beneath the Eyrie, and a European tour, which began at the De La Warr on Thursday, September 12.
A sold-out, heaving Pavilion was bursting with love for the alt-rockers who weighed in with a support-free, monster-sized set which was only a few shrieks short of two hours.
Frontman Black Francis’s voice was in remarkably good shape, perhaps not quite so curiously manic but full of character and capable of more than the odd demonic bark, while Joey Santiago still makes a fearsome noise, and appears to own more guitars than most people have socks.
The performance included a few new tunes but heavily mined their first two long-players, Surfer Rosa and, to near delirium, Dolittle.
New offerings Graveyard Hill and Catfish Kate are likeable enough and have the elements of the Pixies sound (thunderous, immediate bass lines and buzzsaw guitar) but have a relatively simple pop-pedigree, as opposed to the more exciting but freakish hybrid creations of the earlier vintage.
A mournful, slowed-down version of Wave of Mutilation seemed a bit of a waste, although elicited a near tearful response from the faithful near the stage, but elsewhere the sound was brawny and potent.
Successive Doolittle beasts Hey, Mr. Grieves, No. 13 Baby, ushered in a fairly breathless last 45 minutes or so of largely rapid bangers including the masterful Jesus and the Mary Chain cover Head On (which out-muscled the crowd favourite Debaser), Planet of Sound, Bone Machine and Velouria. Their back catalogue has aged well and judging from the hordes of happy pavilion punters, there are plenty of lifelong indie kids who want to hear those songs belted out again.