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In Review: Pixies at Kirstenbosch

A set that swings from manic to calm for a career-spanning evening.

17 Mar 2017 / Opinion / written by Stian Maritz & Tecla Ciolfi / Pics by Laura McCullagh

Upholding their promise to bring more rock acts to the country, AMP Events continue their winning streak with The Pixies, bastions of rock.

When it comes to opening acts, the choice of Springbok Nude Girls may have seemed a strange one but don’t kid yourself, these guys are one of the best rock bands this country has ever produced.

The years may have greyed and frayed a few edges but they still put on one hell of a show, with guitarist and all-round legend, Theo Crous putting pretty much everyone to shame. Arno Carstens steadily delivers crowd favourites peppered with those trademark gyrating hip swings and the crowd laps up every second.

It’s mind-blowing to think that this is the first time The Nude Girls have performed at Kirstenbosch, but what a way to tick that off your band bucket list.

A short break follows and while there’s a bit of an AV issue stage right, there’s an even bigger one amongst photographers who’ve been relegated to the side of the lawn to shoot because there’s no pit.

Black Francis finally appears wearing an all-black suit, flanked by an ageless Joey Santiago to his left and Kim Deal’s replacement, Paz Lenchantin, to his right while Dave Lovering peers out from behind a gleaming red kit.

Neither Francis nor anyone else in the band says hello, goodbye or anything in between. His calm and collected demeanor does nothing to stop the crowd from losing their minds from the very beginning though. Opener ‘Gouge Away’ off “Dootlittle” puts us smack bang back at the beginning of the ’90s, a golden age for most in attendance.

All sense of convention is left at the door. At times the tempo limps unevenly, the guitars wail colourfully off-key and Francis’ mix of conversational lows and hysterical highs all add up to a show that defies pop, diatonic music and even language itself. ‘Broken Face’ is a great example, one that gets the crowd’s hearts thudding with nostalgia. Francis whoops, wails and barks between hysterical highs from behind an onslaught of angry guitar noise. The imposing slew of sound is met with boundless enthusiasm, a kind of liberation from expectations of good behavior.

With the beginning of each new track there’s a cry of “Yes!” from somewhere in the crowd, as each person in the audience waits with bated breath in the silence between songs against the odds that their favourite gets rolled out next. From single ‘Monkey’s Gone to Heaven’ and fan favourite ‘Hey’ to the darker, brooding ‘Magdalena 318’ off the more-recent “Indie Cindy”, their progression is unfaltering.

About halfway through things start getting unexpectedly rowdy for a Kirstenbosch jol. All attending soccer moms begin their traditional migration from their picnic spots to the front of stage clutching a decent glass of Sauvignon Blanc, but from their gait it’s clear that the glass is all that’s left from the bottle. Perhaps as a direct result there’s a surge in the number of people attempting stage dives and make the bouncers’ lives hell. The Pixies progress, unperturbed.

Francis picks up an acoustic guitar for the tail end of the set. It’s somber sing-alongs all the way that peak with ‘Here Comes Your Man’ sung back at full voice. The band still hasn’t broken radio silence by speaking to the crowd so their mystique is maintained. For one concertgoer it all proves overwhelming. He stands to the right of the crowd thrashing blindly in a drugged up form of Capoeira pausing only to look momentarily innocent as security guards wander past before resuming his psychotic workout.

And yes, of course they play ‘Where is My Mind’ pre-encore and it is absolutely perfect in every way. Whether you’re a diehard who listened to it when baggy jeans were still a thing or a late convert who pictures the skyscrapers collapsing at the end of Fight Club, it’s a milestone to hear a song of such cultural magnitude played right in front of you. A real treat for alternative rock ‘n’ roll fans in SA, one that’s few and far between.

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