Pixies, Brixton Academy, London

5.00

Living legends still in heaven

For acts of sufficient vintage and appropriate career arc, performing entire albums live has become a powerful creative statement. It's hard to say exactly when the trend started but Lou Reed's concert version of Berlin was an important moment, as was Brian Wilson's Smile show.

Of course, it helps if the album contains enough great music for the audience not to feel they are missing out on other material, which is why the format worked so well when ABC gave the live treatment to The Lexicon of Love, and Echo and the Bunnymen did the same with Ocean Rain, both of them works on which their creators were at the height of their powers and which have really stood the test of time.

But surely no band has pulled off a one-album show as triumphantly as Pixies did here with a 20th-anniversary performance of their 1989 masterpiece Doolittle, a collection of songs of such exhilarating decadence, crazed urgency and melodic inspiration as to earn the Boston four-piece an imperishable place in the rock pantheon.

The third of their five albums, Doolittle was sensational from the word go, a flawless distillation of Pixies' irresistible brand of proto-grunge, punk, pyschobilly and surf music. But as with almost any supreme feat of artistic achievement it was a while before its full significance became apparent. Kurt Cobain famously said that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was an attempt to write a Pixies song, and in containing so much of what went before them and so much of what came after, Pixies could arguably be described as the most pivotal band in rock history.

Yet even as Doolittle crept up the all-time greatest albums lists, the feeling persisted that Pixies were not being given their due. That may have had something to do with the particular affection in which they were held by their fans, who maybe didn't even want to share them with too many other people.

After a long and less than amicable period of break-up in the 1990s, in which charismatic bandleader Black Francis established himself as the solo artist Frank Black and bassist Kim Deal led the Breeders, the band she had formed in 1988, Pixies amazed people when they got back together to tour again in 2004. Those shows were a knock-out, and the clamour to see them this time round was such that they sold out four nights at the Brixton Academy in 20 minutes.

The back-projection of clips from avant-garde black-and-white movies from the 1920s reinforced the intellectual credentials of a band whose surreal lyrics are a big part of their appeal. "Debaser", the opening track on Doolittle, directly references Luis Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou, and its notorious eyeball-slitting scene added an appropriate frisson of danger to the moments leading up to the band's appearance.

A handful of Doolittle-related B-sides formed a prologue to the main event, and it needed Doolittle to get under way before real momentum was fully established. If Joey Santiago's lead guitar lines didn't glitter quite like on the record, the tenderness of Deal's vocals provided a heart-rending counterpoint to Francis's yowlings, and the power and precision of David Lovering's drumming added up to an entire show-within-a-show.

"Wave of Mutilation" had an exquisite delicacy; "This Monkey's Gone to Heaven" soared and swooped, "Mr Grieves" encapsulated a uniquely Pixiean sense of joyous abandon. Everything was a highlight but if one could choose the moment to re-live it would have to be when the back-projection comprised the band members' faces as they sang along to the infectious "Here Comes Your Man". A gloriously uplifting sequence in a show that was a lesson in how a legendary band can reunite and still retain its dignity.

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine