When a seminal 80s alternative rock band plays a gig in what has to be one of the loveliest settings in the UK expectations will naturally be high, and the risk of anticlimax will reflect that.
So when the Pixies appeared at Eden, it was sad but almost inevitable that they wouldn’t quite meet the hype. Starting with a faltering intro to Rock Music, jokily covered up, the die-hard fans were immediately whipped to a frenzy at the front, but look a little further and the audience seemed to reflect a lack of enthusiasm in the band themselves, which carried on through several songs.
At Crackity Jones, the mood and tempo seemed to take an upswing, with lead singer Black Francis cracking the first of several smiles of the evening, as the band found some fire.
Francis seemed to be dialling it in at times, but became more animated as the set progressed, while guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering were as tight as always, and Pas Lenchantin filled in perfectly for the absent Kim Deal on bass and backing vocals, bringing Deal’s eerie touch to classic Where is My Mind.
Song by song, the set showed just why so many bands reference the Pixies as a major influence, with skewed alt-rock morphing into dirty lo-fi and catchy surf-rock: the band were technically magnificent, with Francis showing he has lost none of his vocal ability, from screeching semi-incoherence to menacing pseudobabble, but the stage presence seemed to be somewhat lacking, even as they moved into the old hits.
It was still impossible not to be stunned by Santiago’s virtuoso guitar at the denouement to Vamos, striking chords with everything from hands to drumsticks to his own shirt, but impressive as it is it was still a routine that’s been honed over so many years as to be almost pedestrian for this lot.
The band left encoreless, and the crowd left demanding more, but the real question is what else the Pixies really had to give.
It’s always going to be a tall order opening for an internationally renowned rock band, and that must be doubly so if you’re an unknown group relocated from halfway around the world to play in front of an audience whose language you don’t even speak.
Japanese four-piece Tricot appeared in Cornwall to play as the support act for the Pixies Eden Sessions gig, and had to make the most of a lacklustre crowd, caught somewhere between afternoon and evening, who were evidently there for the main act.
The band, three girls and a guy, brought a shoegazey slice of math-rock to the Eden stage, with jabbing guitars laid over basslines straight out of a sixties rock-n-roll movie, as the vocals alternated between meaningless noise and Japanese lyrics which were beyond the comprehension of the majority of the crowd.
However, what they lost in translation they more than made up for in effort, shaking – if not vibrating – with energy as they built their hooks over snapping drums, building a steady pounding which demanded attention.
If they seemed unsure at first, the lead singer soon grew more confident, telling the crowd ‘you’re lucky, no, we’re lucky’ before collapsing to writhe on the floor as the last song started, lifting from her convulsions to prop herself on the amp and keen long and low.
As the band left the stage, an audience who had started out disinterested finally found their hands as one, to give this little support band, a long way from home, a very big hand.