PIXIES, Live at the Marquee, Cork, Wednesday and Iveagh Gardens, Dublin, Thursday.
Back in 2004, the Pixies’ comeback was an even bigger deal than the Stone Roses’ return a few years ago. They had imploded in 1993 at the perfect time, just as grunge had passed tipping point and all the decent bands they’d directly or indirectly inspired led to ‘landfill alt-rock’ like Puddle of Mudd, Creed, Blind Melon and all the other chancers.
The Boston act perfected the loud-quiet-loud dynamic nicked by Nirvana, even if Pixies were closer to the sound of Nirvana’s In Utero — their howling noise album that was seen as attempted commercial suicide.
And in the decade that followed their split, Pixies were turned into mythical underground gods in the era of nu-metal dunces.
Since 2004, though, Pixies have been just a regular touring band — we’re into double figures since then for Irish gigs. They’ve even gone for support slots, including Arcade Fire and (shudder) Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
A Spin headline this week moaned, ‘Has any great band cared less than the Pixies?’, and you do get that vibe off them these days. Their new single Um Chagga Lagga is the ultimate phoned-in setlist padding, and their 2014 album Indie Cindy — released after founder Kim Deal’s departure — wasn’t big with diehards or critics.
Still, even though they’re now a legacy act, it’s kinda refreshing to see the Pixies not do the rock’n’roll salvation, ‘we love you all’ thing, with Frank Black’s indifference amid feedback squalls.
And with the most iconic alt-rock back catalogue of them all, they’re definitely worth another few tours. You’ve heard Where Is My Mind, Debaser and Here Comes Your Man at hundred indie discos, but there’s nothing like tapping in directly.
BELL X1, Iveagh Gardens, Dublin, tonight, €38.50
Just two months after filling Vicar Street, Bell X1 are back to the great outdoors with this gig at Iveagh Gardens, probably Dublin’s nicest outdoor venue, with plenty more shows in the Harcourt Street park over the next week.
Irish indie veterans at this stage, they’ve had a few years out of the limelight since their 2013 album Chop Chop, but they’ve a new album out this year called Arms, which should be out before their next gigs in Galway Arts Festival, Indiependence, Belfast and Limerick.
Their lead single off Arms, The Upswing, is a bit downbeat, but you’d expect them to rock out a bit, with calling card songs like Rocky Took a Lover, The Great Defector and Flame.
SLOW PLACE LIKE HOME, Workmans Club, Dublin, tonight, €10
Dublin promoters Dolittle are launching a new series at the Workmans Club, showcasing emerging buzz bands who’ve jumped the first few rungs on the scene. Each night will feature three acts, and the premiere features Slow Place Like Home, Carriages and Bantum.
Slow Place Like Home (above) is the new wave electronica project of Donegal producer Keith Mannion, recently expanded to a three-piece for live shows and an upcoming second album.
Dublin duo Carriages make chopped-up folk and electronica in the vein of The Books and Phosphorescence or the more pastoral passages of Four Tet or Prefuse 73, with some arresting vocal melodies.
Topping off the bill, some electronic experimentation from Dublin-based producer Ruairi Lynch aka Bantum, who has no problem veering between frantic clattering beats, electro and sweet electronic soul, as heard on his latest single with singer Loah.
JOHN GRANT, Iveagh Gardens, Dublin, tomorrow, €40
We love to adopt and claim singer-songwriters in Ireland — look at David Gray becoming some kind of national folk hero in the 90s, before he’d barely sold a record in his native UK.
Denver’s John Grant is the latest artist who’ll soon be applying for residency. A few years ago, Phantom FM even let him take over the station for the day.
This will be his fourth Irish gig in the last 12 months, and there aren’t many other people who could step into Sinead O’Connor’s shoes and headline the Galway Arts Festival, like he had to do this time last year when Sinead pulled out.
Since then he’s also had two shows at Vicar Street and one back in Galway’s Seapoint, but there’ll be no fatigue from Irish fans.
Some low-key acts fade a bit when they’re given a big outdoor stage to fill, but Grant’s subtle hooks and wry, dark humour won’t just evaporate into the night sky. One of the most triumphant festival sets of recent years was his early evening slot at Body & Soul 2014, leading the whole of the main stage amphitheatre into the chorus of GMF, and an emotional guest slot from Villagers’ Conor O’Brien.
In his last few gigs he was leaning heavily on his third album Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, another collection of gallows humour love songs and leftfield ballads, with added electronics and electronic pop touches.
His latest release — a collection of woozy remixes of Voodoo Doll by artists like Black Devil Disco Club, Wrangler and Satellites — suggests he’ll head further down the electronic path on his next album, following the breezy electronic new wave on newer tracks like You and Him and Snug Slacks.
Now that the new album buzz of Grey Tickles has subsided, expect Grant to settle into more of a retrospective set, in a show that could nearly approach the two-hour mark.
Get there early for his touring partner Andrew Bird, whose avant-garde folk and baroque pop tunes will be a pretty refined appetiser.
WALKING ON CARS, Live at the Marquee, Cork, tomorrow, €28
On a buzz after their first US tour, Kerry indie-pop act Walking On Cars are back on home soil with ever-swelling stadium-sized choruses and harmonies.
With their debut album Everything This Way doing the business with critics and the charts, it’s one of the most polished debut albums of recent years.
They’ve an eye firmly on the path led by other big commercial rock acts like Kodaline and The Script, and with a big label push and a full-on work ethic, I wouldn’t back against them.
WILCO, Iveagh Gardens, Dublin, Sunday, €50
Wilco’s latest album is called Star Wars, which probably led to a few odd google search returns for sci-fi fans last year and a few raised eyebrows from Disney execs.
Fans needn’t have worried though — the Chicago veterans haven’t gone all space disco on us. Star Wars is full of loose, distorted garage rock with plenty of hooks, a lot more playful than their alt-country-rock milestone LPs like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born.
It’s hard to know whether Jeff Tweedy and co’s subtleties will transfer on the outdoor stage, but having one of alt-rock’s great cult fanbases won’t hurt.
TOM JONES, Live at the Marquee, Cork, Tuesday, €54.65
Last year the first Live at the Marquee announcement was “Tom Jones and Slayer to play the Marquee, and it sounded like the daftest double-header ever. But Slayer opened the portal to hell a few weeks ago, and old Tom’s arriving to bring the swivel-hipped good vibes.
Still blessed with the biggest voice outside of opera, this’ll be a total crowd-pleaser, with the 75-year-old turning his recent gigs into full-on storytelling sessions as well.
And even if Sex Bomb is one of the worst songs of all time, he’s got plenty of amazing daft classics, like Delilah, Green, Green Grass of Home and his mental OTT cover of Prince’s Kiss.
- Published in Irish Daily Star