In Review: PIXX at Urban Spree

PIXX bring a heavy dose of swagger and verve to intimate showcase

PIXX arrived in Berlin on the back an excellent album, extensive European tour dates, and with an Interpol support run their next destination. It was surprising, then, that relatively few people had turned up to Urban Spree to see them. Though, initially, this seemed as though it might put a dampener on the evening, it transpired that the intimacy gave the experience a more exclusive and warmer feel. The band were here for a good time, and had talent and energy enough to make that happen.

Emerging against a gigantic banner of artwork taken from latest album ‘Small Mercies’, PIXX had dressed up for the occasion. In an assortment of shirts, ties, and jackets, their uniform was that of a group of plaid-loving office workers. This aesthetic on singer Hannah Rodgers recalled ‘Stop Making Sense’-era David Byrne. Rodgers’ slicked back hair and Dr Martens boots gave her an angular and imposing countenance. She strutted around the stage, arms behind her back in defiant posture.

‘Andean Condor’, the pick of the last album, kicked things off. With its uptempo MGMT feel, the band (and audience) immediately found their groove. The live sound is altogether more raw, unpolished and this gave the music slightly more of an edge. Second song ‘Bitch’ leaned into this punky feel, with its chaotic riot grrrl vibe. The guitarist and keyboard played added subtle vocal harmonies that filled out the already big choruses. The drummer gave a steady and focused bedrock for the songs to unfold upon, the sound recalling the tight percussion of Massive Attack.

Whilst between-song patter was kept to a minimum, the drummer seemingly hadn’t gotten this memo and unannounced gave a short and endearing monologue about his being half German and bidding a fond hello to his fellow (half-) countrymen. This caused a few laughs in the room and indeed amongst the band. Back on with the show, then, and a return to a setlist heavily focused on ‘Small Mercies’. The versatility of the songs and Rodgers’ voice were impressive, moving from Nirvana to Depeche Mode.

The stage lights went a menacing red tone and smoke filled the stage. Here some older material got a rare outing, ‘Baboo’ from debut album ‘The Age of Anxiety’. Rodgers’ voiced soared and there was a return to a more electronic-leaning sound. By this point the crowd was fully on-board. Rodgers’ swagger onstage had an electrifying effect, elevating the songs. Her posturing was at times that of Oasis-era Liam Gallagher, daring you not to be impressed. The final section of the set was a run of slightly slower songs, including Rodgers’ taking up guitar duties on ‘Hysterical’.

The band finished with ‘I Bow Down’, which is the pick of the first record. It’s a soaring track, that recalls David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ in structure. The slow build and explosive climax was a perfect pinnacle to the time we had spent in the band’s company, all too short. “I salute your kindness / I bow down to your good will” cried out Rodgers. With a short goodbye, the band left the stage and the night drew to a rather hasty close. With fragments of melodies and choruses ruminating in our minds we filed out into the balmy Berlin evening.

A Scottish troubadour, scientist, writer. Jack of few trades.

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