The Breeders have been doing music for 23 years and counting, but they’re mostly recognized as a bastion of grunge-y ’90s guitar rock. Blame that on the group’s many periods of inactivity – beholden to Kim Deal’s varying Pixies-related obligations and other band members turning back to their fulltime bands and solo projects; a couple handfuls of lineup changes; Kelley Deal’s 1994 heroin bust, rehabilitation, and the band’s subsequent hiatus; etc. – but the group’s never really thrown in the towel.
Still, due to all of the distractions The Breeders have had to entertain, they were never really given a shot at properly touring their 1993 full length, Last Splash.
Enter “LSXX,” the group’s marketing of their current tour and 20th anniversary celebration of their critically acclaimed and most popular album. The tour sees the band – reformed with its 1993 lineup of Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs, and Jim MacPherson paying (and playing) homage to its cornerstone album as faithfully as possible.
When the LSXX tour rolled into Danforth Music Hall on May 11, they gave anyone looking for a taste of (in some cases adopted) nostalgia a big steaming buffet.
The stage setup honouring Last Splash right down to the gear, a set of wind chimes joined Macpherson’s drum kit – the very same chimes used when the group recorded Last Splash at Coast Recorders & Brilliant Sounds in San Francisco in 1993, Kim announced – for execution of a fully steadfast performance of “Invisible Man.”
In a similar vein, Macpherson and Wiggs swapped drum and bass duties for “Roi” since that was how it was recorded. Despite all their efforts at providing an authentic rendering of their album, the group couldn’t swing carting the Minimoog featured on the same song.
“Minimoogs are hard to travel with, so we sampled it,” said Kim, motioning to a sampler placed by the bass stacks.
When Kim told the crowd, “Kelley has the blues,” before her sister took over vocal duties for “I Just Wanna Get Along,” fans even received some of the candidness that’s built directly into Last Splash; responding with her regrets that she couldn’t follow her sister’s cue with an improvised blues riff, Kelley echoed her 1992 self, who, just entering the band as the group’s (then) third guitarist, didn’t really know how to play her instrument.
The band were also joined onstage by Carrie Bradley, who’s performed additional instruments (violin, keyboard, tambourine) for Breeders recordings and tours as early as their 1990 debut LP, Pod, and as late as their 2008 full length, Mountain Battles. Bradley’s band Ed’s Redeeming Qualities also wrote “Drivin’ on 9,” covered by The Breeders on Last Splash.
The group played through the 15-track LP in its original sequence, getting their most successful single, “Cannonball” (to which Kim sang the fuzzier bits through a styrofoam cup fixed over a mic) out of the way early in the set rather than holding onto it for an encore presentation, as some might have anticipated.
Immediately following album closer “Roi (Reprise),” The Breeders exited the stage, letting fans’ imaginations run wild. All they’d been promised was Last Splash, after all. But the crowd response to The Breeders’ set was nothing to be denied an encore, and the band soon returned to deliver numbers culled from releases for which the bulk of the members onstage could claim putting in studio hours: Pod as well as the Safari and Head to Toe (1992 and 1994) EPs.
The band played through their versions of Guided By Voices’ “Shocker in Gloomtown,” and The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” as well as “Lime House,” “Oh!,” and “Don’t Call Home” to round out the night, but not without some crowd interaction. Surveying the crowd for more material they could consider learning for a later gig, they acknowledged one front-and-centre fan that requested Pod’s “Iris.”
Last Splash rises and falls from fuzzy ragers you could throw on a party playlist to some more chilled out ballads, and for some albums, that won’t translate well in a concert setting. But on May 11, The Breeders proved that an album as definitive of alternative rock as Last Splash is won’t do anything but put concert-long smiles on all those in the room – Breeders members and fans alike.
“Thanks for helping us celebrate this,” Kim and Kelley had both said by the end of the night. And there was no doubting their sincerity.
“Do You Love Me Now”
“I Just Wanna Get Along”
“Drivin’ on 9”
“Shocker in Gloomtown” (Guided By Voices)
“Happiness is a Warm Gun” (The Beatles)
“Don’t Call Home”