The Breeders at First Avenue, 12/12/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Erik Hess

The Breeders
with Speedy Ortiz
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thursday night at First Avenue found '90s stalwarts the Breeders in pretty great form overall. The show was a front-to-back performance of their 1993 juggernaut Last Splash, which has become a touchstone for alt-rock. The album has aged better than one might suspect, with a surprising amount of rollercoaster-like turns along the way. It was a fun ride to take again, though not every trick still held its wonder.

See Also: Slideshow: The Breeders at First Avenue, 12/12/13

The show opened with a cover of Guided By Voices' "Shocker in Gloomtown" from GBV's 1993 EP, The Grand Hour, "Just to check the sound," said lead singer Kim Deal. The 85-second sound check quickly gave way to a grunting, rumbling version of "New Year," and from there the band unfolded the album fairly quickly from song to song.

The sharp edges on many of the songs seemed to have blurred and softened a bit with the passage of time and "Cannonball," -- their signature song, the feedback-dusted intro to which occupies a good chunk of the sprawling pastiche that makes up the '90s musical map -- was the first, and most glaring example of this. The exacting, tightly wound chords were in capable hands with Kim Deal and her twin sister Kelley, but they apparently felt no need to have a few of these songs by the throat any longer, letting them instead exist as tumbled versions of themselves -- for better or worse.

Photos by Erik Hess

"Invisible Man" passed along slightly unnoticed, as it always kind of does while listening to the album, as well. You can sing along to the lyrics, but it just sort of floats off into the ether. "No Aloha" brought about something new, however. Last Splash always seemed (and on some level still seems) more revolutionary that it really was. It was, and still is, a pretty great album, but it wasn't new. Overall (and with "No Aloha" in particular), the album played out like watching a sunshower from a beach on 65-degree day.

It seemed warmer than it actually was, but was inviting despite itself. Much of this was likely due to both Kim's long tenure in the Pixies with their surf-rock vibe and possibly owing also to Kelley's heroin habit, which by '93 was monstrous and frightening -- an open secret that nobody was yet willing to address. Whatever the reasons, the trickery is still David Blaine-like in its execution. Meaning it may not even be a trick at all.

"Roi," still had its slow grind intact and the version the band offered the crowd was a highlight of the night. Kelley Deal took the mic for the fun, fluffy "Do You Love Me Now?" and as we readied to "flip" to side two with "Flipside," the set -- just as the album does, started to sag just a bit with "I Just Wanna Get Along" and what was easily the set's (and album's, really, too) low point, "Mad Lucas." It was a minor lull, however, and things revved up once more as they turned in a version of "Divine Hammer" that was so magnesium-bright and spot on, if you had closed your eyes you would have been transported back to your teenage bedroom, sitting on the floor with headphones on, staring at the album cover, wondering what, exactly, that heart was supposed to mean.

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I loved the show. Now excuse me while I go dye my hair with Kool Aid.

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