Concert Review: The Breeders

Concert Review: The Breeders

Kim and Kelley seemed downright ecstatic to sing that evening.

McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR

Living in Portland has its advantages. Don’t tell anyone, but this is where all the cool shit happens. Like the time Dave Chappelle tried to do a failed free show at Pioneer Square but had no PA loud enough for anyone to hear him. Or the other night when right after the Breeders wrapped a blistering 25-song set and the whole audience got invited to watch filmmaker Lance Bangs shoot a music video for new single, “Nervous Mary.”

That’s right, about 85% of the sold-out audience at the Crystal Ballroom (capacity: 1,500) hung around past midnight to watch Kim Deal and her band do take after take with a pre-recorded version of the song playing overhead. Deal was in good spirits and during down time she, and sister Kelley Deal, interacted with the audience and clowned on stage, never once losing sight of the wild sense of humor that ran through the show that evening.

Kim and Kelley seemed downright ecstatic to sing that evening, even though the band had just played Portland back in November. The band tore through a 90-minute set that heavily featured songs from new album, All Nerve, and their 1993 breakout hit, Last Splash, which turns 25 this year. It makes sense since the lineup also featured Last Splash bassist and drummer Josephine Wiggs and Jim MacPherson. In fact, Deal kicked off the show with “New Year,” that album’s opening track.

Kim, wearing a loose black collared shirt and blue jeans, smiled and laughed through the set, taking time between songs to trade barbs with Kelley. Wiggs was all business, rarely cracking a smile and speaking to only playfully admonish the Deal sisters on their behavior. The music sounded great, the vocals and the guitars easily discernible. Kim’s voice sounds as if it hasn’t aged since her Pixies days, Kelley’s higher-register harmonies providing eerie sympathy.

As the set careened from newer tracks, such as stand-outs “MetaGoth” and “Spacewoman,” to old chestnuts such as “Fortunately Gone” and “Glorious,” the Breeders also sprinkled in covers such as their take on “Shocker in Gloomtown” by Guided by Voices and their seminal read on the Beatles’ “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” They finished out the first set playing “Gigantic,” allowing Kim to reclaim the Pixies song for her own.

And then is there is “Cannonball,” a song that was completely ubiquitous when it came out. The Breeders wedged their biggest hit into the 17th slot on the setlist, five songs before the end of the first set. Though the audience sang and bobbed along to most of the show, “Cannonball” elicited the biggest response. The Deals didn’t have to play it, but many people seemed happy that they did.

The Breeders really rewarded the fans who stayed around for the extra hour and participated in the making of the music video. Once the camera crews cleared the stage, the band played a scorching version of “Iris.” As soon as they finished, both of the Deal sister came down off the stage to shake hands, speak and take pictures with their fans. It’s one of those once in a lifetime musical opportunities that seem to happen all the time to us who live in Portland.

2 Comments on this Post

  1. Todd B.

    Great review man! Loved this part – “Kelley’s higher-register harmonies providing eerie sympathy.”

    Nice words man.


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