Twenty years ago, when alternative music was finally breaking into wider public awareness thanks to the success of Nirvana’s Nevermind, The Breeders broke through on their own with Last Splash. Originally a side-project of Pixies bassist Kim Deal with her sister Kelley, the group took off when the Deal sisters recruited drummer Jim Macpherson and bassist Josephine Wiggs. Single “Cannonball” took off and Last Splash did better than anything that the Pixies ever released. Subsequent releases never did as well, but Last Splash has stood the test of time, and the original Breeders are bringing it back, with LSXX twentieth anniversary deluxe edition and a full LSXX tour – but before that they came to Brooklyn’s Bell House to do a special first Last Splash show on Friday, March 29th.
A few things should be noted at the start. First off, this is the original Breeders who recorded Last Splash, with not only Macpherson and Wiggs rejoining the Deal sisters (for the first time in almost a decade), but also multi-instrumentalist Carrie Bradley, who was on the record but not an ‘official’ member of the band. Secondly, the show at Bell House was something of a ‘prepper’ for the full tour – that’s why it was in a venue (QRO venue review) much smaller than what the band could play (the NYC stop on the full tour is at the bigger Webster Hall – QRO venue review). The Bell House show sold out almost immediately, and the place was packed to the gills with older fans reliving their Gen X youth, as well as younger ones who picked up on Last Splash years after it was released.
The Breeders played Last Splash from start-to-finish, head-to-toe, “New Year” to the reprise of “Roi”. Of course you knew that killer alt-rock songs like “Invisible Man”, “I Just Wanna Get Along”, “Divine Hammer”, “Saints”, and naturally “Cannonball” would go over great. What was impressive was how well Last Splash instrumentals such as “Roi” (where Wiggs & Macpherson switched instruments, as that’s who played what on the record), “Flipside”, and “Mad Lucas” also succeeded – usually, instrumentals come off as filler live & get skipped, but after twenty years of spins the ones on this album fit in like a glove. And the slower, quieter songs like “No Aloha”, “Do You Love Me Now?”, and Ed’s Redeeming Qualities cover “Drivin’ On 9” didn’t take away from the evening’s momentum, but shone in their own right.
With any ‘play an album from start to finish’ show, there are naturally some drawbacks to go with the advantages of super-familiarity (with not just the songs but the set list) and heightened anticipation. Tracks are listed on a record differently than one might on a live set list, making it not perfect in terms of things like when you play the hit singles – “Cannonball” is second on Last Splash and was second on the night, whereas it would be a natural closer in a regular Breeder set (of course, the Pixies used to play songs in alphabetical order…).
More significantly, most albums are shorter than a headlining set – usually, the band closes with the records closer, but then has to come up with some other things to play for the encore return. The album an act chooses to play start-to-finish is usually their best & best known, so the encore just can’t match up. The (original) Breeders had only one other LP (Pod) and two other EPs (Head To Toe and Safari), none of which measure up to Last Splash, but they gamely took up the encore return with seven non-Splash songs. While a few (Pod’s “Oh!”, “Lime House”) didn’t stand up, the group did a strong job with encore open “Shocker In Gloomtown” (a cover of another nineties return, Guided by Voices – QRO album review – originally found on Head To Toe), Wiggs-written “Head To Toe”, and a cover of an even older band, The Beatles’ “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” (from Pod). And they wisely closed out the night on maybe their best song not found on Last Splash, Safari’s “Don’t Call Home”.
The Breeders were in high spirits at the show (Bradley in particular, dancing when she wasn’t needed on an instrument – or even when she was…), making numerous jokes that unfortunately got lost in the packed venue. They seemed to have a lot of friends at the show, even remarking that Wiggs could have walked to Bell House from her apartment (“But I didn’t…”). The full-fledged LSXX tour kicks off in May (see below), but it was great to see such a great album up close & personal.
5/3/13 – Millvale, PA – Mr. Smalls Theater
5/4/13 – Washington, D.C. – 9:30 Club
5/5/13 – Philadelphia, PA – The Trocadero
5/6/13 – New York, NY – Webster Hall
5/9/13 – Boston, MA – Royale
5/11/13 – Toronto, ON, Canada – Danforth Music Hall
5/12/13 – Detroit, MI – Majestic Theatre
5/14/13 – Nashville, TN – Mercy Lounge
5/15/13 – Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse
5/17-19/13 – Gulf Shores, AL – Hangout Music Fest
5/24/13 – Barcelona, Spain – Primavera Sound Festival
5/25/13 – Nimes, France – This Is Not a Love Song Festival
5/27/13 – Toulouse, France – Le Bikini
5/28/13 – Bordeaux, France – Le Rocher
5/30/13 – Porto, Portugal – Primavera Optimus Sound Festival
6/1/13 – Paris, France – Le Trianon
6/2/13 – Brussels, Belgium – Ancienne Belgiue
6/3/13 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso
6/14/13 – Dublin, Ireland – Vicar Street
6/15/13 – Belfast, Northern Ireland, U.K. – The Limelight
6/17/13 – Glasgow, Scotland, U.K. – ABC
6/18/13 – Manchester, England, U.K. – Ritz
6/19/13 – London, England, U.K. – Forum
6/21/13 – Camber Sands, England, U.K. – All Tomorrow’s Parties
10/26/13 – Melbourne, VIC, Australia – All Tomorrow’s Parties