Some of the current members of The Breeders hadn’t spoken for 15 years prior to recording their newest album, but from their enthusiasm on stage on Oct. 4, it was clear they’ve made up.
All Nerve is The Breeders first album in a decade and the first since 1993’s Last Splash to reunite their most famous lineup. The album and tour feature Kim Deal, who started the group in 1989 after leaving the alt-rock band Pixies; her twin sister, Kelley, on guitar; Josephine Wiggs on bass and Jim Macpherson on drums.
With their heavy influence in alternative rock since the 1990s, The Breeders could have easily donned a self-important attitude for this tour. Instead, they dressed casually and seemed genuinely happy to be playing together in front of an excited crowd under the Aztec Theatre’s enormous masks and elaborate chandelier.
The show had an easy energy to it, as if the audience were watching a dress-rehearsal, rather than a full-blown show.
All Nerve was written in the basement of Kim Deal’s Dayton, Ohio, home, and the raw playfulness of that process carried into The Breeders’ performance. The Deal sisters repeatedly poked fun at each other: Kelley stuck her tongue out at Kim, who laughed and stage-whispered at her to tune faster. Wiggs, however, stayed true to her deadpan personality as she strode around the stage with a bubble machine, blowing soapy bubbles over the crowd and her bandmates, all without cracking a smile.
The light-heartedness of the night carried through both the musical aspects and performance-focused aspects of the concert.
Kim Deal forgot one of her guitar parts, Kelley Deal sang the violin line to “Drivin’ on 9” since there wasn’t a violinist, and the group regularly stepped back from their microphones to ask what they were doing, a question only partly posed for comedic effect.
Despite their on-stage antics, the group sounded as gritty and strong as in decades-old performances, and rather than pushing their hits to the encore, the setlist seemed designed simply in the order The Breeders wanted to play their music. During the opening bars of “Cannonball,” the group’s biggest radio hit, Kim Deal blew a whistle into the microphone, tossing it to her side and laughing as she began to sing.
The band also played the Pixies song “Gigantic,” allowing Kim Deal to reclaim her old music and remind the audience of her presence in rock history, somehow without seeming arrogant.
“Let’s have a ball,” she sang, her smile audible. “A big, big love.”
And that’s pretty much how the concert felt.
Between the fans who’d come of age listening to The Breeders and Pixies on the radio and those who weren’t born until years after Last Splash was released, the concert wasn’t a typical rock show. Everyone, even the band, just wanted to play.