NEWPORT, Kentucky — In what passed as a hometown warm-up show for their 20th anniversary celebration of the landmark Last Splash album, Dayton, Ohio’s Breeders rolled into the Southgate House Revival on Wednesday night for a distorted trip down memory lane.
It’s fitting that the new reincarnation of the beloved Northern Kentucky indie rock venue is in a former church, since sisters Kim and Kelly Deal are indie rock goddesses to a certain generation of fans. And in an 80-minute show that found them in classic form, they performed all of Last Splash as well as some B-sides and fan favorites to a packed house.
“We’re the Breeders and were going to play Last Splash,” said a smiling Kim to kick off the show. As sister Kelly thrashed away on an electric guitar, Kim strummed an acoustic one on opening track “New Year.”
“I enjoy doing old stuff, because I know any punter who’s going to see the Last Splash show, they expect to see the album from front to back, and that’s so awesome,” Kim told MTV News last week. “I really like that … I don’t want to go to a show and hear all new music.”
That was an understatement, since the second track on Splash is by far the band’s biggest hit, “Cannonball,” and, after all, when’s the last time you heard the one you came for just five minutes into a gig? Singing the signature “ahooaha” intro into a distorted microphone covered with a paper Coke cup, Kim led the band into the grunge pop nugget, with the sisters’ voices blended beautifully in the verses.
All night, the interplay between the Deal twins was a joy to watch, as they exchanged knowing glances and smiles and Kelly laughed at her sis when Kim seemed to flub some of the lyrics to “Invisible Man.”
They both went plugged-in and electric for the surfy “No Aloha,” with Kim’s voice as high and semi-sweet as ever. Noting that they’d spent several days practicing in the venue that’s less than an hour from their hometown, Kim said, “We sound pretty good, I think.”
And, on the plodding pop fuzz march of “Do You Love Me Now?” they sure did. Kelly took lead vocals on the herky-jerky “I Just Want To Get Along,” delivering the chorus in what sounded like a nasal Long Island accent.
In a testament to the beauty of playing with family, at one point during the dirge-y “Mad Lucas,” Kim looked up as if to cue Kelly for her guitar solo, just as Kelly tore right into it without even raising her head. “Divine Hammer” was full of joy and a heartbeat flutter of drumming from Jim MacPherson, whose jazzy, muscular work behind the kit was one of the gig’s other high points.
The show had just the right mix of blown-out noise, sweet harmonies and surf guitar instrumentals as it barreled toward song #14, “Driving on 9.” Just as Kim was setting that one up, Kelly began to ramble on about someone in the crowd and Kim quipped about their dueling stage patter. “It’s like ’East Side Story.’ We’re the Sharks and you’re the Fins.” We’re pretty sure she meant “West Side Story,” but unflappable bass player Josephine Wiggs set her band mate straight, joking, “I think you mean the Jets.”
Regardless, the song had a dusty, old West barroom swing, with Kelly and violinist Carrie Bradley performing a beautiful call-and-response dance on their instruments.
The show — opened by up-and-coming Cincinnati garage thrashers the Tweens — ended with a run through 1994’s whip crack rocker “Shocker in Gloomtown” and their sludgy cover of the Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun” that owed a clear debt to punk godmother Patti Smith. The highlight of the encore set was the chugging “Safari,” a textbook example of the quiet-loud dynamics made famous by Kim’s other band, the Pixies.
The Breeders will officially launch the “LXSS” tour on Friday at the Bell House in Brooklyn, before taking it across North American in May, during which they’ll drop in to play a set at the Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama.