Photo by Sofia Dell’Aquila

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the iconic album Last Splash, The Breeders embarked on a nationwide tour with Belly. I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to their show at the Observatory North Park on October 20th, and it was one of the best concerts I’ve been to this year. The Breeders exceeded all expectations by playing Last Splash front to back, truly making it a memorable anniversary show. With the influx of older bands playing new tours, most of them have rejected playing their old music–let alone an entire album–in favor of introducing their newer music to the public. 

The Breeders emerged in the early 90s as the passion project of Pixies’ bassist Kim Deal, taking inspiration for the name from a slang term for heterosexuals. Originally joined by Throwing Muses’ guitarist Tanya Donelly, who later went on to form Belly, they recorded their first album while Deal was on break from Pixies. After months of work, Pod debuted in 1990 and was extremely well received, especially by fellow rock icons like Kurt Cobain. However, it wasn’t until the release of Last Splash in 1993 that The Breeders solidified their status in the realm of quintessential alternative rock. Replacing Donelly as the second guitarist after the recording of Safari EP, Kim Deal’s sister Kelley Deal joined the band to create Last Splash. With charting hits like “Cannonball”,  the band was fully booked, even opening for Nirvana on their European tour. 

After a stellar performance by Belly, The Breeders exploded on stage with the album opener, “New Year”. Two mics were set up for Kim–one at eye level and one for her to bend over and yell to manually distort her voice while she switched between acoustic and electric guitar. With an experimental, grinding sound, they carried on into the rest of the album, playing favorites like “Invisible Man” and “No Aloha”. Accompanied by a wavering violin soundscape, they transitioned into “Roi”, and Deal’s voice was just as round and sultry in person as it is on the recorded album. The Breeders’ camaraderie onstage made the show even better–outside of obvious sisterhood, it was clear how much they love and support each other. 

Between songs, the band was very interactive with the audience, which was made up of fans of all ages. In between the “I love you Kim Deal!”s, they told stories from their time making albums and even addressed some comments from the crowd. During one break, Deal described “Flipside” as the feeling you get when you’re forced off the couch to flip a record. She also recalled a nostalgic moment from 1993, when the band had a sewing machine running in the studio while recording in San Francisco. 

Kim Deal’s deep, raw vocals in conjunction with Kelley Deal’s pay homage to the ugly underbellies of girls everywhere: they’re unfiltered and unforgiving but you cling to every word. Her lyrics are confrontational and seductive on their own, but applied to the instrumentals, they’re elevated to the next level. Hearing the sisters sing together on the second leg of the album made me (embarrassingly) tear up in the audience…I couldn’t help it! Kelley Deal led “I Just Want To Get Along”, and by the time they reached “Divine Hammer” and “Saints”, the room was on fire.

After closing the set with “Roi (Reprise)”, the lights stayed lit as the audience demanded the show to continue. To pay respect to her time with Pixies, The Breeders opened their encore with “Gigantic”, surprising the entire crowd. Energy was high as they slipped into a few more songs off of Pod, specifically playing my all-time favorite “Doe”. To finish out the night, they brought out Tanya Donelly to play an extended cover of The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun”. 

In a genre largely dominated by male artists, the success of The Breeders boils down to pure talent. To tour in celebration of the album that brought them fame shows how much they truly appreciate all of their fans, both old and new. Somehow, The Breeders have perfectly captured the essence of gritty womanhood that transcends generations and continues to appeal to rock fans today. Kim Deal is an inspiration for all, and if I could sing, I like to imagine that I’d sound just like her.