Another year, another fantastic December gig at the Forum Theatre. As a bonus, Melbourne was graced by a stunning sunset that cast the city in an otherworldly light and made everyone on the street reach for their cameras.
The last time I saw The Breeders was in 2008, and then it took them ten years to release another album, this year’s excellent All Nerve. I somehow missed out on the original tour announcement and was gutted after finding both Melbourne shows sold out, but then, luckily for me, the second night got upgraded to the Forum Theatre. Deservedly so, as the venue was packed on the night, mostly by the crowd comfortably in or speeding towards the middle age.
I got there in time to watch a bit of Hachiku, a young Melbourne-based female artist who played a sort of dreamy quirky pop with her equally young backing band. Friend and I had a discussion the previous day about the opening acts, coming to the conclusion that we could count the number of truly memorable ones on one hand. Hachiku, I’m sorry to say, wouldn’t make the cut, but at least her music was pleasant enough and didn’t make me wish I was still chilling at home.
The Breeders line-up has changed a lot over the years; the only constant between the two Melbourne shows ten years apart were the founding member Kim Deal and her twin sister Kelley. Last time I saw them live I was blown away by Kim Deal’s charisma. She rocked up onstage looking like a cleaning lady in a baggy jumper and with uncombed hair, and held the crowd in the palm of her hand with her unique, warm vocals and a smile that could light up a small town. This time she was even more animated, and she and Kelley traded some nice sibling banter. Josephine Wiggs, the androgynous gum-chewing bass player, was also a scene-stealer in a polar opposite fashion, with a dark, severe presence that softened when she said some kind things about Melbourne in between the songs.
Other than showcasing the latest release, the band played plenty of songs off Last Splash, their biggest and best-known album, which, heresy ahoy, I’ve actually never been a huge fan of. I of course love the hell out of Cannonball, but overall to me Last Splash felt like a more conventional alt-rock record and was missing that special idiosyncratic something, a murky/sinister underbelly, that I loved about their other work. The crowd however lapped it all up, and I was left feeling like maybe I was too harsh on Last Splash all these years and should give it another chance. I was also very pleased to hear a few tracks from Pod (their first and IMO best album) sprinkled throughout the evening.
The concert had a few nice surprises and guest appearances, most memorably the local girl Courtney Barnett who came onstage to play guitar. I’m a big fan and it was a kick to see these talented women share the stage. Also, a left-handed guitar player makes for a cool symmetrical visual next to a right-handed one. I notice this sort of thing.
Then she was joined by the members of the opening act, who did backing vocals for Howl at the Summit and looked like shy nervous kids hanging around with a cool aunt.
I never would have expected to hear a Pixies song, but close to the end of the night the band broke into Gigantic, which was a delight. Then, after the encore, just when it looked like it was bedtime for everybody and the post-gig music started coming through the speakers, the band returned for a second encore and Kim howled her way through an energised version of Iris. All concerts should end like this.