Aztec Theatre; San Antonio, TX
“Are you watching me?” Kim Deal, center stage, asked her twin sister Kelley Deal, stage right, with the nervous energy of a perfectionist who wants to get the next song just right, no mistakes, who understands that each measure in every song from The Breeders’ sporadic and lean discography is a holy artifact, not to be lightly fucked with, from an era, still extant but subdued under autotuned din, when people got together and formed guitar-driven bands and rented shitty practice spaces where they wrote songs and plugged guitars into JCM800 Marshall amps. A pure recitation of “Glorious” follows her inquiry, free of tinkering, revisionist tricks, or mistakes.
Shit, “Glorious” is glorious. Check under its hood for the mechanics of 1990: The year of Pod, a conjurer’s number, the cornerstone year in the self-contained mythology of rock, which Kim Deal and The Breeders occasionally append. “Glorious” conjures a timeless 1990, not as an incident of retromania, but as a living specimen and live-action wire. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again,” Solomon said wearily, but, to our relief, we meet The Breeders again, same old same old: i.e., unalterable, nonnegotiable, champions in command of their sound.
Leader Kim and lead guitarist Kelley, bassist Josephine Wiggs and bounce drummer Jim MacPherson — the classic quartet of 1993, another conjurer’s year — performed Last Splash standards “Saints,” “Drivin’ on 9,” and “Divine Hammer” with purposeful professionalism and cool zeal, for the joyfully receptive and reverent audience of 500, box-office count, about 1,000 persons shy of capacity at the historic Aztec Theatre, San Antonio’s own Grauman’s Chinese Theatre turned performance space with controlling interest by Live Nation Entertainment.
The Breeders kept quicksilver pace during their 90-minute run of 23 songs, seven of which were off this year’s Albini-recorded analog album All Nerve. The new entries kept up with the standards, so much so that smash hit “Cannonball” came and went, not standing out so much as blending in. Of the newcomers, “MetaGoth” — co-composed and front-lined by bassist Josephine Wiggs, who shot bubbles, chewed gum, and kicked ass throughout the evening, and whose too-cool-for-words, too-cool-for-school style hit level of role model cool— stood out for its Breeders-distilled goth-psych and for Kelley’s use of a fingerless wool glove against six strings, which circulated concatenations of blissful and blistering treble and delay.
In other blissed-out moments like the mighty short instrumental “S.O.S.,” Kelley, the guitar hero of the quartet, delivered blunt economical riffs in less time than it takes to tie a Baltimore knot. Therein lies the secret weapon in Kim Deal’s compositional strategy: Form not free verse, haiku not affectation; always forward, never static. The Breeders didn’t dabble in alternate takes, deviations, or longform jams. They played their songs right and good but better, because they played them live with new and tried and true energy, and because, over time, through repetition and deliberation, these songs, these holy artifacts now pour sweet and clear like some vintage wine. 1990, it is a very good year.
Wait in the Car
Drivin’ on 9
Do You Love Me Now?
I Just Wanna Get Along
Dawn: Making an Effort
When I Was a Painter