The Agit Reader

Kemba Live, Columbus, September 8

September 15th, 2023  |  by Kevin J. Ellliott

Breeders at Kemba Live

It didn’t matter that after their tour launch at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was cut short by weather, the Breeders played their first Last Splash 30 set in a concrete pit in Columbus. Sure, it would have been an infinitely more cathartic experience if the Breeders had played in the open air instead of in Kemba Live’s indoor bunker. But again, that didn’t matter. They could have played any room, that’s the Kim Deal promise.

The Last Splash 30 tour, in which the band starts by playing the iconic album in full, seems like a victory lap, but it’s not. There are plenty of miles left in Deal’s long game. And that’s exactly how it’s felt, like a long game. Deal has outlived—both literally and figuratively—many of the alternative nation, Lollapalooza heroes with which she had to compete. Those burnt-out re-fits still around couldn’t hold a candle to Deal’s vigor on this night.

What seems impossible is that in that long game, Deal has created a perfect half-dozen masterpieces in 32 years of existence, with Last Splash’s predecessor, Pod, being the first. But there was more: Deal made Pacer (credited to the Amps), Title TK (an underrated masterpiece), Mountain Battles (a weird transitional masterpiece), and All Nerve (the bonafide return to 1993 form masterpiece). It was during the encore that the hungry crowd of obsessives got their manna. “Go Man Go,” an unassuming leftover from the recording of Last Splash, was as invigorating as anything on the record and anything Frank Black was doing post–Pixies mach one.

It’s safe to say that the Breeders could play Last Splash blindfolded. With a new addition to the group, multi-instrumentalist Sophie Galpin of the band Soak, Deal and company have found new ways to resuscitate the standards. Galpin added a distorted layer of guitar to the classics and beefed up the monster tracks that often get dismissed on the album, like “Flipside,” “Roi,” and “S.O.S.” It showed how this timeless piece of art is not a relic, but pliable and able to be manipulated into something even bigger and stronger. The long game gains strength with time.

Deal, in a recent Guardian interview, spoke openly about her first solo record coming next year, revealing that her lengthy marination in her work is not only intentional but needed for her survival. During the encore, the band sauntered through one of Deal’s most elegiac songs, “Walking with a Killer,” and it could have been played alone with a battered and bruised acoustic guitar and it would maintain its power. But instead, the band backed her up, and the crowd was her army. Deal’s a rock god above all else. That she’s still packing theaters and concrete pits is a testament to this. The long game has endured, and as a result, Last Splash is just about as good as any album in defining an era but also contains a sound that defines a generation at large.

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