“If you wandered off the streets — I lived here, I know you wander off the streets — we’re doing an album.” So said Kim Deal two songs into Sunday’s Breeders performance at House of Blues, and even if 1993′s candy-corroded “Last Splash” was justly celebrated with a 20th-anniversary tour, revisiting it a decade later was a reminder for any of those mythical street-wanderers of how vital and bent the album remains.
With the “Last Splash” lineup of guitarist/vocalists Kim and Kelley Deal, bassist Josephine Wiggs, and drummer Jim MacPherson intact from the last reunion (and having recorded 2018′s eminently worthy “All Nerve” to keep sharp in the meantime), the Breeders played with an almost startling immediacy for a band doing a 30th-anniversary playthrough. The album order meant that they had to deliver the goods right away, not just with the slowly pealing notes and caustic chords driving the opening “New Year” but with the slippery propulsion of “Cannonball,” where MacPherson leaned hard into the weighty bounce and gave it tremendous pickup.
And they kept hitting hard, not only in songs like the spacious and confrontational “Roi” (with its groaning riff and Kelley’s cacophonous guitar scree) and the churning, chaotic “S.O.S.” but in warped pop songs like “Invisible Man” and the grinning, explosive “Divine Hammer” as well. Kim’s gift as a music-maker was always in her ability to disguise sugar-coated melodies in raw, sharp blasts of sneering aggression (and vice versa), and when both were maxed out at once, as in “Saints,” the results were glorious.
Throughout, Kim was a gleeful frontwoman, so eager to share all of it with the audience that she sometimes got ahead of herself: her chords out of phase right when her guitar entered “Cannonball,” charmingly frantic trying to join “Mad Lucas” on time, and generally carrying the demeanor of a juggler just barely keeping all the balls in the air. But she always locked in; after admitting “That might be me, let me try it again” when her and Kelley’s guitars didn’t quite click at the start of “Doe,” the second try became a tight, driving churn.
A short post-”Last Splash” set saw the Breeders dipping into “All Nerve,” with songs like “Wait in the Car” and the agitated and fierce “Nervous Mary” standing up impressively alongside their elders, as well as earlier material like “Fortunately Gone” (which with the Deals singing in harmony was sweet, for them) and Kim’s Pixies cut “Gigantic,” where she reverted to bass. They closed with “Iris,” greeting the chaos once more and then giving it a hug.
Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @spacecitymarc
With Screaming Females. At House of Blues, Sunday