As we were waiting for The Breeders to come on stage Thursday night, I noticed that the young woman in front of me was sporting an impressive tattoo of the old nineties-era MTV logo. Much like my concert neighbor's choice of ink, The Breeders show at Wonder Ballroom proved that while it's been over two decades since "Cannonball" came out, there's still a market for "classic" alternative rock, at least in Portland.
While I realize that it's both a little unfair and maybe even cliched to compare The Breeders to The Pixies, I'm going to do it anyways, because comparison is so telling. For better and for worse, the Kim Deal-fronted Breeders is everything that the Kim Deal-less Pixies is not (and since I wasn't old enough to see them in their heyday, it really makes me wonder what the latter band was like when Kim Deal was part of the lineup).
When we covered The Pixies back in February, my biggest complaint about the band was that their set was polished and honed to the point of being antiseptic and occasionally underwhelming. By contrast, The Breeders are delightfully raw and play with a great deal of heart. There was more stage banter in the first five minutes of their set than we saw from The Pixies in an entire show, and both Kim and her sister Kelley cracked jokes all through their show. There's a downside to that, too: while some of the band's new music (another difference from the Pixies) was good, some of it fell completely flat - most notably the bizarrely-named "Blues at The Acropolis" (Kim quipped that Kelley didn't like the name... I'd have to agree with her) - and the band frequently pulled out their guitar tabs on the songs they didn't know very well. Despite the occasional missteps, though, hearing "Cannonball" live and watching them cover "Happiness is a Warm Gun," made me come to the conclusion - while they might have a less iconic discography than The Pixies, The Breeders are definitely a heck of a lot more fun to watch live.