The Breeders need little introduction. Described by frontwoman Kim Deal as ‘The Bangles from hell’, the legendary four-piece was a breath of fresh air amidst the drudge of grunge and sound just as exhilarating 30 years later. The alternative rock legends became one of the 90s most critically acclaimed acts and their best-known song, ‘Cannonball’, was 1993’s most unlikely hit with its unconventional stop-start sequences and went on to become an era-defining alt-rock classic along with Beck’s ‘Loser’, Blind Melon’s ‘No Rain’ and Smashing Pumpkin’s ‘Today’.

Their songs are a living lesson in how to curate simple songs fused with experimentation, which due to their short length and the band’s use of vintage equipment and avoidance of anything fashionable, remain timeless. Despite years of internal conflict, drug abuse and arrests causing The Breeders to split on multiple occasions and not release an album for 24 years, they looked in great shape as they took the stage at Manchester’s Albert Hall.

They started the night with a snarling rendition of ‘Saints’, which was more akin to the album rather than the single version when played live. Kim belted the chorus with her trademark Marlboro-blemished, raspy voice as the band thrashed through the song. On stage, the band looked like a group of English teachers which was amusingly juxtaposed against the unconventional, effervescent pop and rock they produced.

The tempo was slowed down for ‘Iris’, a song Kim once described as ‘like a pea pod flowering and then getting ripe and stinky’. She delivered an exquisite staccato repetition of the pre-chorus, “Oh!”, as it bubbled and popped into a gripping chorus before the band slipped seamlessly into ‘Doe’, another song from Pod.

‘Doe’ is hooky, stripped-down pop at its best and its wrenching lyrics, which describe a schizophrenic couple losing their grip on reality and who whilst under the influence of drugs plan to burn down their town, encapsulate many qualities heard on Last Splash. ‘Safari’ was an early highlight and they began to fully hit their stride a few songs later with the rousing ‘No Aloha’ which saw the 2,000 people plus crowd rock around for its duration.  

Next up was ‘Huffer’ which further demonstrated The Breeder’s affinity for hooks and displayed a college rock quality. This was followed by another tune from 2002’s Title TK album‘Off You’, which slowed things down as the night entered its midpoint and the solitary use of a synthesizer lent the performance a creepy quality.

Kelley Deal, Kim’s twin sister, with her hair blowing around like she was in a cheesy 80s music video due to the stage fan, took the mic for the sardonic ‘I Just Wanna Get Along’. The song is rumoured to be a dig at Black Francis, who was inadvertently responsible for creating The Breeders due to stifling Kim Deal’s creative ambitions and leading her to seek outlets outside her ex-band, Pixies. 

Kim’s likeable stage presence and Cheshire cat-like grin made the fact that she initially sang the wrong lyrics to ‘Only in 3’s’ (and had to have one of her crew come on stage with his phone to show her the words) forgivable. The aforementioned ‘Cannonball’ was an undeniable highlight which had everyone bouncing from the moment Josephine Wiggs broke into its bubbling bassline and the stuttering, stop-start arrangements kicked in. Almost a minute into the chorus Kim began to sing the nearly inaudible lyrics into a harmonica microphone to create the distorted vocals of the quirky pop classic.

The abrupt note that the song finishes on was followed up by the playful ‘Drivin on 9’ which again slowed things down with its country-tinged, radio-friendly qualities.  An on-stage magazine promotion from bassist Josephine was followed by the jaunty ‘Opened’ which introduced the supernatural theme that continued in the Killing Joke-esque MegaGoth and fitted the Albert Hall’s vampiristic setting perfectly.

The night came to a close with an encore of ‘Walking with a Killer’ a song that contains some of The Breeder’s more harrowing lyrics, ‘I would not survive, I didn’t know it was my time to die’. The night finished with the existential angst of ‘Divine Hammer’ and its catchy chorus which concerns a search for divinity, ‘I’m just looking for the Divine Hammer, One Divine Hammer’, was sung by many of the attendees as they flocked outside onto Peter St.

The Breeder’s performance reflected their songs. It stopped and started, slowed and sped up and delivered an unconventional night of mish-mash alt-rock, love songs and hooky pop. Playing many tunes under 2 minutes long, they blitzed through the 21-song set in an hour and a half with a repertoire jam-packed with classics from Pod, Kurt Cobain’s favourite album, and Last Splash, the album which helped the band cross from cult to mainstream recognition. Despite all but one of the band being in their 60s, The Breeders proved they still have plenty left in the tank.