A bona fide alt-rock legend and her band, touring with the lineup from its most successful era, supporting a solid recent album and taking the stage on a Friday night at (arguably) South Florida’s finest venue. The Breeders’ show at Miami Beach’s Fillmore should have been a recipe for a packed house, for a home run. Instead, barely anyone showed up.
The show was drastically undersold, with a crowd that likely couldn’t have even filled up Fort Lauderdale’s significantly smaller Revolution Live. How empty was it? More than half of the venue’s many bars weren’t in operation. More people showed up at the venue last year to see Modest Mouse two days before Hurricane Irma made landfall.Yes, really.
Supporting this year’s solid All Nerve, the Deal sisters & company brought along Chicago noise-rock outfit Melkbelly, who performed a fun opening set despite the barren audience. When the group took the stage right at 8, there were a few dozen people in the crowd. Audience members spoke directly to the band at normal volume. “Turn up the vocals! We can’t hear them!” one fan said to Melkbelly’s lead singer. “Oh, okay,” she responded, and the sound engineers obliged.
By the time The Breeders took the stage just after 9, the crowd had become mercifully thicker in the front, eliminating the “ghost town” vibe that had imbued the venue for the previous two hours. Kim and Kelly Deal, bassist Josephine Wiggs and drummer Jim Macpherson were clearly having fun, and proceeded to tear through their set with a punk-show-like energy.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the night was watching how much fun Kim and Kelly Deal were having together. I couldn’t quite tell whether the Deal sisters were enjoying themselves because of or in spite of the small audience, but in the end it didn’t matter. The sisters traded jokes, smiled ear-to-ear, and laughed their way through a set that was comprised mostly of tracks from this year’s All Nerve and 1993’s Last Splash.
Something about this performance made it feel like a show that couldn’t quite decide what it wanted to be—part victory lap, part indignant statement on Deal’s independence, part standard alt-rock concert and part punk show. Though the band slammed through songs at a breakneck pace, there were still certain lulls that heavily derailed the set’s momentum.
Luckily, the Breeders translate much better in a live setting. Slower tracks such as “No Aloha” were infused with a new energy from the stage, new tracks had more depth live than on record, and a few cover songs kept things unpredictable. In particular, the main set closer: a faithful cover of “Gigantic,” which Kim Deal co-wrote for the Pixies, felt like a love letter and thank-you to fans who made the trip to the show.
Though it couldn’t hold a candle to a Pixies show (and I doubt anyone in attendance expected it to), The Breeders put on about as great a performance as one could have hoped for in 2018, bringing new life to old songs and pleasantly surprising the crowd with the energy infused in the new material. Despite the miniscule crowd, on a night when the band could easily have phoned it in and moved on to the next show, the Breeders didn’t allow any aspect of the set to falter. That’s the mentality of a group led by an alt-rock legend, and it builds upon the already impeccable reputation of Kim Deal.