The Breeders, Blackheath Halls

Blackheath Halls has the familiar feeling of the suburban village hall – cheap biscuits and mellow birds at the coffee morning, Cub Scouts on a Wednesday evening, the PTA do on a Saturday with the covers band that no longer plays Gary Glitter. Okay, it’s a little more upmarket than those familiar and safe smells of yesteryear that we all yearn for, but in essence it has the same intimacy about it.

The walls in the upstairs bar are decorated with a display of posters celebrating 25 years of 4AD, and the warm bottles of London Pride make me feel safer than being under my duvet at home. No need to worry about dribbling students here, this stuff is for grown ups. The main hall is a huge affair decorated meticulously in cream and red, it has a cavernous feel with an air of grandeur. The crowd fills the room well with no pushing and shoving and lager being sloped down the jeans, also the spinning inertia that accompanies so many gigs is happily absent. It is overwhelmingly civilised and I like it already. Great.

Twins Kim and Kelley Deal wander on stage with smiles and start smoking, which they won’t stop doing until they walk off an hour later. They laugh and chat with the audience and pretend to be embarrassed by the replies, I like this as much as their plain tee shirts, jeans and guitars which can make anyone look sexy. I’m not that familiar with much of the Breeders stuff, and apart from Cannonball it’s like listening to a set of songs for the first time. Good songs too – short, to the point with none of that unnecessary indulgence that can accompany a well rehearsed outfit.

They are joined onstage periodically by Josephine Wiggs who plays the violin, and Jim MacPherson who sings tragedy into a lone mic at the centre of the stage. It is when they all play together that their sound is at its most evocative, an inventive mix that reminds of Nick Cage or Tindersticks. The louder tracks are combine Kim’s bullet driven distorted vocals with Kelley’s superb guitar feedback technique. There is no doubting how fantastic it all sounds, it really is that good. Kelley laughs constantly and messes around with different instruments, pretending not to know how to play the ukulele by plucking the strings like a five year old, but somehow perfectly in tune. I am reliably informed that the belching into the mic stunt is a regular occurrence! Somehow quite sweet.

Afterwards there’s enough time for a pint to finish a victorious night before sloping off home in the freezing cold.

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