The very concept of a band jumping on the reunion circuit and having to jaunt out to do anything at the Sound Academy on a particularly frigid Monday night have more in common than one may think. Both hypotheticals involve a requisite amount of talent, passion and chance (in the way of held interest by audience and promoters), and if any of the three are lacking, a nuisance of a festival season or a bummer of an evening inevitably follows. That said, it took all of thirty seconds of the massive, show opener “Price Tag” to realize the reincarnated Sleater-Kinney has all three of those qualities in spades and then some. Some 3000 passionate fans packed like sardines in the narrow former Docks to see the Olympia, WA-based trio run through much of the best picks from their catalog, with heaps of enthusiasm and the kind of technical proficiency unmatched in bands half their age.
If the Sleater-Kinney live experience can be said to have a focal point, it’s on the emphasis of a collective sum somehow greater than its absurdly talented individual parts. The spindly interplay between guitarists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein was fluid and dynamic to the point of faultlessness, while Janet Weiss remained a force of nature throughout on the drums. Accompanied for much of the set by touring player Katie Harkin to add an additional guitar line, keyboard flourish, or auxiliary percussion, it was tough to imagine the band in any incarnation sounding any tighter than the rebooted 2015 edition. Tucker’s emotive wail was perfectly executed and mixed for maximum visceral impact, especially in unison with the inventiveness of Brownstein’s own vocal contributions. Again one has to stress the interplay between the two, with both vocalists so naturally and frequently finding perfect melodies out of apparent dissonance.
The 24-song setlist breezed by just north of a lean 100 minutes, and one got the sense that the assembled masses would’ve been happy with a set double the length to delve further into the gold-ridden depths of their extensive back catalog. It was no surprise that last month’s excellent return album (and eighth overall) No Cities to Love received the most airtime, with 80% of its to-be classics delivered with frenzy by the band. That said, almost every SK record was touched upon barring the first two, with a Dig Me Out-heavy encore providing the most cathartic moments of the show. Tucker going guitar-less and shouting out Planned Parenthood prior to “Gimme Love” was a highlight, as was a suitably frenetic show closing “Turn it On”.
On the latter they were joined by their entire touring crew, including the show opening Lizzo, to commemorate the conclusion of the first leg of a year of heavy touring for the long dormant band. Though SK’s music is generally more tense than serene, the closing blowout was a moment of joviality for band and audience alike. Here’s to hoping that Sleater-Kinney remains an ongoing concern far beyond this calendar year.
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