Black for LesbianNation.com March 4th, 2005
Sleater-Kinney more than live up to expectations
I’m a little late to the Sleater-Kinney party, but after seeing them live at
the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, I am fully, exuberantly, on board.
For those few other souls out there who have yet to discover this
prototypical ‘grrrl’ band, Sleater-Kinney have been an integral part of the
indie rock scene for the past decade. It is easy – almost lazy – to
categorize the Portland trio as righteous babe rockers, the embodiment of
the spirit of Pacific Northwest femrock.
And they are, indisputably, that – but what is more striking about the
band’s appeal is far broader than this labelling implies. Sleater-Kinney
truly rock. The bedrock foundation of their appeal lies firmly entrenched in
unimpeachable musical virtuosity. It goes without saying that each of the
three is a master of their craft. All three play individually with the
driving intensity that has become the group’s signature style; but it is the
way they play together that truly makes the sound of Sleater-Kinney greater
than the sum of its parts.
Janet Weiss’ energetic and superbly confident drumming sets the ideal
framework for the guitars and vocals of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein.
Each element is aggressive, but never at the expense of either of the
others. Their seamlessly blended harmonies are echoes visually in the stage
set-up: each point and each side of the triangle holds equal sway, and the
visual and audio harmony is the result of a perfect balancing act.
Beyond these grounding assets, the live show delivers on several levels.
Perhaps most striking, Carrie Brownstein has completely and utterly mastered
the iconography of rock guitar heroics. Her performance, rife with rockstar
posturing, could so easily cross over into irretrievable campiness; but her
extravagant gestures, fuelled by pitch-perfect enthusiasm and honed to
perfection, stay firmly on the side of eloquent and evocative. I don’t
believe there is any other guitarist on the scene right now who could
conceivably get away with this, and it succeeds spectacularly in working the
crowd into rapturous ecstasy. Sexy, fun, raunchily elegant: this is the
epitome of rock.
The other element Sleater-Kinney have going for them is the tremendous
camaraderie they seem to share in exulting in their music. In this age of
American Idol, it is a great joy to watch performers who are more interested
in the performance than the buzz. Sleater-Kinney exhibit a commitment to
their music that is as sophisticated as it is charming. Their onstage
enthusiasm is reminiscent of the early Beatles; these three seem blatantly
to enjoy playing music in a way that, sadly, is almost shocking in its
unexpectedness. No trace of artistic disaffection or jadedness is evident in
this exuberant display.
The Commodore show was part of an all too brief mini-tour in preview of
their forthcoming album, The Woods, due to be released May 24th. I would
urge anyone who has the opportunity to see this transformative act to do so.
I know I can’t wait to see them again.