March 15, 2024

Sleater-Kinney played Brooklyn Steel (Night 2)

Sleater-Kinney continued to entertain their enthralled fans on night two of two at Brooklyn Steel as they tour behind their recent record, Little Rope.

Last fall, boygenius and MUNA played a sold-out Madison Square Garden and it felt like a queer homecoming for a new generation of rock music fans. It was an incendiary experience for anyone in attendance and affirmed that guitar-driven music still has a place with a younger crowd and when left to their own devices, the fans and bands can create magical, life-affirming music for the masses. The tour in support of Little Rope, the new album from the legendary Sleater-Kinney features the indigenous queer act Black Belt Eagle Scout and while their show at Brooklyn Steel may have been smaller in capacity, it was a showing of equal caliber and another celebration of a community that has often been on the outs of indie rock. 

Opening the night, Black Belt Eagle Scout brought chewy, lush, shoegaze guitar anthems to life as they channeled the sounds of the Pacific Northwest for heavily emotional, droning music that hit with a dream-pop spirit. Katherine Paul released her third record on the moniker last year and it has easily become her grandest statement yet, the songs shining with transformative passion that is both ethereal and at times full of noise. The cinematic nature of her songs bring to light the illustrious meaning and purpose of her homeland and how she reconnected with her past during the making of the record. On stage, she dedicated songs to Lily Gladstone, indigenous queer youth, and spoke about her the songs she performs are also to inspire us to look around at the world and recognize genocide and colonization as it happens, to take action, and pay tribute to those who are under occupation. Like the headliners to follow, there was no bass to be found onstage and as the drums kept steady rhythms, the guitars shredded away and during the final song of the set, Paul reached deep within to unleash the most powerful moments of the set full of unbridled and swirling hazes of guitar that would set the tone for what was to follow.

I was fortunate enough to catch the iconic, classic, core-trio line-up of Sleater-Kinney once, on their reunion tour back in 2015. It was my favorite show of that year. Since then, I've caught them at Kings Theatre during the uneven times following the release of the underrated The Center Won't Hold and then once again as their opening set for Wilco at Forest Hills Stadium was cut short due to a thunderstorm during the summer live music returned in the wake of COVID. While I've enjoyed seeing the band for each of those performances, their second night at Brooklyn Steel on this current tour was the best they've been since their initial return. Allowing their backing band to enter in a purple backlit hue, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein took to the stage like the rockstars they are, guitar techs handing them their instruments with poise before the quintet launched into a set that would accelerate to maximum power throughout the night. Tucker opened the night with "Hell," instantly assuring the crowd that her voice has not aged a day and led the band through the new number before Carrie cut in for "Needlessly Wild," the two taking turns at proving their controlled dominance and the steady tension and release that they can harness like no others. Playing two nights in a row gave the band the chance to shake things up and after they asked who had attended the night prior they announced "well this is really for you then because we're switching up the songs tonight and this is a pretty random set list." From that moment on, the crowd never lost sight of the band's lead and was given a tour-de-force performance that confirmed their place as one of the best American rock bands of the past thirty years. As Brownstein would tear into her guitar, Corin's stunning howl would send shivers up spines, their combined momentum an unbelievable force that would strike with urgent and authoritative power. From their comeback record No Cities to Love, "A New Wave" was perhaps an early surprise of the night, not for its inclusion in the set, but for the way it hit as one of their strongest of the night, the stomp-clap and tumbling rhythms boosting the reactions from the locked-in crowd. "This song is from the 1900s" Carrie joked before they leapt into the sweeping anthem "One More Hour," a tender song about the duo's own romantic relationship and its demise, which saw the crowd illuminate with total joy. Eleven albums deep into their career now signals that there are some album omissions from their set lists, most surprisingly was the fact that they played nothing from their last album and first as a duo since the '90s nor did they break out anything from Call the Doctor, but beggars can't be choosers here and the set list was pretty stellar. However when they did announce that the next song was the closing number from their "moody album" The Hot Rock, the crowd roared, a bit to the surprise of the band, as they crushed "A Quarter to Three." "Jumpers" was another electrifying number that pushed the energy level up and as Brownstein hit the epic last refrain to shout "FOUR SECONDS," it hit the crowd like a spark and ignited the room with all-out bliss. A few years back, the band celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of their excellent record Dig Me Out with a track-by-track cover album and in tribute to the late Mimi Parker of slowcore greats Low, SK played the cover rendition of their track "Dance Song '97." It was a moving number that hit with Low's touching reverence and blissful melodies. Dig Me Out's self-titled banger was another extreme highlight of the night, the synergy between Carrie and Corin absolutely soaring as their guitars scorched paths of blazing guitar harmonics that led directly into "Modern Girl." As close as the band comes to a ballad, the track has become their anthem and being in a room full of people singing "my whole life looks like a picture of a sunny day" is always something special. To end the main set, Corin ran offstage and emerged in the crowd to perform an astounding version of "Untidy Creature," her voice ascending to a status all its own. For the encore the band dished out "All Hands on the Bad One" with killer fashion, their voices melding together in pristine fusion of undeniable beauty. "Say It Like You Mean It" hit with more force on stage than on record, a factor that remains true for much of their new material, and served as a fitting set-up for the demolishing closing number: "Entertain." Leaving nothing behind, Brownstein was in prime condition, her magnetic pull drawing the crowd in only for her to expel fantastic busts of ripping guitar while also nailing down vocal duties, only for Corin to come in with the final combo blast to set the crowd off into the night. Excelling at this level for so long is something so many bands dream of, but for decades it's been Sleater-Kinney's bare minimum and on this occasion they've easily proven that they're actually operating at the top of their game and everyone else's.

Set list:

01 "Hell"
02 "Needlessly Wild"
03 "The Center Won't Hold"
04 "A New Wave"
05 "Small Finds"
06 "No Cities to Love"
07 "Jumpers"
08 "Hunt You Down"
09 "One More Hour"
10 "A Quarter to Three"
11 "Don’t Feel Right"
12 "Hurry On Home"
13 "Oh!"
14 "Dance Song '97" [Low Version]
15 "Six Mistakes"
16 "Dress Yourself"
17 "The Fox"
18 "Bury Our Friends"
19 "Dig Me Out"
20 "Modern Girl"
21 "Untidy Creature"
22 "Get Up"
23 "All Hands on the Bad One"
24 "Say It Like You Mean It"
25 "Entertain"

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