Words and guitar were blanketed in thumping drums, dreamy synths, pop melodies and grungy noise rock as Sleater-Kinney performed the second show of a two-night run at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago on Saturday, Oct. 19.
Following the departure of longtime drummer Janet Weiss, a trio of touring musicians – Angie Boylan (drums), Katie Harkin (multi-instrumentalist) and Toko Yasuda (multi-instrumentalist) – joined Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker during the performance just as they will throughout The Center Won’t Hold Tour. The next chapter of the band was spotlighted early on, the group opening the show as they did their 2019 LP – produced by Annie Clark (AKA St. Vincent) – with the one-two explosion of “The Center Won’t Hold” and “Hurry On Home.” That being said, Sleater-Kinney refused to be defined by one genre, album or sound.
“You never disappoint us, Chicago. So, thanks for that,” said Brownstein early in the night noting that fans who made it out to both shows can rely on fresh stage banter during the Saturday night festivities.
Sleater-Kinney’s new material connected in the live setting by combining infectious melodies with gritty feedback and ferocious howls. Two of the more radio-friendly examples, “The Dog/The Body” and “Can I Go On,” created irresistible sing-alongs, the latter of which gave Tucker a chance to sing in split personalities creating a new character with each repetition of the line, “My desire is contagious.” “RUINS” – menacing and brooding – found Brownstein strangling her guitar strings, sonically conjuring the monsters detailed in the lyrics.
When it came to classic material, tunes from The Woods stood out as a savage reminder of Sleater-Kinney’s unbridled rock roots. On “What’s Mine Is Yours,” Brownstein screamed the chorus as Tucker’s howls hammered intensity into each phrase. The two bandmates came together – head-to-head and stomp for stomp – during the song’s deliciously unruly instrumental interlude complete with Boylan’s relentless rhythms. Later, the intense chord progression of “The Fox” reverberated across the venue engulfing fans in a cacophony of sound while “Jumpers” – appearing early in the set – garnered one of the best receptions of the night.
Brownstein and Tucker riffed just as much with their stage banter as they did musically. Late in the set, Tucker created an opportunity for Brownstein to open up about her touring vices.
“My Tinder is Petfinder,” joked Brownstein, adding that she spent the day visiting Zeus, a rottweiler mix, and a “hound named Daisy” at a local shelter. “There are some really cool dogs down there.”
Brownstein also advocated for striking Chicago teachers as she did the previous night because it “bears repeating.”
“We need teachers to take care of us… Please get out there and support Chicago teachers,” Brownstein said.
Elsewhere in the set, Dig Me Out got some love and One Beat‘s “Oh!” was as danceable as it was thrashing. “No Cities to Love,” “All Hands on the Bad One” and “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” were further highlights of the set.
With their Chicago run, Sleater-Kinney revealed that they don’t have anything to prove and their defiance to be defined remains as punk rock as ever.
The North American leg of The Center Won’t Hold Tour will continue through the end of November. Tickets and more information can be found at www.sleater-kinney.com.
(Photos by Laurie Fanelli)