Monday, February 9, 2015

CONCERT REVIEW: Sleater-Kinney's reunion tour kickoff in Spokane

Posted By on Mon, Feb 9, 2015 at 9:45 AM

The only real signs that Sunday night's show at Spokane's Knitting Factory was Sleater-Kinney's first together in nearly a decade were a misfired start on their first encore song, and Carrie Brownstein's admission that she was having a hard time trying to not smile.

She wasn't alone. Bandmates Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss had wide grins across their faces at various points, too, and the crowd at the sold-out venue was downright ecstatic at seeing the trio on stage again. The band delivered a joyfully raucous set that leaned heavily on their new album, No Cities to Love, while including plenty of material for long-time fans. 

Still in place were all the thrilling aspects that made Sleater-Kinney a beloved indie/punk band two decades ago. Brownstein and Tucker traded intricate vocal and guitar lines all night; Brownstein is the more demonstrative player on stage, striking the classic Guitar God poses, while Tucker stays on her side and tears into churning riffs when they lock into a particularly intense groove. Weiss remains a powerhouse on the drum kit, and her ability to play and deliver harmony vocals were vital to the show's success. 

Some things have changed, though. Tucker's vocals remain powerful, but the paint-peeling wails of early songs are largely absent on No Cities to Love and in concert. Brownstein, never a wilting flower in the spotlight before, has perhaps become even more comfortable on stage since becoming a familiar face to many through her TV show Portlandia. It was certainly a joy to see her back at her "real job" as a rock star. The band also has a fourth musician in tow on this tour in Katie Larkin, who fleshed out various songs with keyboards, drums and a third guitar. Still no bass player needed in Sleater-Kinney, thank you very much.  

After fun warm-up set by Minnesota hip-hop force Lizzo, Sleater-Kinney launched directly into two new songs in "Price Tag" and "Fangless," both excellent additions to the band's catalog. "Start Together" and "Oh!" followed, nods to older fans through songs from 1999's The Hot Rock and 2002's One Beat

From there, the band swung back and forth between material old and new. The No Cities to Love cuts fit right in, the short bursts of hook-filled punk sitting nicely alongside fan favorites. Highlights from the new album included powerful takes on the anthemic "Bury Our Friends" and the attitude-filled "A New Wave." 

The diehards on hand naturally reacted most strongly to familiar songs like the spoken-word exploration "Get Up," the muscular "Ironclad," a swaggering "One Beat" and emphatic "Words and Guitar." The main set ended with a couple of songs from Sleater-Kinney's last release before the hiatus, 2005's The Woods, and both "Entertain" and "Jumpers" were on point. 

The encore started with the fumbled intro to "Little Babies" before the band locked in for that song, "Turn It On," the beautifully delivered "Modern Girl," complete with Weiss blowing on a harmonica, and the fiery finale, "Dig Me Out." All told, the show was long on excellent modern rock, short on any first-tour-gig jitters for the most part, and marked a welcome return from a band still worth listening to 20 years into their career. 

The setlist for Sunday's Sleater-Kinney show at Spokane's Knitting Factory: 

1. Price Tag
2. Fangless
3. Start Together
4. Oh!
5. No Anthems
6.  Get Up
7. Ironclad
8. One Beat
9. Bury Your Friends
10. What's Mine Is Yours
11. One More Hour
12. No Cities to Love
13. Surface Envy
14. Words and Guitar
15. Sympathy
16. A New Wave
17. Entertain
18. Jumpers
19. Little Babies
20. Turn It On
21. Modern Girl
22. Dig Me Out

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About The Author

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the managing editor of the Inlander, where he oversees coverage of arts and culture. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine, The Oregonian and KUER-FM. He grew up seeing the country in an Air Force family and studied...