LIVE REVIEW: Le Tigre in Boston, MA (07.24.23)

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LIVE REVIEW: Le Tigre in Boston, MA (07.24.23)

Photo: Monica Simoes

There wasn’t much need to declare women to the front as Kathleen Hanna did at Bikini Kill shows back in the 90s. Mostly women, nonbinary and LGBTQIA+ people packed Royale on Monday for the sold-out Le Tigre show. It was the first of two Boston shows during their last week of their first tour in 20 years. Whether in Bikini Kill or Le Tigre, Hanna has always encouraged audiences to be honest and authentic. “Tonight’s our party show. Like a basement party,” the influential singer enthused.

Formed in 1998, Le Tigre blends post-punk pop, electronica, multi-instrumentation, upbeat tempos and funky beats with feminist political messages. Their performances feature colorful multimedia elements and choreographed dance. The Boston audience happily danced, sang along and cheered. The packed room buzzed with electric energy, excitement and admiration. The entire atmosphere was one big safe space to let loose and be yourself. “You guys are on fire tonight,” Hanna told the enthusiastic crowd.

I’d been a fan of Le Tigre in the late 90s but never saw them live. I did manage to see Hanna’s side project Julie Ruin nearly a decade ago at the Sinclair. I unfortunately missed Bikini Kill on tour earlier this year. I’ve long admired Kathleen Hanna and even more so after seeing The Punk Singer, the 2013 documentary about Hanna’s life, career and battle with Lyme disease. She’s been busy this year. In addition to touring with her two seminal bands, she has a memoir coming out soon.

With Barbie having opened in theatres over the weekend, I couldn’t help but think they looked like punk rock Barbie with Hanna in a pink jumpsuit, bassist Johanna Fateman in a hot pink blouse with puffy sleeves and pink shoes and keyboardist JD Samson in pink pants. Hanna described her outfit as an unflattering “magician box hiding my sweet dance moves” but added, “I think this outfit is sexy as hell. I’m so comfy in it.”

There’s a screen behind the stage with various images and the words to every song. Hanna said it encourages the audience to sing along. In introducing beat heavy “F.Y.R.,” a call to action for feminists to fight the system, keyboardist JD Samson said “the words unfortunately are still relevant.” The song references RU-486, Title IX and gay marriage. Hanna dedicated “What’s Yr Take on Cassavetes” —with the lines “misogynistic/genius” and “messiah/alcoholic” to “all the artists we love.” Before playing popular, grooving “Hot Topic,” Hanna said “For everyone who makes art in the room, keep making it.” Hanna remarked how strange it was to be playing all these songs that she wrote two decades ago. Instead of drinking vodka throughout the tour, she now looks forward to her one Diet Dr. Pepper at the end of the tour. She’s 10 months sober. She thought there might be people in the audience who are now the age that she was when she wrote “Mediocrity Rules” —which Fateman fiercely sang as Hanna stood back playing guitar—”Maybe you need this one. Keep it in your pocket,” Hannasaid.

One of the numerous cool aspects of the evening was seeing both younger and older fans as well as parents with small children in tow. How cool must that be for a parent to take you to such a show?

After a brief intermission, Le Tigre returned in black and white outfits with choreographed dance moves. After sharing that the inspiration for the song “Viz” was a fashionista party where everyone was mean to them, Samson implored: “I urge you all to take up space. To be yourself and scream visibility white you’re doing it.” Such inspiration. Before they left the stage, Hanna said they weren’t going to play the song everyone wanted to hear yet they still ended up playing the popular “Deception” to massive cheers. I wanted to hear “New Kicks” but I suppose that anti-war song really was a song for a particular time.

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