LIVE REVIEW: Sleater-Kinney in Boston, MA (03.17.24)

Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest Linkedin Reddit
LIVE REVIEW: Sleater-Kinney in Boston, MA (03.17.24)

Images by Meg Taylor

Opening with the songs “Hell” and “Needlessly Wild” from their 11th studio album Little Rope, Sleater-Kinney sounded strong and loud during their 75 minute set at a packed Paradise Rock Club. “Hell” is an emotional song about parenting during a time with heightened threats of a mass-shooting, where “Hell is desperation/and a young man with a gun.” Corin Tucker sings gently and lamentingly until she screams the chorus: “You ask why like there’s no tomorrow.” Brownstein sings in a darker, more subdued manner on “Needlessly Wild,” a taut song with a fantastic hook. The audience had a tempered response at the outset as Boston audiences often do. “It’s a Sunday crowd. It’s a Sunday feeling in here. I get it,” Carrie Brownstein said. Maybe the audience was stunned by the impeccable musicality on display. Sleater-Kinney had just played three shows in New York. By the end of the evening, the sold-out crowd became more animated and receptive. Were there people there just to see Portlandia’s co-creator?

While I’m a Sleater-Kinney fan, somehow, this was my first time at a Sleater-Kinney show. I was in grad school when their debut self-titled album came out. Not the best excuse however as I interned at renowned alternative radio station WFNX while getting my masters in journalism at Boston University. I don’t know how I’ve missed out on a live show for so many years.

At the Paradise, I ran into a music journalist friend who took me into the VIP box with him which provided an awesome vantage point. I’ve only been given VIP access at a couple shows in the past few years – Yo La Tengo at the Paradise and Le Tigre at Royale. I’m mainly mention this because it’s a more enjoyable way to see a show as a reviewer and for the second part of the set, I was standing beside Brownstein’s father. She gave him a shout-out and waved to him early on.

During the 1990s feminist punk scene in the Pacific Northwest, Corin Tucker (vocals/guitar), Carrie Brownstein (guitar/vocals) and Janet Weiss (drums) founded Sleater-Kinney. One of the most revered, influential and prolific bands to come out of The Riot Grrrl movement, Sleater-Kinney released seven studio albums between 1994 and 2005. They disbanded in 2006 to focus on solo projects. In 2014, they reunited. Weiss left the band in 2019.

Brownstein and Tucker have a comfortable bond and natural stage presence. They’re super talented and impressively skilled at playing music and performing on stage. They really bolster each other. While Tucker takes lead on most of the songs, they swap off for Brownstein to sing several. They maintained a high energy level and urgency and also balance each other. Tucker elicits emotionality through her vibrato vocals. During particularly energetic moments, Brownstein does windmill guitar strums. The backing band consisted of three female musicians on keyboards, drums and guitar dressed in black–think Robert Palmer “Addicted to Love” video. I really liked that choice. They looked stylized and inconspicuous while providing some sonic support. Pretty sure Tucker and Brownstein would still sound big and loud if it were just them on stage.

Thirty years of music provides you with plenty of choices for a tour setlist. They played nine songs from Little Rope; three songs from The Hot Rock (1999) ; two songs, including the title track, from The Center Won’t Hold (2019); two songs from No Cities to Love (2015); two songs, including the title track, from Dig Me Out (1997); the title track from All Hands on the Bad One (2000); three songs from The Woods (2005); and one from Call the Doctor (1996).

There wasn’t a lot of chit-chat as Sleater-Kinney played a tight, loud, energetic set. Tucker noted St. Patrick’s Day and that she was wearing green. “It’s green adjacent,” Brownstein quipped about Tucker’s olive blouse. Brownstein wore her usual outfit of button down shirt, blazer and flared pants. “Happy Evacuation Day,” Tucker said. “I’m learning all kinds of things on tour.”

There’s understandably many emotion-laden songs on the album. Brownstein expresses herself best through her guitar. As they began work on Little Rope, Brownstein lost her mother and stepfather in a car accident in Italy.

Standouts included “Bury Our Friends” with its potent jangly memorable riff and the overlapping vocals of Brownstein and Tucker, the uber-catchy new single “Say it Like You Mean It,” the wistful lyrics and fuzzy melody of their classic “Modern Girl,” the massive riff on “Untidy Creature,” the staccato beat, frenetic riffs, dual vocals and morose subject matter on “Jumpers.” A raucous “Dig Me Out” ended the night as their final song of the encore. The Boston date was halfway through their U.S. tour.

About Author