- 02 Mar 20
The duo rocked Vicar Street last night. Photo: Colm Kelly.
All truly great bands sound as fantastic as they look and look as fantastic as they sound. That was certainly true of alt-pop icons Sleater-Kinney as, dressed in black, framed by dystopian backing projections and radiating insouciance, they delivered an imperious set on the final night of their European tour.
This was a group very much in the second phase of their evolution, the departure of drummer Janet Weiss over the summer having reduced a trio to a duo. Her exit – which, yes, actually had to do with “musical differences” – came at an awkward time for Sleater-Kinney, as they had just finished their precision-tooled behemoth of a new LP, The Centre Won’t Hold.
Yet this shock downsizing has brought out the minimalist best in Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, who powered through a performance brimming with dark, glamorous pop. Indie enigma St. Vincent produced The Centre Won’t Hold. And some of her sugar-rush catharsis seems to have seeped into the new material.
They kicked off with the record’s title track, flanked by still lighting and three supporting players (including multi-instrumentalists Katie Harkin and Toko Yasuda). It was top-drawer catharsis as Tucker’s and Brownstein’s voices interwove and guitars went off like depth charges.
There were distractions in the form of a huge, albeit quickly departed, scrum of photographers – “is there, like, one photographer for every five audience members?” joked Tucker – and uber-fans up the front whose demonstrative adoration put the rest of us to shame.
Tucker and Brownstein pushed past all that. With Brownstein taking over vocals, ‘Hurry On Home’ was a bulldozer strewn in fairy lights. Oldies were served up, too, such as a rumbling ‘Modern Girl’ and twinkling ‘The Fox’.
However, nostalgia was not part of the deal for a songwriting partnership that emerged from the mid ’90s Riot Grrrl scene. The Centre Won’t Hold was one of last year’s finest albums and Sleater-Kinney stayed true to its awkward, angry energy across an evening full of sharp swerves but with a pop glitter that rarely dimmed.