Live Review: Sleater-Kinney, US Girls

7 March 2016 | 12:30 pm | Hannah Story

"It's a racket for a reason, an expulsion of energy, a build-up and release, an expression of empowered angst."

More Sleater-Kinney More Sleater-Kinney

We've spent a long day at All About Women — it's been a full 12 hours by the time we leave the Opera House tonight, but there was no way in heck we were leaving before the headline set from seminal riot grrl rockers Sleater-Kinney.

To get to that point we had to endure a support slot from US Girls. Toronto-based artist Meghan Remy is kind of fascinating to watch — she's in a white jumpsuit, she ducks and weaves and falls to the floor throughout the set, she swings her hips along to her pre-recorded beats — but there's something about the sound in the room that fails her, washing out her vocals. The set is underwhelming, mostly tracks from last year's Half Free including the interesting-on-record Sororal Feelings and Damn That Valley, performed with assistance from a back-up singer and a cowboy guitarist who appears intermittently. The crowd are waiting patiently for three women who changed the face of punk/rock music — this doesn't cut it.

Oh but do Sleater-Kinney make up for it. They launch into Price Tag and Fangless from last year's comeback record No Cities To Love, Corin Tucker giving it her all from the outset — her distinctive wailing vocals give the band one part of their signature sound, an almost guttural fuck-you to authority, so emotional and impactful it's subversive. Across the stage is Carrie Brownstein who is the most dynamic performer, thrashing her guitar around and jumping up and down throughout the set, often approaching Tucker head down, guitar raised, poised to duel. The way the pair relate to each other is mesmerising, seeming to come from a place of real camaraderie. And to complete the trio there's Janet Weiss on the drums, all fierce pummelling energy, the backbone of their unruly punk music. They've got a touring member in Katie Harkin, on guitar, keys and percussion. She flits to and from the stage as necessary, further expanding the depth of their furious sound, then removing herself for old classics.

Tucker and Brownstein's dueling vocals, two different lines sung concurrently, a caterwaul from Tucker and a fast-talking rumble from Brownstein, are even more affective live than on record, a cacophony. It's a racket for a reason, an expulsion of energy, a build-up and release, an expression of empowered angst. The band move swiftly across their discography, moving from No Cities To Love to 2002's One Beat with the standout title track, Far Away and Oh! to 1999's The Hot Rock for Get Up to the next year's All Hands On The Bad One for Ironclad, which gets the first in the crowd standing. But it's 2005's The Woods that has the whole crowd on their feet, starting with What's Mine Is Yours, before Entertain later in the set has Brownstein sprawled front of stage, The Fox has Tucker at her absolute finest, howling, while the moody, technical crowd pleaser Jumpers closes the main set. Words And Guitar and One More Hour (that's how we feel about this set, please keep playing) represents 1997's Dig Me Out, before we're back onto their current record for title track No Cities To Love, A New Wave, Surface Envy and Bury Our Friends.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Our encore is Gimme Love, Tucker front of stage, sans guitar, telling us that not all Americans are so hateful as Republican candidate Donald Trump: "All that's coming out of our mouths is love," she says. When she's not behind a guitar she makes for an incredibly fierce frontwoman, a powerful figure, tonight she's flailing on the ground, twirling the mic. Modern Girl follows, the closest to a singalong we're going to have tonight with Weiss on harmonica, before we close with Dig Me Out. Bloody ripper.