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Live Review: Sleater-Kinney, Bloods

8 March 2016 | 12:09 pm | Steve Bell

"Their songs are thick and sinuous and throbbing with built up angst and resentment, the union and simpatico between the three key players almost tangible."

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Sydney pop-punk trio Bloods have expanded into a four-piece for this plum support tour, the addition of an extra guitar beefing up their sound without detracting from their brattish bonhomie.

Early tune Into My Arms finds the voices of guitarist Marihuzka Cornelius and bassist Victoria "Sweetie" Zamora swimming together with joyous abandon, before Cornelius takes back the reins for the machinegun bubblegum of What Do I Care (from their 2014 debut Work It Out). They seem absolutely delighted to be sharing this bill with one of their idols and air a strong new track for the very first time, like most of their cuts this one catchy and rife with large-scale hooks. Bloods' songs are rushed and urgent but there's a fun vibe which attaches itself to everything they do, Back To You pushing the power-pop tendencies to the fore and super-early track Goodnight betraying its origins with its studied simplicity. All in all it's a buoyant and upbeat start to proceedings, one that sits well with the growing and appreciative crowd.

Even during their initial tenure Portland trio Sleater-Kinney gigs were reverent affairs, the band's socio-political post-punk eliciting a response almost akin to worship, and this awe only seems to have magnified over the ten years that have passed since they last toured Australia. Yet the deference dominating The Triffid's packed interior soon turns to sheer joy as the familiar figures enter the fray and burst into Price Tag from recent album No Cities To Love — their 2015 comeback following a decade-long hiatus — the distinctive twin-guitar attack of singers Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein in fine fettle from the get-go. As the song builds to its towering conclusion the two meet in the middle of the stage in perfect synchronicity, Brownstein caught mid-rock pose with her guitar neck raised vertically to the heavens as the music stops abruptly and the crowd roars.

The headliners have also introduced a fourth member tonight — multi-instrumentalist Katie Harlin adding guitar and keys throughout — but it's powerhouse drummer Janet Weiss whose military-precision drum fills choke the room during Fangless, adding potent power to the already abundant passion. They delve a bit further back into the bag and garner a strong response for Oh!'s pop edge, before smashing into Surface Envy and One Beat then paring things back a bit for recent single A New Wave. Their songs are thick and sinuous and throbbing with built-up angst and resentment, the union and simpatico between the three key players almost tangible. Weiss gives a drumming masterclass amid the pulsating stabs of What's Mine Is Yours — Tucker and Brownstein bashing out the lyrics like a primal howl at the moon — before older tune Youth Decay hits like a proto-metal barrage of primal intensity. The Fox is sultry and taunting, Brownstein offering "This song is about a city but not your city" before introducing the towering No Cities To Love, while Start Together is urgent and hook-laden. The room is awash with cool guitar tones, lines intertwining and snaking through each other as they take turns to add bottom end, the front pair perfectly straddling that oft-difficult line between edgy and accessible. Far Away cuts like a knife, intense and claustrophobic but still totally inclusive, while the restrained Was It A Lie? builds relentlessly until guitars are stabbing wildly and the crowd is screaming its unbridled support.

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The incredible synergy and emotional heft continues through Bury Our Friends, Words And Guitar and Sympathy, before the main set is brought to a close with snarling desperation of Entertain and vitriolic suicide paean Jumpers, the finale fittingly finding Brownstein and Tucker rocking out in perfect unison. The crowd demands rather than requests a return and the by now exhausted band happily comply, Tucker ceding her guitar to Harlin during Gimme Love so she can dance like a dervish, before they return to the more familiar battle stations for Brownstein's anthemic Modern Girl. A vibrant and imperative return from one of the game's great guitar bands, received with unrestrained adulation from their ever-adoring fans.