Despite what recent events might have you believe, it’s doubtful whether the world spent the years between 2007 and 2013 discussing the merits of Call The Doctor as opposed to The Hot Rock or One Beat. Yet the news that Sleater-Kinney were to restart their career (they never actually split up) created such a buzz that you’d swear they were one of the most important bands of the last twenty years. Not that they weren’t for some people of course, just not on a level that the chatter would seem to suggest. Then came No Cities To Love and the realisation that, history or no history, Sleater-Kinney were one of the year’s most exciting bands.
State has been here before. On 3rd September 1998 to be exact, having climbed four flights of stairs at Kings College in London to see them on the the Dig Me Out tour. We were genuinely excited to be there, the band were… well alright. Seventeen years later and there’s a similar feeling of anticipation in Vicar St and again the band are… alright, for the first half at any rate. While they’re certainly playing with the well drilled punk rock precision of a band on the last night of a huge European tour, something’s missing. There’s no real connection with the audience, no sense of occasion. It’s all a bit familiar.
Thank God then, for what happens next. Having established that a little twisty guitar will go a long way, the more measured sound of ‘Get Up’ leads into the choppy, tribal rhythm of ‘One Beat’. The crowd start chanting in praise of drummer Janet Weiss, the ice is broken and at last we’re off. What follows is simply incredible. Corin Tucker’s declaration that they’re happy to be a band again is born out most of all by Carrie Brownstein. High kicking, strutting, rolling around and balancing on Weiss’ bass drum, she is an astounding performer akin to Wilko Johnson in his prime. As nice as it is making an acclaimed TV show, there is nowhere in the world that she belongs more than on stage.
New songs sit perfectly alongside old as they blast their way through the second half, culminating in a five song encore that takes in a funky ‘Gimme Love’, the folksy ‘Modern Girl’, a thrashy ‘Dig Me Out’ and sprawling ‘Let’s Call It Love’ before ‘One More Hour’, the song that details the demise of Tucker and Brownstein’s personal relationship, brings proceedings to euphoric close. They moved on from that and mercifully their band has moved on from being out love with their own music. Forget the past, the real Sleater-Kinney story starts here.
Sleater-Kinney photographed for State by Shannon McClean