Anyone who has read my previous articles for this site knows of my admiration for the recently reunited Portland-based punk rock three-piece Sleater-Kinney. So when Sleater-Kinney announced a UK tour in support of their first album in ten years, No Cities to Love, I managed to get tickets for both the Manchester and Glasgow shows.
The band sounded absolutely great after so many years apart. Corin Tucker’s voice is as huge as ever, Carrie Brownstein is the ultimate rock star with her poses and incomparable riffs, and Janet Weiss dynamically powers through every song with her booming drums. Additional musician Katie Harkin provided some nice guitar flourishes, as well as drum and keyboard backing.
S-K didn’t let down their longtime fans, playing many of their classics along with most of the new album. Highlights included the wonderful singalong chorus of “A New Wave,” the emotional masterpiece “One More Hour,” the call to arms of “Surface Envy,” the metal blitzkrieg of “Let’s Call It Love,” and the punk pop classic “You’re No Rock and Roll Fun” played for the only time on this tour in Glasgow. “Words and Guitar” in Manchester was perhaps the high point of both shows with Brownstein standing on the monitors in an iconic rock ‘n’ roll pose.
The band mates appeared to be really enjoying themselves both nights – smiling and laughing frequently on stage. Brownstein dedicated “Little Babies” to Zayn Malik – formerly of One Direction, but sadly no jokes from Janet featured. The success of this reunion and fanatical audiences seems to have shocked even the band.
The make-up of the audience was one of the most interesting aspects of the shows; the crowd was as varied as you’ll see at a rock concert these days. There were, naturally, many young girls at the shows – and often at the front, as should be the case. There were also punk rock types, middle aged men, fathers and daughters and even a grandfather or two, all drawn together by this band. The reaction of the crowd at both shows was intriguing; some – myself included – sang along, others stood transfixed or even cried, and there was even a sort of mosh pit at the Manchester gig. S-K is able to bring out emotions perhaps matched only by the likes of Bruce Springsteen.
The European tour is now over and S-K is on break before beginning another US tour in April; thoughts inevitably turn to the future of Sleater-Kinney. After they play the Pitchfork Festival in July there are no other dates scheduled and the band members themselves have admitted they are unsure what the future holds. While we all hope S-K continues on, the fact that this tour and album even happened is a triumph and it’s fitting that it has all been such a success. Thanks for everything – Corin, Carrie and Janet. S-K forever.