Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
Sleater Kinney arrived in Chicago for the first of two nights at the Riviera Theatre as a two piece, without the powerhouse drummer and founding member Janet Weiss. Weiss quit the band after the release of their new album The Center Won't Hold. Many critics have commented that there is a huge hole to fill with Janet leaving the band.
Finding a new drummer with capable chops is no easy task. However, Sleater Kinney pulled it off at the Riv in Chicago, with a whole new lineup and a whole new album of material. Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker were front and center, while the other three new musicians were in the back and in the shadows, clearly marked as backup.
Back in the day, Sleater Kinney were noted for their incendiary sets, their no frills attacks, their trailblazing from one song to the next, all the while becoming a sweaty and lively mess.
The Center Won't Hold is a huge departure from Sleater's previous releases. More electronic and more pop sheen without the blistering attacks and "Riot Girl" esthetics that made Sleater Kinney.
Carrie and Corin are a bit older now, and dress kfashionably, even with Carrie donning a sexy lace top, hot pants, and bright red lipstick with a nice hair style.
Who thought that I'd be writing about fashionista this and that while describing and reviewing a Sleater Kinney show of all things?
Just goes to show how times change, and how new releases bring forth new ideas and new beginnings.
Keep in mind, Carrie and Corin can bring the heavy hammer to rock at a moment's notice, especially during their set dive bombing into "Price Tag” and "Animal," vocal empowerment intact, and also "Jumpers" and "The Fox" were awesome standouts.
As for the new drummer? The person with ultra heavy shoes to fill, and well let's face it- could give a crap about all the hoopla and build up before even playing the first note? That would be Angie Boylan, and she played great. Stoic and solid in the beats, and from my vantage point, hard hitting without breaking a sweat.
We all know that Sleater Kinney is no longer a three woman hard hitting crew. It's now two capable musicians front and center, presenting to the world a new version of themselves, with respect to the past, yes, but all smiles in presenting the new material as well.
Some hit and misses from The Center Won't Hold? Yes, as is the case with most established bands of any genre when you look at it with open eyes. Like any show as well, you hear the songs you love, and you leave more than satisfied.
You want some continuity, sure, but you also take what you like, and leave the rest. The breathless urgency of some new songs were galvanizing to hear live, such as "Hurry on Home" and "RUINS."
The Center Won't Hold has grown on me after repeated listens.
And now having witnessed most of this new album performed live, it reassures me that having Carrie and Corin back in any form performing as Sleater Kinney is a good thing, and something to treasure.
Words + Photos by Ava Butera
On the eve before the craziness of Lollapalooza hit, I made sure I was present at the Chicago stop of The Night Running Tour featuring Beck, Cage the Elephant, Spoon, and Wild Belle. Ever since I got wind of this co-headliner, I had been counting down the days until July 31st - eager to see two of my all-time favorite bands share the stage.
As I entered the venue, opener (and Chicago-natives) Wild Belle opened the show to a rather sparse crowd. Soon enough, with their sultry vocals, infectious instrumentation, and powerful stage presence, the crowd of few grew in size as attendees quickly shuffled into their seats to witness the band’s performance. As their short set came to a close, I found myself immediately whipping out my phone to download their music on Spotify. Talented bands like Wild Belle are hard to come by.
Shortly after Wild Belle’s set commenced, next up was Spoon -- Indie-rock darlings hailing from the indie capital of the world, Austin, TX. The opened up their set with the acoustic guitar-driven “Knock Knock Knock” that starts out slow but soon enough erupts into a crescendoing track. Spoon quickly went straight into “No Bullets Spent”, keeping their set a little mellow. Despite that, the crowd was absolutely loving it, screaming every lyric and dancing in the aisles. Soon enough, the band went straight into the Van Morrison-sounding classic, “The Underdog”, and the crowd was absolutely in awe of lead singer Britt Daniel’s stage presence. As the set progressed, Spoon played other notable hits such as “Hot Thoughts”, “Inside Out”, and of course closing out their performance with “Rent I Pay”.
Then, after about a half hour later, Cage the Elephant graced the stage -- each member dashing out on stage. Before he even ran out, the crowd had their phones recording, waiting to catch a glimpse of lead singer Matt Shultz and his infectious presence. Opening the set with “Broken Boy” and the quickly moving into “Cry Baby” and “Spiderhead”, fans could hardly take a breath. As I watched Shultz run through the crowd in his ‘Black Madonna’ garb for the tour and new album cycle, I was awestruck. And while I was fixated on Matt, I quickly noticed the crowd shift toward the opposite side of the pit. Guitarist Brad Shultz ambushed the crowd to play a little guitar amongst the fans. A Cage the Elephant performance is truly like no other.
Throughout the rest of the set, iconic tracks such as “Cold Cold Cold”, “Mess Around”, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”, and of course “Cigarette Daydreams” and “Teeth” were played and to great response of course!
Words + Photos by Ava Butera
The evening of October 12th was one filled with inclusivity, uniqueness, and of course a fantastic performance by everyone’s queen — Charli XCX. Promoting her latest and long-awaited album Charli, each person present at the singer’s sold out Chicago show was anxiously awaiting her House of Blues show ever since we saw her absolutely crush her set at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival only a few months prior. But before we could embrace Charli’s set, we had to witness her tour mates, Dorian Electra and Allie X’s performances.
First up was Dorian Electra. Accompanied by two energetic and talented dancers, Dorian completely won over the crowd with their dance-influenced music and electrifying choreographed move. By the end of Dorian’s set, the crowd was buzzing with excitement, ready for the next performance.
Next, Allie X took the stage. Unlike Dorian’s party-like performance filled with dancing and fun music, Allie sharply contrasted that by taking the stage completely solo, with only a microphone accompanying her. With her captivating performative dance routine and serious facial expressions, she left the crowd stunned.
Finally, the moment we were all waiting for, by 9:30 sharp the lights dimmed and our girl Charli bolted onto the stage by opening her set with “Next Level Charli,” “Click,” and “I Don’t Wanna Know.” Though the crowd was jumping and screaming the lyrics by now, by the time she broke out into the fan-favorite, “Vroom Vroom,” the audience absolutely erupted and the floor felt like it was about to burst due to the crowd’s energy and dancing. Before I knew it, Charli quickly went into two of my favorite songs from her new album, “Gone” and “Cross You Out.” As I looked around, the audience soon enough turned into a club, filled with everyone dancing and singing with one another.
As her set progressed and she breezed through a set filled with almost every new song from Charli, she finally ended her set on a high note by “taking us to the future” on “2099.” While we were still buzzing with excitement and screamed for an encore, Charli came back out moments later to sing an encore filled with her hits including “Unlock It,” “I Love It,” “Boys,” and of course her latest hit, “1999.”