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.