Sleater-Kinney, Brixton Academy, 26/02/20
It’s bitterly cold in the vast hall of Brixton Academy. “Usually, whatever venue we’re playing we end up sweating,” says Carrie Brownstein. “But here we’re wearing blazers. We look like we’re ready for a business interview… we’re actually doing a PowerPoint presentation later.”
But – despite the business attire – tonight proves that Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein are undeniably two of the greatest rockstars we have; a demonstration that whether it’s the new icy electronic sound or the primal rock of their early work, Sleater-Kinney are an irresistible force for good. It’s also a reminder – despite the obvious and noticeable absence of Janet Weiss – that the closeness and synergy between the two is irresistible.
Their live band includes new drummer Angie Boylan and multi-instrumentalists Katie Harkin and Toko Yasuda, and the show is a red hot ride through 26 songs that starts with the new – ‘The Center Won’t Hold’ – but twists and turns through their career. There’s a sense of self-deprecation to their achievements – Brownstein introduces all ‘All Hands On The Bad One’ as “A song that it turns out that people actually like” (I mean, who doesn’t love that song?). But when you hear ‘Get Up’s brilliant, wiry and knowing racket and the powerful chug of ‘What’s Mine Is Yours’ you realise how well they complement each other and just what a force they are. As if more were needed, there’s frantic pogoing to ‘Can I Go On?’ and ‘The Dog/The Body’ sounds stadium-filling in its magnitude.
The encore features ‘Modern Girl’ – a song which seems to cover all the insecurities of early adulthood in 3 minutes. It’s met by a rapt audience who slowly starts to sing every word back at Brownstein. Then there’s a riotous cover of Laura Branigan’s ‘Gloria’; it’s a joyful surprise, with Tucker grabbing the mic and walking to the front of the stage.
And, of course, it’s political. Brownstein takes time to address the crowd: “We’ve only been saying ‘Merci’ and ‘Danke’ as we’ve been in Europe so now I’m just waffling and analysing myself up here. The world is in two places at the moment… Some have retreated into nationalism and those who like music generally have an unrelenting hunger for justice… One way to fight back is to take care of ourselves and those around us. It’s nice to remind ourselves of the humanity there is.” As Tucker stands at the front of the stage holding the mic just backed by Brownstein on keyboards for ‘Broken’ and sings in that wonderful voice “She stood up for us when she testified”, it’s not the cold that has the whole audience in goosebumps – and no PowerPoint could demonstrate the power that Sleater-Kinney possess.