SLEATER-KINNEY with the Black Keys at the Opera House, February 17. Tickets: $16.50. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Call me crazy, but something was decidedly missing from Sleater-Kinney's sold-out show at the Opera House last Monday night. The former riot grrrl super-heroines performed as if their mojo was missing and they were just goin' through the motions. Don't fault the audience. Even with the underage fans packed into the tuna can of a balcony upstairs, the rock-lovin' kids warmed up throughout the monotonous opening set by generic bluesy bar rockers the Black Keys.
The relief was palpable when Washington State's finest female rockers finally took the stage, with the kids shakin' their booty right from Carrie Brownstein's half-baked opening crack about the cold northern climate.
The vibe picked up slightly when the band blasted through Oh!, one of the strongest tracks from their recent One Beat, with its ridiculously catchy sing-along chorus and over-enunciated lead vocals by Brownstein. Layers of sweet girly harmonies by Corin Tucker and killer drummer Janet Weiss gave the newer material more visceral potency than the recorded versions.
The terrible trio is insanely tight onstage. Weiss blows most rock 'n' roll skin-bashers outta the water with her instinctive and relentless attack, while Brownstein and Tucker play off their back-and-forth dynamic with fascinating interwoven streams of technically impressive guitar.
But when Sleater-Kinney finally gave fans the drama they'd been craving with older tunes like The Last Song and Words And Guitar, their performance fell flat. The grrrls looked plain bored playing anything other than the One Beat repertoire. Eating disorder anthem Youth Decay started off vicious but turned into a mechanical robot dance.
Even weirder, considering One Beat's pointedly political nature, was the lack of rabble-rousing by the band once they had the soapbox of a stage. The S-K ladies' banter was limited to a few pro-girl outbursts and Tucker's rebuke of the overzealous boys in the mosh pit.
Tucker closed the set with James Brownish soul cries on Step Aside, but even the one-two old-school encore punch of a Sonic Youth-styled Call The Doctor and gritty Dig Me Out wasn't enough to make me feel it.
It was the difference between showing up on time for the revolution and catching it in syndication on TV.email@example.com