Live Gallery and Review: Sleater-Kinney at the Metro Theatre, Sydney 21.05.2024

Sleater-Kinney Carri Brownstein

Sleater-Kinney, an iconic American rock band known for their fierce energy and powerful feminist messages, are appearing at the Metro Theatre in Sydney tonight. The group’s name is taken from the Sleater Kinney offramp in Lacey, Washington, where the band once had a rehearsal space. Sleater-Kinney has a special relationship with Australia – they recorded their first album in Melbourne in 1994.

“For all intents and purposes, Sleater-Kinney got its start in Australia. We recorded our first album and played our first ever shows there. Because of that, Australia feels like one of the band’s spiritual homes, and returning there always feels like a homecoming, a reunion.”

Carrie Brownstein

Formed in the early ’90s, the band consists of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, with their current lineup featuring the talented Angie Boylan on drums after the departure of Janet Weiss, in 2019. Tonight the band includes Toko Yasuda (keys) and Teeny Lieberson (guitar & keys.) The duo are known for blending punk and indie rock, their songs characterised by raw guitar riffs, intense vocals, and thought-provoking lyrics.

Sleater-Kinney originated around the time of the riot grrrl movement and it does feel rather depressing tonight that thirty years on, despite some wins, for American women reproductive rights have gone backwards, most notably with the overturning of Roe v Wade.

I think that part of it was just having a visceral reaction to the past few years. The record is about getting older, feeling loss and the lack of respect which women have got in the United States in the past couple of years. There’s a lot to be upset about. It was almost like a return to what we started the band with.

Corin Tucker, on the making of ‘Little Rope’

Glancing around at the audience, I notice that while there are plenty of seasoned fans in the crowd tonight, right up against the barrier is a throng of young women. It’s truly gratifying to see that Sleater-Kinney’s music still strikes a chord, proving their enduring relevance and impact on new generations.

Emerging from stage right, Corin Tucker appears, she’s radiant in a striking red dress. Right behind her, Carrie Brownstein strides on stage, clad in black with her signature bell-bottom jeans. Both women look absolutely stunning, exuding a powerful presence that captivates the entire room.

The band kicks off the gig with ‘Hell,’ from their latest album ‘Little Rope,’ which took on a deeply emotional and poignant tone after Carrie Brownstein’s mother and stepfather tragically died in a car accident while it was being recorded.

Their performance is characterised by a seamless exchange of singing duties between Brownstein and Tucker, a skill honed over three decades. Brownstein’s cool windmill guitar strums and guitar heroine moves together with Tucker’s powerful vibrato vocals enthral the audience, commanding their full attention and proving their prowess on stage.

Brownstein shares that the band is celebrating their 30th anniversary together and that their journey began right here in Sydney, with their first gig ever at the Empress Hotel (the Cannanes’ website says it was either the Agincourt Hotel or Trams Newtown.) This city holds a special place in their hearts because of it. She reminisces about that night, mentioning Stephen O’Neill of Sydney’s own the Cannanes, who stepped in on drums for their debut gig.

The band plays a selection of songs that spans their career. One of the highlights for me is “One More Hour,” a raw and emotional track about the duo’s breakup. They deliver it with such intense passion and the barely concealed heartbreak of the lyrics sends shivers down my spine. “Modern Girl” is a crowd favourite, blending upbeat, jangly melodies with poignant lyrics, it’s an irresistible, albeit bittersweet anthem.

The special relationship between Brownstein and Tucker is on full display tonight, their synergy palpable and electrifying. Their unwavering energy and powerful presence create an uplifting experience for everyone in the crowd. Age has not bowed them at all, in fact tonight’s performance hits harder than the last time that I saw them at the Sydney Opera House in 2016 . Somehow, they seem more relevant now than ever, their music resonating deeply in today’s turbulent times.

With women’s rights under attack in the USA right now, Sleater-Kinney’s message of resilience and defiance feels vital and urgent, reminding us all of the enduring power of their art and their unbreakable bond.

Sleater-Kinney setlist. The Metro, Sydney 21 May 2024
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