A mid-week gig in Thornbury that’s unlikely to start before 10 pm would normally be a terrible prospect, especially during a week that’s already been sleep-deprived because of a late Mad Max showing at the Melbourne IMAX theatre. But if there’s any act worth going deaf in one ear and feeling like a zombie at work the next day for, it’s these amazing ladies. Sleater-Kinney for me was one of those bands I wish I got earlier into; I became a big fan with One Beat, loved their new direction on The Woods, saw them live twice… and then they broke up. Oh. Well then. So when I heard that they were making music together again and touring, I was pretty psyched.
I have to say this concert blew the previous times I’ve seen them – 2006 Big Day Out and their own gig at around the same time – out of the water. I remember enjoying them well enough, but with a slight sense of disappointment as it wasn’t a revelatory experience I was expecting judging by the routine praise their live shows receive. In retrospect, it’s clear that back then I watched a band who were about to call it quits and were probably a bit over it. The difference between then and the impassioned, energised set I’ve witnessed at The Croxton more than ten years later was huge.
Driving to Thornbury was as much of a nightmare as I had expected – I missed my turn off the Monash Freeway and ended up driving into the city and doing a big hook in order to get back on track. Because of this delay, I only caught the last dying notes of the opening act, whoever it was, and wove my way discreetly closer to the stage. Seeing the Sleater-Kinney girls hit the stage was a huge sentimental rush for me, though I was surprised that they were joined by a fourth member, who stayed in the background for the entire show so it was still all about our power trio – Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss. Speaking of the latter, holy drumming moly Batman, does that woman get a workout. Corin’s piercing howl of a vocal was as wonderful as ever and watching Carrie live again, kicking and jumping and strutting the stage like Pete Townshend in a white dress, only served to re-confirm my girl crush. The whole band played like a tight, lean, mean machine, with only minimal chat in between the songs and the energy level never dipping.
The setlist focused mostly on the material from their latest, No Cities to Love, as well as two previous albums. Just when I resigned myself to the idea that we’re not getting much 90s material, they played I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone and Words and Guitar which made me grin like an idiot. The only downer was a choice of Let’s Call It Love for the encore, I absolutely cannot stomach that droning dirge of a song and it’s a pity it took the place of maybe two songs I could have enjoyed instead. Also, some poor soul about two metres away from me passed out near the end – the security promptly escorted them off the floor so hopefully they were good.