REVIEW: Sleater Kinney @ The Anthem, 3/12

Words and photos by Katrina Hauser

Sleater-Kinney, a girl band that rose to prominence in the late 90’s, dominated the stage at the Anthem on Tuesday, March 12th. Though it was a chilly night on the Wharf, the crowd was laid-back, jovial, and warm. The band is on tour to share their 11th studio album, Little Rope, and fans were buzzing with excitement, wondering which nostalgic hits would make it into the setlist. Sleater-Kinney emerged from the Pacific Northwest’s riot grrrl movement, long known for their feminist politics and distinct sound. They gained critical acclaim in the early stages of their career with their self-titled debut album in 1995 and subsequent follow-ups Call the Doctor (1996) and Dig Me Out (1997). 

The band followed a strong performance from opener Black Belt Eagle Scout, an indie female singer/songwriter whose inspiration stems from her Indigenous northern Washington roots. 

Sleater-Kinney took the stage at around 9:10 pm to meet an audience mostly comprised of older millennials. These fans—those most likely to remember the band’s heyday— swayed along to the music with smiles on their faces and (overpriced) High Noons in hand. The singers maintained a high energy throughout their performance, transitioning smoothly between songs to keep the pace.

Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker, from left to right.

Sleater-Kinney played 23 songs during their hour-and-a-half set. This allowed the group ample time to showcase the gritty sound they had honed over their 30-year career. Since their inception in 1994, the group underwent a six-year hiatus (2006-2014) and experienced the departure of longtime drummer Janet Weiss in 2019. 

Still, lead singers and guitarists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein stand out as natural-born frontwomen. Though they rarely strayed from their marks on stage, they commanded the crowd’s attention. In a unique set design, chandeliers hung over each of their heads, and supporting musicians were silhouetted by a bright backlight that flashed in time with the music. The venue was at about 80% capacity, so the show was made extra enjoyable by the fact everyone had space to dance during upbeat songs like “A New Wave” or “Get Up.” 

Carrie Brownstein singing into the mic during a slow song.

Some other standouts from the show were “Hunt You Down,” “The Future Is Here,” and of course, “Modern Girl,” the band’s most popular song. “Modern Girl” was the climax of the set, and Sleater-Kinney knew they were thrilling the audience with a beloved fan-favorite. As Tucker and Brownstein sang about how their lives resembled “a sunny day,” a spotlight shone from the stage onto the audience, mimicking a sunrise. The performance of “Modern Girl” and its reception revealed how meaningful it is to the band and fans alike.

Brownstein addressing the audience toward the end of the set.

Tucker and Brownstein repeatedly thanked their supporters for coming out on a Tuesday night. They also made sure to shout out HeadCount, a voter registration organization with a table at the event. The band stressed that there was “nothing casual about local elections anymore,” a statement that gave new charge to the anger and dissatisfaction in songs like “The Center Won’t Hold” and “Jumpers.” Still, there was something casual about the ease with which Tucker and Brownstein performed; their decades of experience have clearly resulted in a powerful stage presence. Tucker exercised the height of passion during “Untidy Creature,” the last song before the encore. She used this raw ballad as an opportunity to leave the stage and interact with the front row of the audience. As she sang to them, she reached a hand up to the spotlight. In making the show’s finale a moment of both intimacy and openness, Sleater-Kinney beautifully celebrated the key elements of their artistry. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *