Looking around the Palace Theater, I saw a fair amount of cat-eye glasses, a lot of short bangs, and a sea of IPA beers— typical crowd to be expected for indie rock band Sleater-Kinney, riot grrl pioneers, and all-around rock goddesses. I also saw a lot of unsettled anticipation behind the faces of this middle-aged crowd. Otherwise disconnected from this crowd, I related to that feeling of anticipation. With the release of their most recent album, The Center Won’t Hold, Sleater-Kinney ditched their loud and proud indie-punk sound for a dancey, hip, new wave sound. Not that’s was bad, just…different? On top of this, founding member and drummer Janet Weiss announced her official leave from the band just before the tour, citing her dissatisfaction with the artistic direction in the band. With such bold changes being made so late into the band’s tenure, it was easy to see the cause of the crowd’s antsy-ness. The question loomed over us: can they pull this off?
Right off the bat, they started out with their new album, and the crowd seemed disengaged. “Hurry On Home”, featuring production by Anne Clark, was the most well-received out of all of the new material. Although the band was enthusiastic and lively throughout the performance, the energy seemed to falter during other songs off of the new album. It felt like their performance heavily reflected the energy emitting from the crowd, which was not very active during a lot of the new-wave heavy songs.
Once they started rolling out the oldies, the crowd starting jumping along. It was during their more noisy songs that Carrie and Corrine really seemed to shine on the stage. Songs like “What’s Mine Is Yours” and “Entertain” really stood out in their performance, sticking close to their punk roots with lyrics targeting and challenging societal norms. Lead vocalist Corrine Tucker’s performance throughout the set was incredibly powerful, maintaining her spot as one of rock’s most notable belters of all time. Guitarist and vocalist Carrie Brownstein kept the crowd engaged with her playing as well, shaking the room with her abrasive style, and cracking a couple of jokes throughout the set as well. They saved their most popular and oldest songs towards the end of the set, finishing with their iconic tune “Modern Girl”. That, dear reader, left yours truly feeling satisfied with the performance that Sleater-Kinney gave that night. Although their new direction seemed like unfamiliar territory for both the audience and the band, they were able to show through their performance that Sleater-Kinney can still pack that old indie-rock punch when they want to.