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Sleater-Kinney Say It Like They Mean It In Dallas

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Sleater-Kinney returned to Dallas this week to promote their most recent album Little Rope, the eleventh album in their decades-spanning career, and the third release since returning as a band in 2018. The audience at the Studio at the Factory was treated to the revamped Sleater-Kinney with new touring band members and a larger sound. Even as a Sleater-Kinney purist that went in ready to antagonize any changes to the band’s classic three-member line up, I found myself won over by the charms of nu Sleater-Kinney by the end of the night. 

I arrived at the Studio buzzing, excited to finally see one of my favorite bands live for the first time. The opener Black Belt Eagle Scout—a musician that I’ve been casually following since the release of their 2023 album The Land, The Water, The Sky—was just an extra bonus. Black Belt Eagle Scout, aka Katherine Paul, delivered an amazing set, their ethereal dream pop vocals mixing with their truly insane guitar skills to elevate the songs even beyond the studio recordings. The set ended up sounding somewhere in between Psychopomp era Japanese Breakfast and what I think Enya would sound like if she grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Paul also had excellent chemistry with her band members Claire Puckett and Cama Logue. Even though the lighting and staging were relatively flat, the songs felt transcendent. A particular highlight was “My Blood Runs Through This Land,” where the flat red lighting actually accentuated the song’s lyrics, giving a canvas for Paul’s heart-shaking lyrics. If I entered as a casual fan, I left as a true believer in Black Belt Eagle Scout.

After a brief break between sets, one-by-one the members of Sleater-Kinney took the stage. The performance was better than I could have imagined, reaffirming and deepening my love for what I truly believe is one of the best bands of all time. It was so special to finally see Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker perform side-by-side. Tucker’s voice, always the heart of the band’s music, was even better in-person. I was also struck by Brownstein’s guitar skills. It’s easy to forget what a talented musician Brownstein is since she began splitting her time with acting and writing, but seeing her perform live reminded me that before branching off to these different creative fields, she was a musician first. Playing guitar and singing with Corin is what she does best. The more recent additions to the band, Angie Boylan on drums and Toko Yasuda (formerly part of St. Vincent’s touring band) on keys, also stunned. I had to admit, begrudgingly, that—even without their former drummer Janet Weiss—Sleater-Kinney sounds pretty great.

The long setlist was a celebration of Sleater-Kinney’s decades of history. As Brownstein joked during a break between songs, they were playing a lot of songs from this year and a lot of songs from twenty-five years ago. The audience (and this reviewer) was definitely partial to the old songs, performances of “Jumpers,” “Slow Song” and “Modern Girl” felt electric. Of these older songs, “One More Hour” was possibly my favorite performance. The song felt completely transformed by seeing Carrie and Corin in front of me singing it, they just have two voices that were meant to work together. 

Of the newer songs, there were a few standouts that almost made me wish the audience was more responsive to them (and people were a little nicer to the post-Janet Weiss albums) because they deserved more fanfare. Songs like “Hurry on Home,” “Dress Yourself,” and “Can I Go On” reminded me that Sleater-Kinney aren’t just a band that used to be great—they are still actively releasing and performing amazing music. The highlight of the night came during the final song before the encore, “Untidy Creature,” when Corin climbed into the crowd. Standing in the second row of the crowd, I suddenly found myself a couple feet away from one of my favorite musicians. 

The amazing night closed slightly prematurely with a shortened encore. With Tucker’s voice almost shot by the demanding twenty-song setlist, Brownstein announced that the encore would be cut down slightly. While they closed with amazing performances of “Say It LIke You Mean It” off of the new album Little Rope and “Entertain” off of The Woods, they unfortunately skipped over “Dig Me Out.” The fact that I went to a Sleater-Kinney concert without hearing “Dig Me Out,” is a minor personal tragedy to me, but I respect that they didn’t want to give a half-hearted performance of such an important song.

In 2006, at Sleater-Kinney’s final concert before starting on their ten-year hiatus between albums The Woods and No Cities to Love, Eddie Vedder eulogized the band by saying, “You know how you wish you could have seen the Beatles or Jimi Hendrix or the Who with Keith Moon? Well, I am very fortunate and extremely grateful to live in a time when I can see Sleater-Kinney live.” I may not have gotten to see Sleater-Kinney perform at their height with Janet Weiss on the drums, but I still got to see them. The world is better because Sleater-Kinney came back to release more music, and my life is a little better because I got to see them perform. Now I just need to wait for them to release another album and return to Dallas so I can finally hear “Dig Me Out” live.

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