A weekend in a foreign country opening for two of the biggest indie-rock bands of their respective eras – The Jesus and Mary Chain and tonight’s headliners, in this case – would be a remarkably-daunting task for most bands. Still, if U.S. Girls make anything crystal-clear, it’s they’re not most bands. Not by a long shot.
This duo embrace the dark-side of 80s-tinged electronica, at once recalling the likes of Soft Cell and Talk Talk as well as more contemporary artists such as Telepathe and Lovers. Even then, that doesn’t quite do them justice – it needs to be experienced in the flesh in order to be properly appreciated. Whether it’s their fearless stare-downs of befuddled audience members, their immaculate choreography or the increasingly-hilarious cameos of a completely-unexplained guitar player in a ten-gallon hat, U.S. Girls take their job deadly serious – which might explain why they’re so much fun.
It was ten years and two months ago that Australia – and, indeed, the world at large – last saw Sleater-Kinney. The high-kicking, riff-wielding power-trio launched a comeback at the end of 2014, leaving Australian audiences to excitedly consume their comeback LP, No Cities to Love, and hotly anticipate a return to our shores. At long last, they have arrived – and they’ve done so in style, comfortably filling out the better part of the Opera House for the first time.
Yes, a seated show for a high-energy band such as Sleater-Kinney might feel somewhat peculiar, but let’s be honest: those seats aren’t about to contain this crowd; many of whom are finally getting to see the band live for the very first time. Within the first few songs, they’re spilling out into the aisles and joyfully singing back any and every lyric that Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker throw their way. This stretches from the aforementioned No Cities to Love – including the title track, a ripping Bury Our Friends and the hip-shaking glory of A New Wave – all the way back to beloved early cuts from the band’s discography, including One More Hour and Get Up.
No matter what the setlist offers up, the band – completed by powerhouse drummer Janet Weiss and touring multi-instrumentalist Katie Harkin – are on the attack throughout. The snarl and shriek of their distinctive twin-guitar magic is appropriately met with snappy, big-swinging beats, alternating between Tucker decidedly filling the room with the high-end of her vocal range and Brownstein howling out her lead numbers in equal parts sugar and spice. Think of unstoppable forces constantly hitting immovable objects and you’re beginning to get the picture.
It’s all over far too soon, clocking in at just shy of 80 minutes including the encore, but the blow is softened by the fact Sleater-Kinney spend every waking minute they are on stage performing the ever-loving shit out of the songs that have come to define them, both past and present. The Opera House was “All About Women” today, and tonight it’s all about Sleater-Kinney.
Gallery: Photos by Ashler Mar