Words & Photos by Scott Murry
This past August, Sleater Kinney released The Center Won’t Hold. The St. Vincent produced album is a polished, slick sound with industrial elements integrated that feel new but familiar for the band. Opening their Boston show last Tuesday with the eponymous track from this album, their stage matched the stark, graphic sound. Bold, bright lights synchronized with their dramatic beats revealed rigid graphics standing tall behind them. They shown flickering silhouettes of tense, reaching hands amidst dead branches in a style reminiscent of a Saul Bass “Vertigo” poster. With Corin Tucker shouting the climax of the song, and Carrie Brownstein raging through the riffs surrounded by synth layers, the dynamic opener showed a band rising yet another peak of their creative career.
A few tracks in, the band performed “RUINS” from their newest album. The very full House of Blues had every audience member’s eyes glued to the stage, enthralled with the visuals and kinetic energy. Brownstein swung her guitar through the air with force as she strummed. Behind her and Tucker dual keyboards pounded with their touring group of five. Ghoulish static notes lingered as Tucker howled “Gonna leaves the light on for you.”
Tucker’s voice is immediately recognizable, a powerful set of pipes that decades in continues to inspire her closest collaborator. After “What’s Mine is Yours” from 2005’s Woods, Brownstein stared upon her with a proud smile saying, ” I really love listening to Corwin sing!” She paused, staring further in admiration, “Sometimes I just zone out listening to her. What a voice!” Throughout the extensive set that included two encores, Brownstein tore through hooky progressions whilst walking towards Tucker, where she would gently rest her head against her friend’s shoulder.
She extended her love to the audience at another song break, “It’s been a really lovely time seeing the city. Especially in such a partisan time. It’s never been a better time to get out (and) bring people together in a room!” She continued, including a message of hope and determination, “Please, I hope you’re registered to vote. Come next year, that would be a really great time to vote … get Pence out of office.” Tucker took a moment to let the audience know that they even had a booth up front to help people get registered. Yet another reason to love this band. Their lyrics are a beacon for equality, and they remain active in finding ways to pave a better path.
Opener Joseph Keckler began the evening as unguarded and humorous as expected for a musician noted for his absurdist output and multi-tier vocal range. He stood at the stage front remarking, “I’m supposed to be in the dark,” and then sidled to a large projector screen. After getting the visual setup in order, he returned with raised arms and a grand overture, “and now I’m here.”
Bounding from the deepest deeps of his voice to falsetto with sneering inflection, the performance was operatic and darkly comical. As he sang, subtitles narrated across the screen about his experiences with drug use and suicidal thoughts segued by a need to floss his teeth instead. The brief set also included a video of him wandering St. Marks in New York’s Lower East Side to “re-become a teenage goth.” He finished with a, “very seasonally appropriate cover written by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” and sang “I Put A Spell On You” while fluttering a keyboard’s grand piano notes.
Sleater Kinney and Joseph Keckler