Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sleigh Bells live act rattle concert venues down to their foundations

Let's admit something. Sleigh Bells' latest album, Bitter Rivals, is easily their least successful to date. In comparison with their first two records, the reviews were worse, the buzz was negligible, and it seemed most listeners have already forgotten about it.  Seeing that Sleigh Bells stock is at a low ebb, it naturally cast a shadow of doubt as to just what could be expected from their latest tour. It was a fair question going in, but if there are any doubters left after their demolition of Nashville's Marathon Music Works Friday night, be ashamed of yourselves. The studio albums (outside of Treats) may bear their fair share of dank tracks, but the Brooklyn noise/hardcore/pop duo have been regarded as a killer live act since their inception, and nothing about that appears to be changing anytime soon.

Alexis Krauss's infectious intensity spread through the crowd like a disease.

Intensity and badassery are two buzzwords that get thrown around a bit when discussing Sleigh Bells live shows, but let's expound on that. Guitarist Derek Miller spent time in a hardcore band, and being that he's the chief influence on the band's sound you can expect a hammering assault of guitar riffery along with an level of energy comparable to, if not on par with, a hardcore show. The other half of the equation, singer Alexis Krauss, has pedigree as the frontwoman of a girlpop group, and as such she knows how to play to a crowd.

Guitarist Derek Miller lays a smackdown.
She kicks, yells, jumps, screams, drops to her knees, lifts the mic stand, and does generally whatever to get the crowd into a frothing frenzy. She even hit the stage in style, donning a dazzling tiger print robe for the first couple of songs. On initial blush, Joan Jett and Brody Dalle of The Distillers seem apt comparisons in terms of their charm and magnetism, but whereas they championed rough, motor oil style vocal deliveries, Krauss has a voice that is much smoother and cleaner.

The setlist showed off the best material from Bitter Rivals, but also made sure to show proper respect for Treats, their 2010 debut and still their most successful album to date."Riot Rhythm" and "Infinity Guitars" were ultimate headbanging moshing anthems covered by plenty of fuzz, while the heavy, plodding rhythms of "Born to Lose" represented a somewhat slower paced approach for the band -- at least by their standards. The new material continues in the same hard hitting vein they've always been known for.

"Sing Like a Wire," "Minnie," and "Bitter Rivals" felt perfectly natural being played alongside their older material. The biggest deviation took place on "Young Legends," which comes across as their take on a Disney pop song, and is covered in Krauss's distinctive fingerprints. She ended the night by diving over the railing and crowd surfing during the final song, "A/B Machines." Sleigh Bells hit like a bottle rocket, and never let up for the duration of their set. They played just long enough to cover the essential tunes in their catalog, yet short enough to leave the crowd screaming for more.
Related posts:

Sleigh Bells - Bitter Rivals album review
Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror album review 

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