I think many people will look back and regret being so resistant to what Sleater-Kinney created with their latest album, "The Center Won’t Hold," in support of which they are currently touring.
At the band’s Nov. 9 show at ACL Live, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker wove every single song off that new record through an almost two-hour set also full of hits from throughout their remarkable, decades-long career. And nothing, not a single keyboard or electronic element, felt remotely out of place.
A series of glowing panels — obelisks? — lined the back of the stage setup, with images overlaid of twisting branches and outstretched hands. Performed live, every Sleater-Kinney song spits flames, chokes on laughs, stutters in wonder, from the most ferocious hard-rock face-melters like "Price Tag" and the title track from the album "No Cities to Love" and "What’s Mine Is Yours" and "Jumpers" from the album "The Woods," to more tenderly ecstatic, spare tracks like "Love" and "The Dog/The Body" from "The Center Won’t Hold," "Good Things" from "Call the Doctor," and of course "Modern Girl" from "The Woods."
Brownstein and Tucker have something together that glows — but it’s not intangible. It’s just the opposite: sturdy, permanent, palpable. They love each other in a way that transcends romance. All I can ever hope for is that someone will look at me the way Brownstein looks at Tucker while they’re switching off vocals or stepping in time toward one another as they shred. All I can hope for is that someone will ever perform a gesture as intimate and raw as burying their forehead on my shoulder while we make music together on a stage in front of thousands, like Brownstein did multiple times to Tucker throughout the show.
For a long time, Sleater-Kinney was Brownstein, Tucker and drummer Janet Weiss. Now that Weiss has left the band, Brownstein and Tucker are still its beating heart. In fact, the Austin show happened to be on Tucker’s birthday, and the two gushed over her day and recounted to the audience how they filled it with ice cream and swimming. They seem closer than family. They talk to each other through the music, through their smiles and looks. During performances, they invite the audience to share that experience, to understand the humanity at play.
At one point, Brownstein had the crew bring the lights up on the crowd, so the band could see us all, and we could see each other. She talked about how as artists, the band makes fools of themselves onstage every day. She said we should be more comfortable making fools of ourselves, as well.
"We see every single one of you," Brownstein promised.
And it was an honor to see them see us. To see Brownstein bound across the stage swinging her guitar with endless energy. To see Tucker really let loose and get dramatic and silly during a showcase song like the brand-new "Animal," which brought to mind the spirit of Heavens to Betsy, her band before Sleater-Kinney. To see them both somber and resolved during "Broken," a ballad of deeply personal and tragically universal devastation and resolve.
The band closed out the set with an electrifying take on their signature song, "Dig Me Out," after adding in an extra song to the encore because, as Tucker said, "It is my birthday."