Sleater-Kinney Knocks 'Em Dead Down Under

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Got no cities to love.
It’s not the city, it’s the weather we love!
It’s not the weather, it’s the people we love!

— Sleater-Kinney, "No Cities to Love"

Recently Sleater-Kinney returned to Australia, the nation that served as the setting for the iconic indie band's first album 22 years ago, as they backpacked the countryside writing songs. I was fortunate enough to shoot and review the band in the middle of their recent Australian tour at the iconic Sydney Opera House.

Sydney is the New York, Paris and Tokyo of the Southern hemisphere. Known for its beautiful landscapes, great weather, phenomenal food and friendly people, it is a desired travel destination for many people across the globe.

The Sydney Opera House is an incredible architectural structure, instantly recognizable by almost anyone in the world. Walking up to the famed venue and taking in the sunset of the Harbour Bridge along with the many other tourists provides a stark contrast to approaching any of Houston's venues for a show.

Also, the seasons are opposite of the times we experience them here in the States. Our Spring Break essentially designates the end of the Australian summer. The breeze coming off the harbor kept down the temperature of the warm, humid evening air. It is a lighter type of humidity, though, not the same swampy way that we experience in the Bayou City.

The concert hall is designed for symphonies, orchestras and ballet performances, not a trailblazing riot-grrrl act. The acoustics were fantastic and crisp. The interior of the venue didn’t match the band playing. Both are iconic in their respective ways, but the stage was so large that the band's physical bodies appeared tiny; however, their voices and signature sound came across as massive. It brought up vivid memories of seeing Eddie Vedder playing Jones Hall.

Sleater-Kinney’s Sydney stop was smack-dab in the middle of the tour's Australian leg, sandwiched between multiple festival appearances. This crowd got the best of Sleater-Kinney, who had honed their new material, weren't suffering from jet lag and had the ability to let loose from the time restrictions of festival scheduling.

Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein laid into powerful dueling guitars that squealed throughout the concert hall. No bass guitar was being played unless honorary fourth member Katie Harkin provided it in the shadows while rounding out the harmonies. Janet Weiss was absolutely ferocious on the drums as usual, but seemed interestingly vulnerable when taking a break to play harmonica on “Modern Girl."

The set list hit on everything over the group's 20-year span, but wasn't overpowered by tracks from No Cities to Love, the album that was a lock to make seemingly every year-end list practically before it was even released.

As mentioned prior, Sleater-Kinney were in the spot that started it all, so this was a reunion of sorts with their friends from the past peppered throughout the crowd. As a whole, people seemed hesitant to really let loose and rock out, or not until after Tucker — dressed more like a presidential candidate than a rock icon — thanked the handful of fans who were up and dancing in the first few rows. This prompted more and more of the fans to pop up, and eventually most people in the lower level were dancing in the spot where they were intended to be seated.

There was not much talking at all, especially no low murmur of white noise of the kind that infects Houston venues. Also, the crowd was mostly respectful of the no-cellphone policy announced at the beginning of the performance. Only a couple of phones popped up in the performance, but the owners immediately put them away when approached by staff. This wasn’t surprising considering these were the people who kept Chris Brown out of their country by denying a work visa because of his past criminal behaviors.

The Sydney fans truly worked for their encore with shouts, screams and chants for what seemed like an eternity. The band must have really needed it, judging by their earlier output, but eventually re-emerged to play fan favorites “Gimme Love,” “Modern Girl” and “Dig Me Out." In the end, it doesn’t matter where Sleater-Kinney plays, they will eventually create a riot.

Random Notebook Dump: I was informed that it is illegal to hold koalas in the state of New South Wales. This is because the native marsupials are rampant with chlamydia, also known as "dirty tail" to the locals. It is such an issue with the native marsupials that pass the disease on to their young during birth that there is talk about needing to cull the animal. Could you imagine if Houston’s most iconic and beloved treasure were diseased and people talked about getting rid of it? Oh wait…

Price Tag
Far Away
Get Up
What's Mine Is Yours
Words and Guitar
No Cities to Love
A New Wave
One Beat
Surface Envy
Bury Our Friends
One More Hour
The Fox
Gimme Love
Modern Girl
Dig Me Out

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