Review: Sleater-Kinney Brings the Little Rope Tour to D.C.

Sleater-Kinney is one of the most enduring and prolific rock bands of our time. The band was founded in Olympia, Washington in 1994 by Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, who was just 18 years old at the time. Escaping the flash-in-the-pan fates of many of their peers in the feminist punk riot grrrl movement of the 1990s, Sleater-Kinney has the unique ability to continually reinvent themselves. Three decades and eleven studio albums later, the band’s newest project Little Rope has proven they are just as dynamic and incisive as ever. On Tuesday, March 12 they brought the Little Rope tour to Washington D.C.’s The Anthem for a career-spanning set of hard-rocking anthems.

Sleater-Kinney’s set began with the two explosive opening songs on Little Rope. The band walked on stage in a cacophony of spooky shrieking guitars on the song “Hell.” Awash in red lights, they invited the audience to join them on a depraved journey: “Hell don’t have no future, hell don’t have no doubt / Hell is just a place that we can’t seem to live without.” Then on the controlled chaos of “Needlessly Wild” Tucker declared over an angular, post-punk groove that “I’m reckless, off course / I’m back and I’m forth, unrefined / Go on and leave me to the hounds tonight.” Filled with rippling energy and raw emotion, these new songs established that the band has not lost a shred of the revolutionary youthful exuberance that defined their rise to fame in the 90s.

Drawing from the massive catalog of their thirty-year career, Sleater-Kinney delivered over twenty songs in a set that stretched nearly two hours. In addition to plenty of Little Rope songs, the set also included more recent hits, like the single “Bury Our Friends” off of 2015’s No Cities to Love, as well as older fan favorites like 2004’s “The Fox,” and the 1997 song “One More Hour,” which details the end of Tucker and Brownstein’s youthful romance. The crowd, which included many original fans as well as plenty of younger converts, was equally enthused by every era of Sleater-Kinney on display that night. The band’s discography is so large and diverse that Brownstein even joked about it on stage, telling the audience that if they weren’t familiar with the 1999 album The Hot Rock (celebrating a 25th anniversary this year) “that’s totally fine, we’ll introduce you” before launching into the song “A Quarter to Three.”

The band performed in front of an ethereal, larger-than-life triple archway that served as the perfect canvas for painting the various eras of Sleater-Kinney. Whether lit in crimson red for the fiery guitar licks of “Hell” or bathed in sickly blue-green for the churning synth riffs of “Hunt You Down,” the set’s light show perfectly captured the band’s many moods. Closing with the cheery melodica-driven romp on “Modern Girl,” the band was enveloped in a warm yellow glow as Tucker crooned “My whole life, just like a picture on a sunny day.”

Sleater-Kinney returned for an encore that included the fantastically catchy Little Rope single “Say It Like You Mean It” as well as the hard-driving classic “Dig Me Out.” The pairing of old and new songs highlighted the band’s remarkable consistency and creativity over a thirty-year career. While many of their 90s-era peers like Green Day and Weezer are content to play nostalgic favorites, Sleater-Kinney is still capable of delivering modern anthems which fans will sing along to with as much fervor as their old favorites. Tuesday’s show at The Anthem cemented their status as one of the defining rock bands of our time.

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