CSS / Sleigh Bells Sound Academy, Toronto ON May 17

CSS / Sleigh Bells Sound Academy, Toronto ON May 17
A good way to create a visceral response: pile on enough low-end to produce a breeze and get teeth a chatterin'. Backed by a mountain of amps, Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells went big, cranking up the volume on their literal wall of sound.

Arriving to dirtied strains of "Iron Man," guitarist Derek Miller and singer Alexis Krauss ran on bravado, towering canned beats and bursts of paradoxically sweet vocal melodies.

Superficially, the chainsaw guitar of "Tell 'Em," the sheer bombast of "Infinity Guitars" and the hefty distortion of "A/B Machines" should have had no business spurring a dance party, but incisive riffs, huge tribal thumping and Krauss's self-assured stage-stalking did the trick.

Mixing Karen O's grinning poise and Alice Glass's infectious vigour, Krauss is a formidable frontwoman and she delightfully filled a spacious stage. Coupling her frenetic bouncing and occasional preening with a battery of strobes and enough smoke to set off an alarm, it was a full sensory experience.

With a slash and burn approach, if the opening act causes deafness and satisfied exhaustion, then the headliners could be in trouble. From the outset, Brazilian outfit CSS jogged rather than sprinted -- despite singer Lovefoxxx's unchecked energy -- and "Art Bitch" and "Off the Hook" fell flat.

Of course, nothing turns things around like a cowbell and a cascading key loop and "Air Painter" had both. New cuts fared even better, especially the sticky repetition of "City Grrrl" and the sun-drenched dub of "Hits Me Like a Rock." It didn't hurt that the latter employed a keytar (ask John Tesh: everyone loves a keytar).

Despite the new songs' success -- a good sign for the forthcoming record -- the band ultimately played it safe, closing with old standbys "Let's Make Love and Listen to Death from Above" and "Alala," which, despite their ebullience, failed to match Sleigh Bells' intensity.