Published Jan 01, 2006Though they produced the only cogent rock response to post-9/11 America, Sleater-Kinney still hit the stage as if they had something to prove. It may have been the chilly backstage climate, or the fact they were playing the most repellent rock venue in Toronto, but this post-Valentine's Day love-in took some time to ignite. They opened with some of the current record's most intense songs, and after cautioning the "hockey boys" in the front to behave themselves, turned up the heat with older cuts from Dig Me Out and All Hands On The Bad One. Janet Weiss coolly proved herself one of the most enthralling drummers anywhere, and barely seemed to break a sweat as she hammered out the complex, punishing beats that make the new record such a work of art. Singer/guitarists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein clearly directed "You're No Rock n Roll Fun" toward those behind the persistent front-row crush, and at one point compelled the entire audience to take two steps back. Connection with the crowd re-established, Tucker snarled out a sultry rendition of "Milkshake n Honey" that could steam up any geek's glasses. It's interesting to notice what a great singer Brownstein has also become; while it took half an hour for her to hit her stride vocally, she was utterly commanding when she belted out their newest song. Her knee-weakening guitar moves and Tucker's shimmying during "Oh" merely indicated the warm-up to a sustained climax: "Step Aside," "Hollywood Ending" and the brilliant "Sympathy" in rapid-fire. And while the erupting fist-fight to the right of the dance floor was an oddly macho vibe for a Sleater-Kinney show (an ominous sign as they set to open for Pearl Jam on a string of American dates), all three Sleater ladies were content to take their own sweet time during the extended encore a satisfying squall of feedback that resolved itself beautifully into "Dig Me Out."