Sleater-Kinney / THEESatisfaction

Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC, May 6

Sleater-Kinney / THEESatisfactionCommodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC, May 6
Photo: Amy Ray
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Together known as THEESatisfaction, the Seattle duo of rapper Stasia "Stas" Irons and singer Catherine "Cat" Harris-White dropped a minimalist presentation of their Afro-futuristic hybrid of hip-hop and R&B to open the Sleater-Kinney show at Commodore Ballroom. Beats and interludes played on a laptop as their voices mingled, the cerebral, uncompromising rhymes of Stas smoothed by the sweet soul singing of Cat as they worked material from their first two Sub Pop albums while performing various shuffles and backup moves in an endearing way, like you could imagine them practicing in their bedroom mirrors.
 
The pair came off pleasant and generous, praising the crowd for being one of the best yet on tour and giving a shout-out to the local lighting, but the crowd didn't actually seem all that interested. It required a concerted effort to get them to clap, except between songs. But, aside from label affiliation, the Pacific-Northwest connection and their political leanings, one could hardly pick two more different acts to be on a bill together than THEESatisfaction and Sleater-Kinney, so the mixed reaction wasn't entirely surprising.
 
As soon as they hit the stage, Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss received a hero's welcome. They say you never forget how to ride a bike, but nobody is as good at it after taking a break for almost a decade, and there were inklings of this truth at the show. Having walked away after 2005's The Woods, the most stylistically diverse album of their career to that point, 2015's No Cities to Love lacks its range and sense of urgency. There were a couple kinks in this live setting as well, including a false start to "Rollercoaster" in the encore, but they created enough spark collectively throughout their performance to start a fire.
 
Frequently aided by a fourth musician, Katie Harkin, on percussion, guitar and synths, Sleater-Kinney delivered selections from across their catalogue, as far back as 1996's Call the Doctor. Brownstein was a beast on lead guitar, pulling out sporadic pogos, kicks and windmills as she played, and scrunching her hair and punching herself in the head during her occasional lead vocal delivery. As usual, Tucker carried most of the lead vocals with her signature Jello Biafra-esque soaring vibrato, perfectly complementing Brownstein's Ringo Starr-like, heartfelt mid-range, while Weiss crushed the drums as hard as anyone in the world could.
 
The band exploded during "Jumpers," with the range of The Woods demonstrated in their renditions of the bluesy classic rock of "What's Mine Is Yours" and the alt-rocking "The Fox," but No Cities to Love did provide a few key moments. Brownstein humorously dedicated "A New Wave" to Tina Belcher from Bob's Burgers, who appears in the song's video, while Tucker channelled something deep and fiery for "Gimme Love," with Harkin taking over her guitar to allow Tucker to flip her hair and toss the mic, singing loud enough about women's reproductive rights that they'd hear her stateside.
 
Still, there was no bigger moment than when Brownstein had the whole venue helping her sing "Modern Girl" to close their set.
 
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