Review: Sleater Kinney and Black Belt Eagle Scout Astound at the Riviera Theatre

I've been a fan of Sleater Kinney for a very long time. Long enough that my heart was broken after The Woods (probably my favorite album of theirs) where they announced an indefinite hiatus. At the time I had never seen them live and the chance felt like it had slipped through my fingers forever. Thankfully in 2015 they returned right from where they left off with No Cities to Love, another album I hold in high regard from their illustrious discography. In the subsequent years I've seen as much as I can, correcting the errors of my youth. Last week at the Riviera Theatre was the latest in hopefully long list of a lot more fantastic shows from them to come.

Opening up that evening was Black Belt Eagle Scout, setting the bar enormously high for the night. Led by Katherine Paul, the band was immediately in tune with the crowd and venue, dominating the stage in a way I had not experienced from them before. I've had the chance to see Black Belt Eagle Scout a few times before in smaller venues like Schubas and on an outdoor set at Pitchfork. While things clicked during those sets, they just catapulted into another level at the Riviera. Tracks like "My Blood Runs Through This Land" off their latest album, The Land, the Water, the Sky, burst forth with a visceral energy from the group, really leaving a mark on the crowd. The whole setlist was loud and powerful, really amping the crowd up for what was to come. I was already a fan but this set cemented that feeling.

Sleater Kinney made their way to the stage with all the energy in the room feeling just right. Their stage set up with curtain archways illuminated with colorful lights made the already grand night feel all the more grand. Touring in support of their latest album Little Rope, Sleater Kinney were at the top of their game. Immediately Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker were overflowing with energy. The pair work so well in tandem as they trade between their intense vocals and absolutely killer guitar riffs. "Hell" and Needlessly Wild" ushered the set in and the quality never let up.

There's just so much history with Sleater Kinney that surely some songs were not gonna get the spotlight on this show. Little Rope, which is a fantastic album, definitely got its due with most of the album getting played. In second came The Woods, much to my glee as "Jumpers" got a nice moment with the band as Brownstein thanked the crowd for dancing and jumping along to the track. There were also plenty of early tracks that had the crowd go nuts within moments of the song starting . "Start Together" and "All Hands on the Bad One" in particular got huge pops from the Sleater Kinney devotees.

The highlight of the night came toward end of their set where Sleater Kinney rattled off hit after hit. The boisterous and downright explosive The Woods opener "The Fox" surged through the crowd, giving them a second wind to appreciate the No Cities to Love single "A New Wave". That sequence of songs really had the crowd at their most unraveled before getting them into a complete and utter trance with "Modern Girl", another favorite off The Woods. The gentle and loving pace of "Modern Girl" was a pleasant reprieve from the energetic set, letting the crowd sing along with Tucker and Brownstein. While the song's saccharine lyrics may have been poking fun at one-dimensional songs, you can't help but indulge in its aura. The encore kept the great vibes going with a pretty perfect lineup of songs ("Good Things", Say It Like You Mean It", "Dig Me Out", and "Entertain"), but it was always going to be hard to top the overwhelming communal joy of "Modern Girl". An astounding moment in a fantastic night with Sleater Kinney.

All photos by Julian Ramirez.

Picture of the author
Julian Ramirez