photos by Amanda Hatfield, words by Andrew Sacher

Sleater-Kinney @ T5 - 2/26/15
Sleater-Kinney

Sleater-Kinney kicked off their reunion tour in Washington earlier this month, and last night (2/26) they finally made their triumphant return to NYC. It was their first of two sold-out Terminal 5 shows and first time playing here since Webster Hall in 2006. And "sold out" is no understatement. This place was packed, maybe oversold. They probably could've added a third night and sold that out too. It makes sense for a lot of reasons: Sleater-Kinney are a beloved band, they've been gone for way too long, their old songs still sound great today, and they still have every bit of what made them special in the first place. But that's true for a lot of reunited bands, of which there seem to be more of each day. What Sleater-Kinney have that American Football, or The Blood Brothers, or even The Replacements don't, is new songs. A whole album's worth. Almost half the set was new songs, and they weren't these flimsy reunion tunes that had the crowd wishing for old favorites -- the new material rivals their best work.

The only downside was that Terminal 5 is a less-than-ideal place to see Sleater-Kinney. They still play like a punk band, relying more on their own personal power than the kind of extravagant stage show that can suit a venue that big. But even while I was wishing they would be turned up three times as loud, you couldn't deny that they were a total force. Corin Tucker's voice was piercing, overpowering everything else in the room at almost any given moment. And the band members' interplay on stage was fucking electric. Carrie Brownstein with her rock star moves was the most fun to watch individually, but the way the three of them (four including new live member Katie Harkin of Sky Larkin) were constantly locked in and feeding off each other produced the kind of larger-than-life energy that only happens with a band this tightly knit. As great as Carrie and Janet Weiss's post-hiatus band Wild Flag was, there's something about having Corin, Carrie and Janet on stage at once that even the best side project can't replicate.

Sleater-Kinney

One of my personal favorite parts about the new album is, putting aside all the baggage that comes with a new Sleater-Kinney album in 2015, it's just a great guitar rock album. It's packed with almost as many riffs as a Led Zeppelin album, but they're not derived from blues, separating Sleater-Kinney from the masses of retro riffers. And seeing them shred away at those last night was the kind of thing that could melt Jack Black's face off. But as much as I think the new album is a big part of what makes this reunion so good, the most special moment of the night was the last two songs, two favorites from their initial run. I don't doubt that the crowd was singing along like this the whole show, but you could hear the entire room more than ever during the mostly drum-less penultimate song, "Modern Girl." It was one of those moments where you could actually hear the awe in the voices of the crowd. That led into the final song of the night, and the band's most wild performance, "Dig Me Out." It's the first song on the first album with the lineup of Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss (they didn't play anything from the first two albums without Janet), and probably the first song many people ever heard from that trio. 18 years later, they still sound passionate playing it.

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Kicking the night off was Minneapolis rapper Lizzo, who knew how to keep a packed house entertained, and whose short speech on gender and racial equality was met with huge cheers from the crowd. Before she came on, her DJ kept the crowd hyped with a set of The Runways' "Cherry Bomb," Le Tigre's "Deceptacon," Bikini Kill's "Rebel Girl" and more.

Sleater-Kinney and Lizzo do it again at T5 tonight, which is also sold out. UPDATE: Night 2 pics, video and setlist here.

Ahead of last night's show, S-K also played "Price Tag" on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Watch the video of that, with more pictures and their setlist from T5, below...

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Sleater-Kinney - "Price Tag" on Seth Meyers

Sleater-Kinney at Terminal 5 - 2/26/15 Setlist:
Price Tag
Start Together
Fangless
Get Up
Surface Envy
Oh!
No Anthems
What's Mine Is Yours
Youth Decay
No Cities to Love
A New Wave
The End of You
One Beat
Words and Guitar
Bury Our Friends
Entertain
Sympathy
Jumpers

Encore:
Gimme Love
Turn It On
One More Hour
Modern Girl
Dig Me Out