Sleigh Bells’ record release show at (le) poisson rouge last night was fast and furious, with the noise pop duo tearing through many of the songs they played at the same venue four years ago to the day. But before guitarist Derek Miller got into the searing six-string riffs on “Riot Rhythm,” a cut off their 2010 debut, Treats, singer Alexis Krauss had something to say. “This song goes out to all of you who have been with us since the beginning,” she said, “which isn’t that fucking long.” Maybe it’s not, but Sleigh Bells’ powerhouse homecoming set demonstrated how far they’ve come while staying true to their inimitable sound.
In the time between their self-titled EP and their forthcoming third LP, Bitter Rivals, Sleigh Bells have been signed to M.I.A.‘s label, shared the stage with rap legend Nas, and endured the death of Miller’s father, all while taking critics and listeners by storm with the combination of Miller’s heavyweight shredding and Krauss’ fiercely sweet voice. On the cusp of their album’s arrival, the two were in fighting form, literally: Miller appeared in head-to-toe camo and a tiger-striped guitar similar to the one on the cover of Bitter Rivals, while Krauss wore a leopard-print boxing robe (which she quickly shed in order to head-bang more easily).
Sleigh Bells demolish whatever space they perform in, whether backed with stacks of Marshall amps in front of thousands at Austin’s Moody Theater or prowling the stage at LPR, a space intimate enough for them to hold hands with people in the front row. In this case, the venue’s size slightly constrained the mosh pits that usually accompany “Crown on the Ground” (and most of Sleigh Bells’ songs) but it didn’t stop the audience from jumping onstage for the last seconds of closer “A/B Guitars.” Krauss and Miller pulled from across their discography for their hour-long set, running through new tracks like the taut “Sing Like a Wire” with the same practiced yet explosive energy they brought to their older hits.
Miller’s acoustic guitar on “Young Legends,” however, signaled the band’s subtle shift toward a more expansive range on Bitter Rivals. Krauss even briefly explored a deeper, more sustained vocal register while singing a verse on “You Don’t Get Me Twice.” It’s a promising new direction for Sleigh Bells, and the crowd seemed to think so, too – even if they responded a bit more enthusiastically to the anthemic “Demons, come on!” (from “Demons,” off 2010’s Born to Lose) than the more demure new lyric, “Maybe, baby, maybe if you ask me nice.”
No matter what, Krauss was enjoying herself. “Holy shit, it feels good to be back up here,” she said. And it sure feels good to have her back.
“Crown on the Ground”
“True Shred Guitar”
“Born to Lose”
“You Don’t Get Me Twice”
“Sing Like a Wire”