I want to get right into this. I don’t usually write show reviews of bands I have already previewed, but I couldn’t help myself. Sleigh Bells tore through their set at CMU’s CFA Alumni Concert Hall (not Rangos, like I originally reported) in roughly 33 minutes. They played all five songs I came to know and love plus three new ones.
What resulted proved to be the sonic equivalent of a shotgun blast set to a Bomb Squad production with a femme fatale narrating the destruction. Without any reservation I can say it was the best concert I have seen this year.
This is how it all began: Miller, alone, let loose the opening guitar wail of “Infinity Guitars” followed by the stuttering hand clap beat that shook the concert hall so much, pieces of plaster came showering down from the ceiling. With blue spotlights hitting the stage, the precipitation resembled diamond snowflakes cacading downward amidst the blaring vibrations of bass. Krauss strutted on stage, hood up, and quietly observed “The sky is falling” as she circled the floor like a boxer in a ring. As the first verse gave way to the massive wave of successive “Oohs” from Krauss, the second verse came down like a hammer. Just as his guitar hit its snarling apex, Miller karate kicked the living Christ out of the lone mic stand, sending it flying off the stage while Krauss head banged her life away.
That moment encapsulated the entire appeal of Sleigh Bells: messy, destructive, sexy, heavy, raw. The rest of the set was set in motion by that brief instance of epic “f**k all.” “A/B Machines” followed and allowed Krauss to own the room. She reached out to the audience on the edge of the stage, sneering, then bowing her head to have her hair tossed by the front row, all while she cooed “I got my A machines on the table, I got my B machines on the floor.”
“Beach Girls” provoked half the crowd to rush the stage. Most danced manaically and eventually settled with a circle surrounding Krauss, pointing fingers and exalting her massive seductive presence. The crowd was asked to settle back onto the floor, while Krauss politely added, “Get the off the f**ing stage.” By the time “Crown on the Ground” closed the set, the entire crowd was back on stage while the Brooklyn duo reveled in the house party atmosphere.
After Krauss’ mic became unplugged she proceeded to perform “Ring Ring” acapella, while the crowd shouted most of the words. After witnessing a crowd of 250 crazed 20 somethings sing all the words to a song that has yet to see a legitimate release, it was pretty apparent the whole night sort of took Sleigh Bells by surprise.
With the technical difficulties and delays from the local opening band that set the whole show back an hour and a half, I’m fairly sure Krauss and Miller’s expectations were low. But their searing live show was just as celebrated in Pittsburgh as it would be in Brooklyn, maybe even more so. Regardless, mark your calendars any time these two come through town. This is a live show that should never, NEVER be missed.