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Tour Review: Sleigh Bells

posted May 14, 2012, 12:02 pm by Ben Oliver | Filed Under General Interest, Live Show Reviews, Tour | comment Leave a Comment

Tags: Reign of Terror, Sleigh Bells

Review by special guest correspondent Angeleeta Sosnowski and Ben Oliver

Photos by Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer Eve Edelheit

Tuesday, the second day of the week, is usually a seemingly innocuous day, that from time to time can surprisingly host an exciting show. But hardly ever could you say the second day of the week can feel like a Saturday night. But a recent Tuesday show felt just like that, when Sleigh Bells rolled into Dallas, TX. They were here to promote their second album Reign of Terror, complete with over a dozen speakers on stage, bright lights, and more swag than I’ve seen in years. And boy did they deliver.

First up was another New York duo Javelin. The pair of cousins are known for their creative and outlandish gigs. In performance, Tom van Buskirk and George Langford will often use colorfully painted boomboxes that form large speaker totems (“boombaatas”) which can hang from the ceiling or stack up on the floor like pyramids. The signal from the show is broadcast via FM transmitter, thereby fostering audience participation (B.Y.O.Boombox) or fueling battery-powered, mobile parties. However, they didn’t incorporate that into this show. To give you a glimpse of the band’s quirky tendencies, they introduced one song as “This track was inspired by middle school dances.” Their half hour set consisted of an electronic drum machine and a cymbal, along with a bass player and singer. And yes, there was even a kazoo! The highlights of the set were covers of  “Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys, and Lil Wayne’s “A Milli”.  It was quite a bittersweet feeling thinking back on this, now after MCA passed away.

Unfortunately, the rad music I was so excited to experience live didn’t quite translate accurately. Maybe my expectations were unrealistically set to high. But these eccentric entertainers unfortunately sound better when listened to in a non live setting. It also could have just been the sound system and way that it was set up. It was hard to hear their vocals, the music and instrumentation far overshadowed them. Javelin reminds me of Doldrums yet left me a bit disappointed. I’m still a fan, and I would really like the chance to see them again soon. In an interview with Pitchfork, the guys admitted that it took nearly four years before even attempting a live show. I would bet that a little tweaking would take them a long way towards having an impeccable live show. Maybe it was just me though, the sold out crowd seemed impressed enough to not be bothered in the slightest.

After the opening set, the trio blasted onto the stage with an ear drum splitting rendition of “Demons”. And yes, I did say trio—they now have an extra guitar player, at least for this tour. Alexis Krauss, singer, seemed fully recovered from her vocal issues, and quickly whipped the crowd into frenzy. Krauss recently had laryngitis and canceled a show. Without even a pause, next came “Crown on the Ground” and “True Shred Guitar”, both off of Treats, and both complete with crowd screaming along. And I do mean scream. This has to be one of the loudest shows that I’ve been to in the last several years.

A brief lessening of intensity followed which was quickly erased by “Born to Lose” and “Comeback Kid”. These two Reign of Terror singles upped the ante in terms of both power and volume. Alexis owned the stage, singing and strutting around with an attitude reminiscent of some of the classic front men of rock. Dressed in all black and using her long hair as effective prop, she had one of my pals ready to propose to her after the show. Again the next few songs dropped down a touch in bravado, but not volume which as fine for me as I knew I needed my hearing for work the next day. The final three tunes built up again, with “Treats” and “Infinity Guitars”- two of my favorites from the first album. The final pre-encore choice of “Rill Rill” was a tad confusing, giving the slow, ballad like nature of the song.

For me that would have been enough of a show. Short in time but long in quality. For the encore, Sleigh Bells seemed to blaze through “Never Say Die”. “Riot Rhythm” certainly caught my attention. And of course the show couldn’t end without the crowd fave “A/B Machines”. They proved why their population exploded this year, including their Spin magazine cover, SNL appearance, and opening support on tour for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rare is the show where just about every song is great. It’s so loud that sometimes you almost can’t quite tell what song is being played. And you’re having such a great time it doesn’t really matter. That was Sleigh Bells on a Tuesday. Who knew?

Sleigh Bells’ set list:
“Crown on the Ground”
“True Shred Guitar”
“End of the Line”
“Born to Lose”
“Comeback Kid”
“Straight A’s”
“Leader of the Pack”
“Tell ‘Em”
“Infinity Guitars”
“Rill Rill”

“Never Say Die”
“Riot Rhythm”
“A/B Machines”


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