The music of Sleater-Kinney, which performed Sunday night at the 9:30 club, is impeccably non-hierarchical. Although Corin Tucker has the most striking voice, all three group members sing. And while the musicians don't swap instruments, as some early feminist-punk bands did, Tucker and Carrie Brownstein's guitars and Janet Weiss's drum kit are forever switching roles, each taking primary and subsidiary parts in the songs' shifting, communal structures.
Yet the Pacific Northwest trio's show was almost macho, suggesting AC/DC's brawling arena rock more often than the Raincoats' hand-stitched folk-punk. Tucker and Brownstein slammed power chords at each other, and Weiss actually took a drum solo, albeit one that lasted roughly one-tenth as long as a vintage Ginger Baker display. Perhaps it was just the effect of playing for a capacity crowd in a venue the size of the 9:30 club. But it wasn't till midway through the set, when Brownstein asked people at the front of the stage to "smile a little," that the band seemed as friendly as it was fierce.
If such new songs as "Oh!" lost the delicacy of their recorded versions, they didn't lack for power. The band was consistently tight and exciting, and eventually breached the wall separating it from the audience. The "Light Rail Coyote" singalong didn't quite work, but with the help of a joke told by Janet Weiss and such earlier favorites as "Little Babies" and "Dig Me Out," Sleater-Kinney showed that it had the heart to match its long-standing vehemence and expanding skills.
-- Mark Jenkins