A decade ago, the founding members of Sleater-Kinney announced that "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone." Saturday night at a packed 9:30 club, however, it would have been more appropriate if Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein had proclaimed, "I Wanna Be Your Alvin Lee" or "I Wanna Be Your Leslie West."
Those half-remembered guitar heroes (from Ten Years After and Mountain, respectively) are among the precursors of Sleater-Kinney's swaggering, heavily distorted new sound. This neo-blues-rock style is featured on the Pacific Northwest trio's latest album, "The Woods," which provided the bulk of the show's set. Emphasizing newer material was for the best, since the rumbling din overpowered such older songs as "Light Rail Coyote" and "Dig Me Out." Those spry rockers were simply too delicate for the group's current attack.
The set was structured similarly, though not identically, to "The Woods." The trio opened poundingly with "The Fox" and built to "Let's Call It Love," a sprawling exhibition of Janet Weiss's precise, powerful drumming and Brownstein's guitar playing -- which is much more versatile, but no more expressive, than in Sleater-Kinney's early days. Wisely, the band closed its main set with "Entertain," one of the new album's catchiest numbers. A rebuke to dance-rock revivalists who "come around looking 1984" and a showcase for Tucker's levitating soprano, the song was a rollicking treat, even if it did fail to explain why 1969 is better than 1984.
-- Mark Jenkins