Guardian music intern Michael Harkin made the trip up to Portland, Ore., for the last Sleater-Kinney show at the Crystal Ballroom on Aug. 12. Here's his review:
A warm Saturday evening in Portland set the scene as Sleater-Kinney laid their axes down. The three of them - drummer Janet Weiss and singer-guitarists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein - have an iconic status that’s duly earned and responsible for some of the best rock records in recent memory.
It all went down in the Crystal Ballroom, where the Thermals, terse garage-poppers and fellow Portland residents, opened the show. Next Eddie Vedder made a brief, flashbulb-bathed appearance onstage, playing a surprisingly well-received two-song set that included an acoustic, Dylan-esque political tune as well as a song sung with Janet Weiss as he played ukulele.
Other than the thank-yous and song dedications, the show didn’t have the resonance of a last hurrah: the heaviness normally characterizing their shows was sustained over more than 25 songs and two hours, filmed and recorded for later release on a DVD or live album.
Both at this show and on record, they never seemed like a band that had run out of ideas. Last year’s The Woods (Sub Pop), from which the set drew pretty heavily, was so damn good - it somehow proved refreshing even as it came from a band whose work never became tired or contrived. Opening banger “The Fox,” as well as the singles, “Entertain” and “Jumpers,” were among the most raucous that night, carrying the kind of stomp value rarely seen outside of Led Zeppelin’s discography.
Brownstein had the most rock-star demeanor of any up there, adding arm-swing flourishes to her guitar-playing, while Tucker would lift her right arm like a choir leader at a song’s chorus, subtly imploring the sing-alongs already requisite for a crowd at a band’s final show. They traversed their back catalog in properly comprehensive fashion, where “Oh!” and “You’re No Rock ‘n' Roll Fun” sat alongside “Words and Guitar” and the incendiary “Dig Me Out,” all prompting floor fluctuations that bordered on the unnerving. Weiss’s cool, adroit intensity behind the kit left one relieved that her other band, Quasi, doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
Your humble writer may have been hoping for a “Get Up,” but there was really nothing else to ask from the women, who totally killed throughout. It’s sad to see one of the Pacific Northwest’s greatest assets have to go, but records as awesome as The Hot Rock (Kill Rock Stars) should inspire many bands for years to come.