SLEIGH BELLS / CHARLIE XCX @ MANCHESTER ACADEMY 2 - 02/03/ 12 REVIEW BY ANDY BARNES
It’s obvious Sleigh Bells are in the ascendency on current U.K tour promoting the release of second album “Reign of Terror”, tonight’s gig moved from the smaller confines of Sound Control, a mile further down the road to the larger expanse of Academy 2. Great news for the band and additional fans now able to grasp a red hot ticket, although selfishly I'd been looking forward to catching the band in more intimate surroundings........but beggars can't be choosers. After making my way through the legions of queuing Rizzle Kicks fans outside Academy 1, seemingly for some unfathomable reason an even hotter Friday night ticket, the early attendees are treated to an enjoyable performance from Charli XCX. Although her song titles would suggest dark subject matter, “Nuclear Seasons,” “Feel My Pain,” “End of the World”, musically, backed by slightly anonymous keyboardist and drummer she inhabits much lighter late 80’s / early 90’s techno. I think my photography companion Phil summed up nicely, suggesting it a touch, "2 Unlimited," a description difficult to argue against. Set closer, “Mess” the pick tonight, although special mention should be made to some impressively energetic dancing from Charli in large platform shoes. Good work on the choreography in impractical footwear. www.facebook.com/charlixcxmusic
After a reasonably lengthy pause beyond the proposed stage time, the lights dim and an intro track of primal drumming, utilising American Indian rhythms precedes the appearance of Sleigh Bells. A multitude of strobe and blindingly bright flashing lights reveal Derek E. Miller and touring guitarist Jason Boyer smashing out a bunch of extremely loud power chords backed by even louder heavyweight programmed beats, controlled through laptops at the side of the stage. Quickly joining stage front is Alexis Krauss cutting an eye catching figure in shorts and initially, studded leather jacket, soon discarded in favour of sleeveless white t-shirt as the temperature quickly rises to boiling point. On record, her almost child-like vocal delivery contrasts with the music, tonight this is somewhat lost due to the volume of the guitars and beats, although ultimately.......did anyone care, everyone looking for a rush, a release, rather than clarity of sound or voice. It’s obvious after the recent release of second album “Reign of Terror,” it's the heavier, more hook laden songs from debut “Treats” the majority assembled wish to hear. Opening with “True Shred Guitar” and “Born to Lose” to a buoyant, although slightly muted response, when the riff to “Riot Rhythm” kicks in, the Academy goes ballistic and a frenzied, bouncing mosh begins. Stood up against the stage is like having a tonne weight slammed in your back over and over again by a metronomic wrecking ball, the scenario continuing throughout “A/B Machines” and “Kids.” Krauss proves the classic cross gender focal point, the girls want to be her, the boys fancy her, totally captivated by the tattooed, rock chick persona, the whole room loving a bit of Alexis. She careers around stage, crowd interaction a plenty, daringly leaning over and into the front rows, everybody desperate to touch their heroine, hands snaking from all angles, some slightly more audaciously than others, Krauss revelling in the atmosphere. “Tell Em,” “Straight A’s, an absolutely banging version of ”Treats” and the monstrous sound of “Infinity Guitars” met most frenetically by the crowd and with the last notes of “Infinity” subsiding, Sleigh Bells leave the stage to euphoric applause. Not for long however, Krauss returning for a more restrained “Rill Rill” upping the interaction with the most placid piece of crowd surfing I’ve witnessed, asking the raised hand crowd be gentle, as she fell slowly, backwards from the stage. Crown on the Ground” brings the night to a close, a couple of stage divers appear, the female version requiring a reasonable amount of encouragement to leap into the audience, seemingly more at home dancing wildly alongside Krauss before Alexis herself, takes to the air and the crowd once more, this time for a more rumbustious ride before being despatched back to the stage, thanking everyone for the best gig they’ve played in Manchester so far.
Hot sweaty revellers leave the Academy, both aurally and visually assaulted, grins as wide as the scaffolding which adorns the outside of the building, all fully appreciative of the Sleigh Bells live experience. While perhaps the abiding memory isn’t of technical musical genius, it is one of pure, high velocity entertainment……just don’t think too much about it.
Intro True Shred Born To Lose Riot Rhythm A/B Kids End of the Line Comeback Tell EM Leader A's Treats Infinity Encore Rill Rill Demons Crows