Review: Sleigh Bells – July 3, 2010

I must admit: when critics and blogs began to praise Sleigh Bells earlier this year, I was skeptical about their staying power. They had burst onto the scene with virtually no prior recordings, and that dearth of material led me to wonder if they weren’t just another dime-a-dozen buzz band. Then came Treats, their highly anticipated debut album.

Treats was immediately gobbled up by the masses, and big-name sites like Pitchfork and Stereogum began to preach the Sleigh Bells gospel. The album managed to capture the band’s signature high energy, but going into Saturday night’s sold-out show, I was still on the fence. As soon as they hit the stage, though, Sleigh Bells splintered that fence and hauled my skepticism away for good.

The thing about Sleigh Bells’ sound that interests me most is their clear affinity for pop music. All of their songs are essentially pop songs, but with a metal undercurrent and an edgy onstage attitude. Prior to the show, I had a brief conversation with guitarist/producer Derek Miller. When I asked him what type of music he likes, he said Top 40 pop. A surprising answer coming from a guy who used to be in the hardcore band Poison The Well, but it does makes sense.

The band opened the set with a cover of a Dio song as their intro music, strobe light flickering away on stage. The crowd was immediately hyped up. The duo then broke into “Tell ‘Em,” with Miller’s guitar sounding like a laser being used to assault the crowd. “Tell ‘Em” pulsed its way into “Infinity Guitars,” a song with a hip hop club banger beat and classic metal breakdown. The crowd had no choice but to do a little light moshing.

As forceful as Miller’s guitar work was, the thing that really makes Sleigh Bells so exciting is singer Alexis Krauss’ onstage presence. Despite her unassuming combination Betty Page bangs and small stature, Krauss was a beast on stage. She really gave it her all, blurring the lines between crowd and performer by repeatedly venturing offstage to sweat with the crowd.

There wasn’t one dud in the entire set — every song was full of energy and trumped the previous one. Songs like “Riot Rhythm,” “A/B Machines,” and the fan favorite “Crown on The Ground” damn near set the place on fire. The night ended on a more subdued note with the encore song “Rill Rill,” which featured Krauss by herself, bopping around through the crowd while she half rapped/half sang. The slow-burning close to an otherwise ferocious set left the attendees grinning ear to ear, including this former Sleigh Bells skeptic, now turned believer.

Sleigh Bells tour dates
Jul 12 2010 – Radio Radio – Indianapolis, IN
Jul 13 2010 – Grog Shop – Cleveland, OH
Jul 14 2010 – Zanzabar – Louisville, KY
Jul 15 2010 – Magic Stick – Detroit, MI
Jul 17 2010 – HARD LA – Los Angeles, CA
Jul 18 2010 – Pitchfork Music Festival – Chicago, Illinois
Jul 20 2010 – Phoenix – Toronto, QC
Jul 21 2010 – Le National – Montreal, QC
Jul 22 2010 – Royale – Boston, MA
Jul 24 2010 – HARD NY – New York, NY
Aug 9 2010 – The Lexington – London, United Kingdom
Aug 11 2010 – Oya Festival – Oslo, Norway
Aug 13 2010 – Way Out West Festival – Sweden
Aug 14 2010 – Flow Festival – Helsinki, Finland

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