Sleigh Bells shred Milwaukee a new one

Sleigh Bells dropped an absurd level of noise, talent and crazy at Turner Hall on Wednesday night.

By - Oct 25th, 2012 11:22 am
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Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller of Sleigh Bells at Turner Hall in Milwaukee. All photos courtesy of CJ Foeckler

Last night at Turner Hall, Sleigh Bells delivered on their calling card: fierce volume. The music could be labeled “noise pop,” but Sleigh Bells’ sound transcends any category. It’s all at once in-your-face and sweet, loud and breathy, retro and brand-new, hardcore and heartfelt.

Without question, lead vocalist Alexis Krauss was the driving force on stage. She exuded pure lady power. Wearing tight cut-off shorts and a cropped, baggy tank with the “parental advisory” stamp, she dominated every song with a commanding presence. Head-banging was par for the course. She frequently screamed into the mic moments after delivering a sweet serenade. Backed by deep bass beats and band mate Derek Miller’s guitar shredding, Krauss could do no wrong.

The show opened with “Demons,” a track from Sleigh Bells’ sophomore album Reign of Terror. A hard-hitting track with Krauss’ signature angry cheerleader chants, she challenges the crowd “demons/come on/you’ve got a vision/you’re on a mission.” The song closes with Krauss yelling “and you will answer to no one else but me.”

Indeed.

Next came a favorite from Treats, Sleigh Bells’ debut album packed with inspiration from hip-hop, heavy rock and pop. Even at a moderate volume the tracks distort from an irresistible overdose of sound. “Crown on the Ground” had the entire crowd out of their minds, and it became clear that the favorites would come from Sleigh Bells’ freshman album.

Reign of Terror has much to offer in terms of a more focused, mature sound, and a couple of its tracks served as transitional moments for the show. Even in these shifts, Krauss managed to bring the house down with sheer talent and charisma. It’s saying something that throughout the set, her voice carried over twelve enormous amps blaring behind her. “End of the Line” was perhaps the slowest track in the set list, yet it demanded attention.

“Born to Lose” and “Comeback Kid” picked up the pace, with poppy riffs and those familiar, floor-shaking beats. At this point the crowd was a crazy, sweaty dance pit. Sleigh Bells does not invite a passive audience. Krauss constantly interacted with the crowd, at one point throwing herself from the stage to be body-passed.

As mentioned, the real gems came from Treats. “Tell ‘Em” was an utter powerhouse, complete with rapid gun-fire beats and distorted recklessness. The addition of Krauss’ finely tuned voice created a sound that was upbeat rather than obtrusive, especially as she sang “all the girls, all the girls these days/did you do your best today?”

YES. WE PROMISE.

“Rill Rill” was a welcomed segue into the bottom of the set list, a song that floats effortlessly over a breezy, friendly melody, with Krauss singing “so this is it then?/you’re here to win friend/click click saddle up see you on the moon then.” Anytime seasonal affective disorder sneaks up on you, I recommend pumping this tune at maximum volume.

Let’s talk about the finale. If you don’t have a song in your world that requires ridiculous, on-your-feet, swinging-your-hair, losing-your-mind dancing, make it “A/B Machines.” This song has an incredible build-up, and when the beat finally drops, the sound collapses from power and spews outward all at once. All hell breaks loose. The live version had everyone offering up their craziest dance moves, ad infinitum. Everyone was sweating; everyone was smiling; the heavens rained down happiness.

If that weren’t enough, Krauss cried “get up here ladies!” and the stage filled with lady fans. At song’s end, Krauss collapsed to the ground, received a helping hand from a fan. Then she gave out individual hugs, scolding the security guard who tried to push girls away. “Hey, it’s fine. We’re fine.”

Yeah we are. The show was a riot. Period.

Categories: Life & Leisure, Rock

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