Wild Flag, The Lexington, London (4/5)
Wednesday 14 December 2011
Five years after riot grrrl mavens Sleater-Kinney announced news of their indefinite hiatus and two of the band's core members -larger-than-life guitarist turned writer Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss - are back with a new musical endeavour which threatens to blow all other previous projects clean out of the water.
Add to this the unparalleled talent of Helium's Mary Timony and keyboardist Rebecca Cole -on hand for 60s-inspired organ ditties - and Wild Flag are certainly ripe for hero worship. Considering the magnitude of their collective musical prowess, they've raised the bar pretty high from the off, their mere formation provoking widespread frenzy among voracious indie fans long before a single recording had even made it out alive. Released in September, Wild Flag's eponymous debut is undeniably as good as the sum of its parts and arguably there is little left to prove; tonight's sold-out show at The Lexington is simply a chance for fans to see their beloved idols in the flesh again.
A dazzling vision in sequins and denim, the foursome appear confident and self-assured from the get go, leaping onto the stage with a spring in their step and at once demonstrating their insatiable eagerness to perform. Sharing subtle nods of approval throughout, any 'supergroup' associations are well placed tonight as the brawny, well-oiled quartet take us on a high velocity ride through their no-holds-barred ten-track LP, giving their all to a set peppered with the occasional anecdote and humble declarations of gratitude. They delve deep into seemingly endless pools of energy and gusto, never once dropping a smile or tripping up over notes, and all the while displaying an impenetrable, cast iron synergy that comes in part from the interconnectedness of their respective projects and from years of playing music. They're a dab hand at it all, it must be said.
Emitting an iridescent shadow from behind her keyboard perch, Rebecca Cole's hair swishing and organ grinding really come into their own on 'Endless Talk' and the formidable stomp of 'Electric Band' - with its widescreen indie guitar panorama - truly befits the live setting. There's wigging out galore on 'Glass Tambourine' and 'Racehorse' - Brownstein's writhing histrionics set against Timony's restrained prog outbursts as their guitars interlock - and 'Romance' boasts an on stage camaraderie which suspends the quartet from lofty supergroup to laid-back high school garage band.
Finishing up with two covers - The Stones' 'Best of Burden' ("one of the best UK bands ever", says Brownstein) and The Ramones' 'Judy is a Punk' - sadly divides a hipster-heavy audience. But while a small handful of gig goers quaff with cynicism at the novelty of their apparently controversial song choices, the rest take them on face value and leave the show tonight with a deeper understanding of just what it is this band are about; unpretentious, deftly executed, maximum voltage, female fronted rock and roll.
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