Sleigh Bells took to the stage at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale last night in the second-to-last show in its 8-day “Paradise Lost” tour of Florida. (It concludes at Grand Central in Miami on Valentine’s Day.) The tour was presented as a gift of sorts to the state that birthed one-half of Sleigh Bells – Derek Miller, who hails from West Palm Beach. The tour has provided audiences in the Sunshine State with the first chance to hear the songs from Sleigh Bells’ much anticipated sophomore release “Reign of Terror” before the bigger markets in New York, California and elsewhere. Fans showed their gratitude by packing Revolution on a chilly Saturday night.
The show opened with Liturgy, a buzzy black-metal band from Brooklyn that has transcended its brutal niche genre and received raves fromSpin, Pitchfork andThe New Yorker. The wall-of-noise set was disorienting, pretentious and hypnotic, three traits I generally love in art-rock; it was easy to hear the influence of Swans and Glenn Branca on Liturgy’s sound. A mostly bored audience watched in a state of rigor mortis; this band deserves its own headlining set, playing to its own fans. Miami’s Jacuzzi Boys followed, with another mildly fun set of surf-, garage- and Ramones-inflected scuzz-pop songs that all kinda sound the same. I have to say, I’m getting a tad tired of them at this point.
After an overlong intermission, Sleigh Bells appeared, this time as a three-piece (though I can’t for the life of me find the name of the second guitarist). Performing in front of an eight-piece Marshall stack divided by an American flag, the band tore through virtually everything its acclaimed debut “Treats” and five to six numbers from “Reign of Terror.”
I’ve long complained that Sleigh Bells has been playing the exact same set for the past two years and that its live show needed a boost of variety. The new songs, which build slower, are more guitar-heavy than we’re used to hearing from the band, and which take some time to appreciate, provide a satisfying change, while at the same time creating a buzz-kill among a crowd that came to hear songs they already knew (“Reign of Terror” will not be released until Feb. 21).
Miller played guitar last night despite having a few broken ribs; he’s a trouper and didn’t miss a beat. And even if her exhausted vocal chords couldn’t quite reach the heights they should have a couple of times last night, frontwoman Alexis Krauss has fully developed as a superstar performer, playing to the adoring throngs like a multi-platinum rock star at an outdoor festival, helping crowd-surfers onto the stage, singing with them when they finally made it, and even falling into the audience – twice – to be carried along by a sea of hands (how ‘90s!). The enthusiasm from the crowd was palpable, and mosh pits broke out during the hits (“Infinity Guitars,” “Tell ‘Em, “A/B Machines,” etc.). Given that I’m much too old for such shenanigans, I was more than happy with my position near the stairs, watching the chaos from a comfortable remove.
The band’s set, including the encore of “Rill Rill” and “Crown on the Ground,” clocked in at just under an hour, still short for most headlining acts but a significant improvement over Sleigh Bells’ prior tours. Progress, after all, is incremental.