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Concert Review: Sleigh Bells with Tunde Olaniran at El Club

Sleigh Bells

by Lisa Joan Barrett 

Sleigh Bells, the band who stole noise-pop-loving hearts the world over in 2010 with Treats is back with new material. Last Thursday night, they unleashed tracks from their forthcoming LP, Jessica Rabbit, to a packed El Club. Flint’s own musical force to be reckoned with, Tunde Olaniran, kicked off the evening.

Olaniran blends nimble rap verses with intentionally abrasive hooks and soaring melodies that defy genre consideration. If you read Pitchfork’s review of his new album Transgressor, then you know he has “a dozen voices” that he navigates between “without any sign of conscious effort.” And he will make you dance. Over the tight hip hop beats of “KYBM (Keep Your Body Moving)”, Olaniran croons “I love you. You make the nights better, you make the lights hotter, you make the sweat wetter.”

Tunde 1

His duo of carefully styled backup dancers created a spectacle, while he goaded the crowd to dance. Olaniran’s set ended with self-love, club-thumper “Namesake” – it has been in my head for days. The crowd chanted the chorus “if I can be me, then you can be yourself. It may not be easy…it’s like we’re never satisfied.” Truer words are rarely spoken in pop songs: lyrics that explode with tangibility and cleverness and cut to the core.

I had never seen Sleigh Bells live before, but their debut album, Treats, has been in my iPod for years. When they burst into “Tell ‘Em” (a track that epitomizes their signature brash wall of sound), and fans of every demographic rushed the stage and began to sing the lyrics, I realized there were many devotees in attendance. The Sleigh Bells duo of Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss were joined onstage by tour guitarist Ryan Primack, whose smart choices of chords fleshed out the sound. “Riot Rhythm” and “Infinity Guitars” are heavy-hitting songs that connected with everything I expected from their older material: thumping bass, cheering/yelling vocals and endless, towering guitar riffs.

Sleigh Bells 2

Krauss has written new material more nuanced and with dreamier R&B melodies than before. I had been looking forward to hearing moodier Jessica Rabbit tracks like “Hyper Dark,” but they insisted on anthems of rebellion. Thankfully, they also played the Jessica Jones-famous banger “Demons” and “Crown on the Ground,” both absolutely destroyed the crowd, myself included. Alexis’ rollicking delivery shifted into powerhouse vocalist territory for the encore “Rule Number One,” a new song that hits the familiar Sleigh Bells high notes. “A/B Machines” closed the night with its mantra style lyrics and head banging clap-track. If you didn’t walk out of there with adrenaline in your veins and a skip in your step, you were at the wrong show.

Set List

Tell ‘Em
It’s Just Us Now
Bitter Rivals
Riot Rhythm
Sing Like A Wire
Born To Lose
Comeback Kid
Infinity Guitars
You Don’t Get Me Twice
Crown On The Ground
Rule Number One
A/B Machines

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