A couple of days ago, on the 31st, our long spring (and especially May) concert madness came to an end when we saw Josh Ritter play at Paradiso. To recap who we saw and when, here's the list:
Caesar - Patronaat, Haarlem, 10 February
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Melkweg, 19 February
Two Gallants - Paradiso Kleine Zaal, 28 February
Death Cab for Cutie - Melkweg, 8 March
Calexico and Iron & Wine - Tivoli, Utrecht, 26 April
Andrew Bird - Paradiso Kleine Zaal, 6 May
Belle & Sebastian - Paradiso, 8 May
The Decemberists - Paradiso, 18 May
Presidents of the USA - Paradiso, 24 May
Sleater-Kinney - Botanique, Brussels, 27 May
Josh Ritter - Paradiso, 31 May
Some awesome, memorable shows in there, especially just about every one of the 6 we went to in May (the Presidents were lively, but the show was much the same as when we saw them last year, so it wasn't as high on my list as the others). Below is my week-late review of Sleater-Kinney, and hopefully I'll get my Josh Ritter story up before a week's passed on that one as well.
This was of course one of the shows I was most anticipating because S-K are one of my favourite bands, especially live, I think they keep getting better and better, and I've not see them live since the last time I saw them in Portland in 2000 because they hardly ever tour in Europe. And then seeing them was delayed a few months after they cancelled their European tour last fall. So I was very psyched for this. But things didn't feel right for some reason, even before the show. Maybe it was being in Belgium
and not being sure of what the crowd would be like, let alone that they were playing at a venue
that was less rock club and more tropical greenhouse.
We got to the venue rather early and sat around for awhile waiting for the doors to open. We were also waiting for Steven
and Natasja to arrive, but we didn't know at the time that they were madly driving around the streets of Brussels trying to find how to get to the venue. They ended up not arriving until just before S-K started and we didn't see them til after the show.
As part of his ongoing photo project, O had tried to arrange seeing the band to take some photos, and managed to get on some list via someone at SubPop. As we waited, he went off to see what he could do about maybe seeing the band before they played, or making sure he could get photos afterwards. He talked to some guy from the venue who took O into the stage area while I waited outside the doors. O eventually came back, having talked to a girl who was in charge and he said he'd not only been allowed a photo pass, but a backstage pass as well. Sweet. So we went to the ticket counter and they gave him the pass. O then decided to see if he could find the band backstage. I waited outside the stage area again and he came back a bit disappointed. He'd found Janet, the only one to arrive so far, and he asked her if he could get photos for his project, but she bluntly and shortly told him no. He said she did not seem very happy at all. Hrm.
On a side note, as we were waiting for the doors to open, we spotted none other than the guy we'd seen at a couple of Amsterdam shows
who looks very much like a certain actor from a show that takes place in Southern California. We hadn't seen him in months, and then he pops up in Brussels. I thought "what is he doing all the way down here?" but then I realized he could wonder the same about us.
After an opener that I don't feel is worth mentioning (O didn't mind them, but he said they were very Belgian and you just have to like that stuff, which he does), and after waiting through the tuning and then some more waiting, S-K finally took to the stage. It was so good to see them again. The setlist:
An song introduced as "older", but I didn't know it, had Corin singing "go on, go on, go on"
All Hands on the Bad One
What's Mine is Yours
Let's call it Love
Yr No Rock and Roll Fun
Words and Guitar
So they played every song but one from the Woods, which was awesome, plus older stuff like Rock and Roll Fun and All Hands on the Bad One were good to hear. I would have liked to hear a Call the Doctor song, and a bit more from One Beat, but it's ok cuz the Woods stuff rocks so much.
In the end, the show felt a bit disappointing, though I know I had a lot of expectation for it. But that feeling of things just not being right carried on into the show. The band did not seem very happy and they hardly chatted with the audience like they usually do. Janet in particular never smiled and seemed to want to push through the songs as quickly as possible. And the crowd, while containing some obvious fans (including the 3 girls, also from Amsterdam, who were going nuts behind me) seemed way too subdued. Not enough rocking out going on. Where was Corin and Carrie asking the crowd not to mosh because they didn't want people to get hurt? Where was anyone even pogoing? Ugh, I knew we should have gone to see them in Glasgow again versus bloody Belgium... Especially when I read this thread
about their Bristol show just a couple nights later which sounds like it was the kind of S-K show I remember.
But it's not to say I didn't enjoy myself... To see Carrie right in front of us doing her trademark leg kicks and the occasional windmill and all her posing, it made me so happy. The one of the best songs of the set was What's Mine is Yours, which is probably my favourite song off of Woods, and the band and the audience really seemed to pick up some energy then. I even saw Janet singing along a bit. The other high point for me was Let's Call it Love, with its incredible soloing by Carrie, leading into Entertain with her amazing vocals and that pounding, military-style drumming in the second half from Janet. Also I thought Modern Girl was fun because Janet plays some harmonica and you just don't see the harmonica/drumming combination very often.
There was a guy to our left who must have been very happy they played Words and Guitar because he called out for it a couple of times. It was just funny though because he had such a strong, surely-you-are-taking-the-piss French accent.
After the show, and after we found Steven and Natasja, O made another attempt to go back stage, and he ended up talking to their stage manager, who said "It is not
going to happen." He at least was apologetic, but yeah, it sucked that O got so far with arranging things, got a backstage pass and everything, and then it was just not a good time to see the band. Maybe they got stuck for ages driving around Brussels too and it made them grumpy...
I left wondering when the band will be back to this side of the Atlantic, and I'm afraid it might be another 5 years before I see them again. I'm rather determined though to not let this show be the last S-K show for me. I am prepared to travel again to see them because when they are on form, there's nothing in the world like it.