Sleigh Bells @ l’Astral – 27th January 2018

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There comes a time, in every mans life, when he is instructed by his wife to leave the house on account of a girls’ night. Tonight, that happens to me. Either I hang out in my bedroom watching Netflix on an iPad Mini, or I get out of the house. Once I see Sleigh Bells are in town tonight, the decision is made. It’s been a good few years since I last caught them, opening for someone (I want to say Yeasayer, but I’m not 100% sure, and the Internet isn’t helping me…) at Le National around 2010, so a Sleigh Bells show is definitely overdue.

First up on the bill, though, are local Montreal duo Pelada, consisting of a somewhat bookish DJ behind the decks and an angry-looking vocalist in a boiler suit tied off at the waist who snarls lyrics in Spanish. The industrial techno beats are heavy, the pace is relentless, and despite not being fluent in Spanish (and therefore not really knowing what’s happening lyrically), there’s no question she’s angry as she snarls “MIRA!!! MIRA!!!” (Look!!! Look!!!”): obviously, nobody dares look away. It’s a loud, ferocious 30 minutes, somewhat reminiscent of tonight’s Headliners back in 2010 when they were just breaking out, and a fitting way to start tonight’s proceedings.

With the crowd nicely warmed up, Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells take to the stage around 9:45pm, and set things off in somewhat spooky manner in the form of Blue Trash Mattress Fire, from their recently released Kid Kruschev LP, that moody intro suddenly erupting into 2 screaming guitars (one being from one half of the duo, Derek Miller’s, the other a touring guitarists) from either side of frontwoman Alexis Krauss amidst a thumping beat from the drum machine, to spectacular effect. The ear-shredding Riot Rhythm immediately follows, eliciting a crowd singalong right off the bat.

Alexis acknowledges “it’s been too long Montreal, we’ve put out a couple of records since we were last here!” New song Favorite Transgressions follows, before Tell ‘Em and Comeback Kid sees her leaning right into the crowd with the mic like the engaging frontwoman she has become over the course of 10 years of practice. Indeed, the evolution of their sound is never more apparent than on I Can Only Stare from 2016’s Jessica Rabbit record, a much more mellow moment; a ballad, dare I say it. Nonetheless, it sounds absolutely incredible and shows a totally different side to the band that they definitely didn’t have in 2010, and is probably why I’m already enjoying this show way more than back then. It’s Just Us Now, from that same record, is every bit as spectacular, with the contrasting beats for the verses and chorus thumping around l’Astral resoundingly.

After only the second live airing of Rainmaker, Bitter Rivals sees the crowd countering Alexis declaration of “YOU ARE MY BITTER RIVAL” with “BUT I NEED YOU FOR SURVIVAL!” in an emphatic manner; it’s not a massive crowd tonight, but it definitely sounds like one. On Infinity Guitars, a solitary deep pounding beat is joined by the vocals and handclaps before those dirty guitars finally join the party in an incendiary manner, and the crowd really starts moving now, a pit forming in the middle of the floor, and a storming Demons and Rule Number One maintain the frenetic pace. On Crown on the Ground, Alexis takes crowd engagement to a whole other level, as she follows up face-to-face singing with the front row with jumping down onto the floor altogether, dancing with us as she sings out one of the epic standouts from their 2010 debut Treats.

According to the setlist taped to the stage, the band elects to go right into the encore songs without a break, and another wonderfully epic slow-burner soon arrives in the form of new song And Saints. The guitarists rip through A/B Machines next, before leaving Alexis on stage alone to sing breakthrough song Rill Rill by herself to close out the set. But she’s not alone for long, as she soon jumps back down into the crowd and has the whole of l’Astral singing along with her as she roams the floor one last time. It’s an epic conclusion to an epic hour of music.

Well played Sleigh Bells. Tonight, I expected great; I got incredible. Here’s hoping every show I see in 2018 is even half as good as this first one. If it is, it’s gonna be a heck of a year!


Blue Trash Mattress Fire

Riot Rhythm

Favorite Transgressions

Tell ‘Em

Comeback Kid

I Can Only Stare

It’s Just Us Now


Bitter Rivals

Infinity Guitars


Rule Number One

Crown on the Ground

And Saints

A/B Machines

Rill Rill

Review – Simon Williams

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