“Pins hail from your fair city, and they’re awesome!”

When the likes of Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker offers up such props to their support band, it’s worth paying attention.  The US alt-rock legends have a reputation as first class BS detectors, and Manchester’s Pins are – in every way – the real deal, and a perfect opener for tonight’s show.

Like the lovechild of Jeffrey Lee Pierce & Poison Ivy, Pins throw up a glorious pop noise full of dark shimmering glamour, and possess the lucky habit of writing songs that are both immediate yet multi-layered.  Pins music is stripped back and raw, using deceptively simple shifts of melody and tempo, and it is never overworked yet there’s so much going on it’s overwhelming. New single ‘Too Little Too Late’ illustrates this ambivalence:  beautifully brutal honesty in the lyrics and simplistic schoolyard chants, all delivered with equal measures of disgust, disdain and a lazy-rolling menace.    Pins bring us their own twisted nursery rhymes straight from the belly of the beast, then finish their set with a Misfits cover and a Cyndi Lauper industrial mash-up before they clear up their gear and are gone.  Just ten songs, but a life-time impression made.  Awesome indeed.

Sleater-Kinney are a first time experience for me tonight, but I’m already infected by the hardcore committed acolytes who are crammed into the Albert Hall, abuzz with eager anticipation of Sleater-Kinney’s return after some ten years hiatus.

The three-piece of vocalist/guitarists Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss, supplemented by Katie Harkin on 3rd guitar, enter the stage in darkness and as the opening bars of ‘Price Tag’ ring out, 4 sharp white spot-lights pick out the band in what I can only assume is a (tongue in cheek) homage to Bohemian Rhapsody.  It’s a dramatic opening, and serves to meet the crowd expectation head-on, and sets the scene for a set which is part celebration of an extensive back catalogue and in every way an affirmation of the currency and unique nature of Sleater-Kinney.

They are a very, very good live band, with a inimitable and entirely singular take on rock music:  What they have in spades is great songwriting and the ability to write a killer chorus or guitar hook.  It’s is hard to draw context in terms of predecessors or the lineage of this band (though Carrie has an enviable repertoire of classic rock moves, hi-kicking then goose-stepping around the stage like Angus Young), but they have killer tunes, are as cool as fuck, and have the un-definable gang mentality that lifts the very best bands above the mundane or generic.  I’ve never read or seen an interview with the band, but the role and character of each member fill the stage, and they have a formidable presence, and I can fully understand the passion they arouse in the crowd.   Splitting vocal duties across the band as they do in ‘One More Hour’, they offer up shouts, melody, yelps and harmonies:  It is primal, yet completely wayward and sophisticated at the same time, and like the whole set is full of a unique energy, that is powerful and positive and connected in every way.

I’m lucky to have seen them.

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