Sleigh Bells @ (Le) Poisson Rouge, NYC 10/5/13

Four years ago, before releasing any full-length material, Sleigh Bells played a show at (Le) Poisson Rouge that caught our attention. Last night, the Brooklyn-based duo celebrated the release of its third full-length album Bitter Rivals in the same filled-to-capacity venue. Derek Miller and band walked onstage to an electronic drumroll produced by a guy who remained shrouded in shadow for the rest of the show. But Alexis Krauss, the vocalist and front woman of what was originally Miller’s project, doesn’t look like she actually walks anywhere. She stormed the stage in the leopard-print boxing robe she wears in the “Bitter Rivals” music video and launched into the cheer-team worthy track “Minnie.”

It could have been the strobes, but Alexis Krauss’ hair seemed to move in slow motion last night — and it’s the only part of her being that managed to slow down for the entire set. It is not surprising that Krauss used to be a teacher. Her singsong, chanting vocals have a repeat-after-me quality that had guys in button-ups screaming with the same dedication of a million dads at a Springsteen concert. On tracks like “Comeback Kid” off of the 2011 LP Reign Of Terror, it was altogether impossible to hear Krauss’ voice amidst the deafening synth trills and guitar leads. She was lip-syncing to the crowd’s manic screams. Krauss’ voice is the consistency of maple syrup, but she hasn’t always had the space to prove it. In a live setting, the tracks off of Bitter Rivals stand out from the previous two albums and lend her more of a wind-down — the nausea-inducing bass breaks a bit more often so that her sticky voice can leak through the distortion. Krauss sounded her best during the whispery, looping chorus of the title track and in the quiet final seconds of “Young Legends” and “You Don’t Get Me Twice.”

Even during the quieter moments of Sleigh Bells’ set, of which there were few, the crowd of mega-fans had an almost-menacing full-frontal enthusiasm that made the opening roar of every song a moment of high-anxiety. I saw one guy play air guitar and there were a few crowd-surfing attempts, one of which ended with a girl getting knocked to the floor while her boyfriend bristled in silent rage. It became difficult to distinguish whether or not the crowd was feeding Krauss, or vice versa. During “Born To Lose,” she fell back into the audience and sprayed a bottle of water across the first three rows of people. At the end of the encore, she allowed fans to charge on stage with her as the kick-drum sputtered out in the closing moments of “A/B Machines.”

Krauss wore Keds last night, a casual reminder of the blood-splattered sneakers that christened the Reign Of Terror album cover. After watching Sleigh Bells’ performance, that image stands out as a lot less gimmicky; Miller and his band played with such unyielding stamina that at points, it seemed almost painful. But their efforts take a while to recognize when they’re in the shadow of Krauss’ magnetism. Sleigh Bells wasn’t always Krauss’ band, but it has always been her show.

01 “Minnie”
02 “Comeback Kid”
03 “Tiger Kit”
04 “Crown On The Ground”
05 “Bitter Rivals”
06 “True Shred Guitar”
07 “Kids”
08 “Demons”
09 “Born To Lose”
10 “You Don’t Get Me Twice”
11 “Riot Rhythm”
12 “Infinity Guitars”

13 “Young Legends”
14 “Sing Like A Wire”
15 “A/B Machines”

Bitter Rivals is out 10/8 via Mom + Pop. Stream it here.

Tags: Sleigh Bells