Show Review: The Corin Tucker Band w/ The Golden Bears at Great American Music Hall, 10/11/10

by Dakin Hardwick on October 12, 2010

I need to level with you, my loyal readers. Sleater-Kinney is my favorite band. End of story. I have seen them more times than any other band, and, quite happily, only once has seen them as a support act. (As sub-headliner at This Is Not A Festival in 1999)

Since their hiatus began in 2006, I’ve been eagerly awaiting some musical output by the band members. Yes, Janet Weiss has been putting out Quasi records at the same frequency, but her SK-time has been devoted to Stephen Malkmus and Bright Eyes session work. Carrie Brownstein has been writing and doing comedy, amongst other things.¬† But, Corin Tucker has been quiet, at least comparatively so. She’s made a handful of public appearance, but for the most part, she’s been the reclusive one.

This year, Corin Tucker finally put out a solo record, and then pulled together a band to do a short tour in support of it. I’m equal parts excited and worried that it’s not going to be up to expectations.

Opening the show was The Golden Bears. Usually I do my research before the show, but this band was a total surprise to me. Sometimes it’s good to have no expectations, because coming in to this band with a completely open mind was the only way to go. They opened up with singer Julianna Bright on vocals and Seth Lorinzci on guitar, and they performed a song called “Tall Ships.” Bright’s alto was soulful, and Lorinzci’s guitar was thick and fuzzy, with just a touch of the blues. For the rest of the set, they were filled out by a bassist, a second guitarist, and Bright moved on to drums. Their sound was varied, moving between classic rock, 90’s indie, blues, and country so easily that you could almost believe that you were listening to a jukebox. This was the kind of opening act that makes you regret missing opening acts.

As for our headliner. The Corin Tucker Band came out with very little fanfare. They used all of the same equipment as The Golden Bears, and even retained all of the same players. The Corin Tucker Band consisted¬† a bassist, who, based on my research, was Mike Clark (of Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks fame and also played in The Golden Bears), Sara Lund of Unwound on drums, and The Golden Bears’ Bright on percussion and harmony and Lorinzci on guitar and electric piano.

They opened up with the percussive stomp of “Half A World Away.” It was a near-perfect choice for opening the show. The song is intense, but doesn’t completely overtake you. It was good for the crowd, which seemed to need some warming up. People were attentive and happy, but not quite “there” yet. They proceeded to take you on a journey through all of the different moods of 1,000 Years, the record that this tour is supporting. We had a piano heavy track that progressed into a big, epic rock song that would have fit nicely into some of The Who’s more progressive work (“Thrift Store Coats”), the alternative rock ballad “Pulling Pieces,” the folk-punk of ‘It’s Always Summer,” and then some. It was a stunning display of musicality, and in the hands of a less proficient group of musicians, this could have fell flat.

I kept thinking about what this band had to own up to, as well. Sleater-Kinney was a cohesive whole, made up of some of the most powerful and unique players out there. Lund knew that people will automatically try to compare her to Janet Weiss. Lorinzci knew that people would want be sizing him up to Carrie Brownstein. What was impressive was that they managed to separate themselves from the comparison very quickly. It didn’t hurt that none of the songs sounded like they could have been Sleater-Kinney songs. That may have been the problem with the crowd, as well.

People were definitely happy to be there, but it felt more like a recital than a rock show for the bulk of the set. There was rapt attention, but the music was very foreign to most of the audience. It wasn’t really until the three-song main set assault of “Riley,” “It’s Obvious” (An Au-Pairs cover) and the leaked single “Doubt.” These songs, the most punk rock influenced of the set got the crowd worked up into a frenzy. People started pogoing, clapping along, and just really started rocking out.

The enthusiasm stayed on high throughout the encore, which began with Lorinzci on piano and Tucker on vocals, doing the plaintive “Miles Away.” It’s a strange experience to feel energy in a crowd during a slow song, but despite the delicate nature of this piece, there was still serious energy coming off the stage. Tucker’s voice, which was buried somewhat deep in the mix, was finally given a chance to shine. Her voice has only improved with time, especially if you compare this to Heavens To Betsy’s early singles. Her range is greater than it has ever been. She can still belt out like to riot-grrl icon she always was, but in this context she has proved that she can tap into far greater range of emotions.

The rest of the encore took as back into pure fun territory. They played an Elvis Costello cover that I couldn’t place. (Loyal readers, if you know the answer to this, please comment below) They also threw out a cover by an Atlanta, Georgia band Pylon, and the song was called “Cool.” I was unfamiliar with the song, but it was the kind of post-punk song that would have been at home alongside Devo or Gang Of Four.

After walking off a second time,¬† the crowd wouldn’t let go, and managed to coerce the band out for one final song. This song was not a Sleater-Kinney song, nor was it a Heavens To Betsy song, or even Cadallaca. (Although she did, rather cruely, call the song a dance song, but it wasn’t “Dance Song 97“) Nope, we got the most insane cover of “The Glamorous Life” we would ever hear. It was punked up, but still retained that Prince-ness that we would expect from it. We also got to hear both a drum solo and a bass solo, and we were treated to a true big rock n roll show ending.

Here’s the setlist (missing the Elvis Costello cover):

[All Photos Are By David Price]

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Note: This was found on YouTube from The Showbox in Seattle. You really need to here this Sheila E Cover.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven October 13, 2010 at 1:53 pm

The Elvis Costello song was “Party Girl.”

I don’t think you can blame the crowd for the lack of intensity (I realize that’s not what you are doing). The show, while fine, didn’t really attempt to capture that intensity, instead opting for solid versions of the songs from the album. When “Doubt” showed up, we woke up, and we stayed there for the encores, but there was no build up to that point.

I agree it must have been tough for the band to butt up against our S-K expectations. But I think the problem wasn’t the ghosts of Carrie and Janet. What I missed, at least, was the feeling that I was watching a band. These musicians are all friends, far as I know, and have a good feel for each other, but not once did I think I’d be seeing that group of players a few years down the road. Thus, it was more a Corin Tucker solo outing with a fine group backing her than it was a performance by the Corin Tucker band.

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casey October 14, 2010 at 11:47 am

I love this review just about as much as I love S-K, which is a lot! Good work!

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Llcompton October 15, 2010 at 3:38 am

Loved your review, and as a S-K fan totally agree. I was thrilled to hear the Elvis Costello cover (dedicated to Steve Nieve!) and “The Glamorous Life,” truly a great ’80s single. Something tells me these might have come from Corin’s karaoke repertoire.

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Chris March 18, 2011 at 1:10 am

Re: “Lund knew that people will automatically try to compare her to Janet Weiss.” In the ’90s Weiss was considered the poor (wo)man’s Sara Lund, and is barely qualified to hold SL’s drumsticks in my opinion. Lund was one of the premier drummers of that era, and one of the most influential, so I don’t exactly think she was feeling insecure about filling JW’s shoes. Starting a sentence with the phrase “Lund knew ___” implies you or someone else interviewed her beforehand and got her opinion on this specific topic. Writing from the standpoint of an obsessive S-K fan is what gave you this strange perspective. (How S-K could be anyone’s favorite band is a bit mind-boggling to me, but that’s a whole other topic… I won’t even go into your apparently non-ironic love of Billy Idol.) Lund definitely dumbed-down her drumming style for Corin’s band, which is a real shame in my mind.

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