It's always thrilling to see a new star in the ascendancy. At their most satisfying, such people are brash, even reckless, in winning over an audience -- or, better yet, they simply bend people to their will, confident in the belief that they deserve to be heard and driven by the knowledge that their moment has arrived. There's no doubting that Sleigh Bells' Alexis Krauss is just such a performer and that last night's show at First Ave was just such a moment.
Krauss once played in an all-female teenpop group and it's clear that she took something significant away from it. The way she danced, moaned, and reached out longingly to the audience throughout the show was pure diva, just as much as it was straight-up Bruce Dickinson. When she dropped to the floor and screeched like a pterodactyl, it made equal sense, and that's what was electrifying about it. Krauss knows how to play coyly and flirtatiously, doing so to gleefully exploit the violence of her band's music in a way that's simultaneously threatening and seductive.
At the end of the day, she's a rock 'n' roller and, honestly, her like doesn't seem to come around all that often these days.
Of course, there's also no doubting that it was Yeasayer who packed the house to the brim and it would be a stretch to suggest Sleigh Bells stole the show -- one need look no further than the way people danced and sang along to the headliners to get that point. Plus, the opening duo's ear-slashing assault wasn't exactly as palatable to everyone in attendance as their fellow Brooklynites' offerings, not least because of the punishing volume at which they dished things out. To that end, the most joyous and accessible songs of the evening were Yeasayer's and were also the ones that the audience responded the strongest to, songs like "O.N.E." and "Ambling Alp" that are full of bright, ebullient melodies and exotic rhythms.
Yet, Yeasayer's show also wasn't just a lighthearted party in comparison to Sleigh Bells', either. The band is much too cerebral and artistically-minded to let that happen, and that's what makes them compelling. From the large neon lights that often managed to help shroud the band members in darkness to the abrasive, mechanical undercurrents that surfaced on a song like "Sunrise" and completely dominated others, everything seemed carefully thought out to obscure the music's most obvious pleasures. The guys know how much fun it is to let go and dance, but they also want to make you think in the process and they aren't afraid to bury their melodies to do it.
Just as Krauss is a talented performer, so Yeasayer are talented artists. Here's hoping those gifts will continue to take both on an upward trajectory.