If the Sleater-Kinney reunion show at the House of Blues Sunday night had to be summed up in one word, it would be ferocious.
The Portland, Ore., indie-rock trio erupted back to life in its first visit to the Hub since going dormant in 2006, and the sold-out crowd lapped up every moment of the triumphant 23-song, 85-minute set.
There has perhaps never been, before or since, anything quite like the sound of the gorgeously barbed voices and guitars of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein tangling over the masterful drumming of Janet Weiss. These were musicians meant to be together, and happily rejoined on Sunday in front of a dramatic backdrop depicting what looked like a decaying concrete wall with flaps blowing in the wind.
The bandmates — with Sky Larkin’s Kartie Harkin providing additional color on keys, guitars, and percussion — dug into their back catalog, but also shone a light on their strong recent release, “No Cities to Love.” Eight of the album’s 10 tracks made the cut.
The best of these — brawny opener “Price Tag,” the spiky bounce of the title track, the righteous clatter of “Surface Envy” — stood shoulder to the shoulder with formidable older songs — “Light Rail Coyote,” “One Beat,” “Dig Me Out” — locating the tart candy center in the maelstrom.
While strong from the get-go, a brief flub at the beginning of one tune — “Janet and I are going to play one song and Corin is going to play another,” quipped Brownstein — seemed to lighten the mood. The musicians opened the throttle and began to play as much for each other and their own enjoyment as for the crowd, with Brownstein loosing windmills on her guitar.
The night reached an ecstatic zenith with “Sympathy.” From its “more cowbell” opening to gentle passages that give way to buzzy racket, a seemingly endless tension was built dramatically, and then resolved with a flourish.
A dynamic encore including a giddy “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” — complete with a reference to Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore changed to Kim Gordon — and closer “One More Hour,” which likely is what those who had waited for this reunion were wishing for.
Making the most of her generous 45-minute opening-set time, Lizzo warmed up the crowd with her exuberant hip-hop.