Live: Sleigh Bells at Revolution in Fort Lauderdale

Sleigh Bells
With Liturgy and Jacuzzi Boys
Revolution Live, Fort Lauderdale
Saturday, February 11

Better than: Staying home to hit "refresh" on for the scoop on what drug killed Whitney Houston.

Sleigh Bells' Alexis Krauss is like a 14-year-old girl who went to bed, dreamed of being a rock star, and now doesn't want to wake up. 

The way she whips her hair and gambols joyously around the stage makes you wonder: Is that a microphone, or is she singing into her hairbrush?

Even her ensemble -- pink tank-top, cutoffs with lace leggings -- suggests a girl who raided her older sister's closet. It works, though, especially when you combine that high-pitched voice with Derek Miller's blistering riffs, a sound that gives this rock power couple some edge. Krauss is cast as the clean-cut popular girl and Miller, a Palm Beach County native, is the boy her parents warned her about. 

Saturday's show came 10 days before the release of Sleigh Bells' second album Reign of Terror, and so the set was mostly taken from the group's hit 2010 record Treats. This was certainly a crowd-pleasing choice, but the most encouraging sign for the band's future is how well the new songs blend with the old.

"Comeback Kid," the first single released from Reign of Terror, sounded sensational live. So did "Born to Lose," which was the second song performed. A ballad from the upcoming album was greeted with perplexity by the crowd, but that's to be expected. The song -- sorry, I don't have its name yet -- is proof that Sleigh Bells is starting to tinker with its formula.

Whatever momentum Sleigh Bells lost with the ballad was easily regained as they returned to the Treats material. During "Tell 'Em," a young guy in a black T-shirt hopped on stage to dance with Krauss. At the song's conclusion, she asked the audience, "You're going to fucking catch this guy, right?" Given those assurances, she threw the lad into their arms and he crowd-surfed his way to safety. Two more happy hooligans jumped on the stage before the daredevilry lost its novelty.

Although not for Krauss. Near the end of the set, she leapt into the crowd, singing part of "Crown on the Ground" while reclining on the palms of her fans. As for Miller, he stayed stageside. Earlier in the show, Krauss mentioned that her bandmate had cracked a rib, although she didn't explain how. (Wild guess: stage diving at one of the band's previous Florida stops?)

The show was captivating enough to help us forget about the Whitney Houston tragedy for an hour. Maybe watching a vocalist like Krauss, so obviously enjoying her music and grateful to the audience and truly in the moment, was the perfect therapy.

At the conclusion of the show, a clutch of audience members lingered near the door, drunkenly belting out Whitney Houston songs. A heart-rending gesture, although Whitney herself would probably prefer remember her version of the chorus from "I Will Always Love You." Not a song for amateurs.  

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: To no one's surprise, the Jacuzzi Boys did a phenomenal job warming up the crowd -- but that energy was gone during the roughly 45 minutes (or was it an hour?) that it took for Sleigh Bells to finally take the stage. This was annoying, but after Sleigh Bells' rousing performance, it's the only thing to complain about.

The crowd: Dominated by the female aged 17 - 27 demo, many of them wearing the shorts/leggings combo that Krauss sported. 

Overheard in the crowd: Chants for Liturgy to "leave the stage!" The black-metal band shredded their guitars for about 30 minutes, using the microphone only to snarl like a bengal tiger caught in a trap. Some rock critics think it's genius, others think it's pretentious. The Revolution crowd just wanted it to disappear.

Random Detail: Sleigh Bells shows are notoriously high in volume, and so your correspondent used a decibel meter app to see if the group really was appreciably louder than most bands. Jacuzzi Boys came in at about 90 decibels. And Sleigh Bells peaked at around 105, roughly the same as operating a chainsaw. Experts advise people that hearing damage can occur with exposure to that noise level for longer than an hour -- the Sleigh Bells show was just a hair under an hour. Phew!

"True Shred"
"Born to Lose"
"Riot Rhythm"
"A/B Machines"
"End of the Line"
"Comeback Kid"
"Tell 'Em"
"Leader of the Pack"
"Straight As"
"Infinity Guitar"

"Rill Rill"
"Crown on the Ground"

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Thomas Francis