New York welcomes its heroes home with a ticker tape parade; Portland does it with a Friday night slot at Crystal Ballroom in front of a jubilant crowd. “We are very happy to be home in Portland,” Sleater-Kinney singer and guitarist Carrie Brownstein announced from the stage. “This has been a very long tour and we’ve been looking forward to this night for a long time.” The feeling was decidedly mutual.

The record they were touring to support, Little Rope, is hardly the best-of collection one might expect from a pair of riot grrrl icons whose self-titled debut dropped nearly 30 years ago. Little Rope is wholly new and full of raw emotion, charmingly complicated guitar riffs, and their special brand of vibrato-filled rock harmonies. It's a solid fist-in-the-sky reminder of why the band has such incredible longevity.

However, while Sleater-Kinney were touring a new album, they played for those who had loved their long career, leading fans through a deep dive into their discography. The result was something akin to a Sleater-Kinney twist on the Eras tour, giving their hometown fans a show for the ages.

The crowd understandably went wild when Brownstein and singer-guitarist Corin Tucker took the stage alongside their touring band of Angie Boylan on drums, Toko Yasuda on keys, and Kristina Lieberson taking over bass and synths. The fog machine churned and the stage lights flashed from white to red, shining down from above, as the show opened the same way the album does—with the dirge-lite introductory notes of “Hell” grinding over the appreciative crowd. Little Rope’s second track, the frenetic “Needlessly Wild” swiftly followed, and as the songs kicked up in pace, so did the crowd, getting Crystal Ballroom’s bouncy floor jouncing. 

Carie Brownstein (left) and Corin Tucker (right) onstage at the Crystal Ballroom. PHOTO BY MELISSA LOCKER

From there, Brownstein and Tucker, pros that they are, rolled through the songlist at a steady clip, giving fans a tour of their musical archives with tracks culled from their decades-deep catalogue. Alongside songs from Little Rope, they tore through “The Center Won’t Hold” from the 2019 album of the same name, as well as “All Hands on the Bad One” the title track of their 2000 album, and “Oh!” from 2002’s One Beat. After blazing through the bleak “Jumpers,” Brownstein told the crowd: “I wrote the lyrics to that song during one of the two times that I moved away from Portland—that’s how sad I was.” 

As soon as the opening notes of “Modern Girl” from 2005’s The Woods started, Tucker instructed the crowd, “Sing along, Portland!” Sure enough, the audience transformed the Crystal into a campfire singalong, albeit one with color-changing light display and ear-blistering PA system.

Rapport between concertgoers and those onstage felt akin to a family affair—and it turned out it was one. Tucker informed the crowd: "One of the things about being a musician is feeling like you have separation between your family and your musical family and the people that you tour with, but the best thing about coming home is both my families are here—and both my kids are here tonight.” The band punctuated the poignant moment by launching into the guitar-heavy “What’s Mine is Yours.”

It was around then that Brownstein broke it to the crowd that they planned to play some extra songs, saying, "It is Friday, so I’m hoping you guys can stay up a little later.” One person audibly groaned, but everyone else seemed excited to keep the party going through a five-song encore, that included “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” before ending the night with “Entertain.”

Over the course of the evening, Sleater-Kinney clocked in some 26 songs and still got the audience out the door by 11 pm, proving that they truly know what the people want. It was the homecoming Sleater-Kinney deserved after a long tour and an even longer career. The only thing missing was the Goodyear Blimp and some ticker tape.