By Hannah Morrison
It was the first night of spring break, and most people had already vacated the CU campus. I was sitting in my room, contemplating what to do with my evening, when my friend texted me saying she had extra tickets to the Sleigh Bells show at the Gothic Theatre. I’d never heard the band before but decided to expand my horizons and head to Denver.
The opener was Tunde Olaniran, a vivid personality who for me was the highlight of the show. When I walked out onto the venue’s balcony, he was already on stage, wearing some kind of sheer shimmering shawl and flanked by two backup dancers. From the start, Olaniran’s vocals soared over an electronic landscape of beats and synths. His style was difficult to define, as he effortlessly switched between rapid-fire rapping and soulful crooning while incorporating elements of various genres. At times, African influences showed through in his backing tracks, and the overall performance was endlessly interesting to watch. In breaks between vocals, there were mesmerizing dance solos. The performance flowed from song to song and felt like a truly cohesive whole. Throughout his time on stage, Olaniran proved both his caliber as an artist and his ability to create a vivid spectacle for his audience. As a takeaway, I’d say he’s one to watch.
After a short intermission, it was time for Sleigh Bells. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the performance, having only the vague memory of liking one of their songs a few years ago to guide my expectations. Their set announced itself with a huge bang as a heavy electronic backdrop kicked into overdrive. Blinding strobe lights heralded the presence of bandmates Alexis Krauss and Derek E. Miller. At first, I thought of the set as an interesting new experience—I’d never really seen this kind of music live before—but the intensity of the performance soon became grating and headache-inducing. It was difficult to discern the talents of the duo on stage since their contributions to the sound were drowned out by the immense volume of their artificial backing track. Krauss was constantly leaping around the stage while singing and paused between songs only to call for the audience to dance along to the driving bass. I recognized one track out of their set, which I later figured out was “Comeback Kid” off of their 2012 release Reign of Terror. After the show, I took the time to listen to some of their recorded work, and came away realizing that live Sleigh Bells are not quite the same as they are on record.