Live Review: Le Tigre, Shamir, Philadelphia, PA, May 27, 2023

More than 18 long years since Le Tigre last played Philly (and just seven weeks after Kathleen Hanna came through with Bikini Kill), the trio kicked off its first tour since the Bush administration at Union Transfer with the same powerful cocktail of feminist fury and fun, setting their politicized rhymes—helpfully projected in full on the backdrop for maximum sing-along/shout-along participation—to a beat no one could resist.

And if it seemed, on a personal level, like we last heard from Le Tigre a lifetime ago (full disclosure: I was one of the Sugar Town DJs at one of their Trocadero shows back in the day, but no photos, posters or other promo exists to remind me which one), their lyrics remain all too timely.

As Hanna noted, “FYR” required just a minor rephrasing to continue accurately calling out voter suppression in blue zip codes, but lines about hate crimes, mifepristone and reparations for slavery still land with full force. So hearing the sold-out room yell out, in one voice, “Feminists, we’re calling you/Please report to the front desk” served as a shot of adrenaline. While it shouldn’t take getting the band back together to mobilize this all-ages, all-genders (yet overwhelmingly white) crowd, dang, it felt good.

Feeling good was not merely a byproduct but the raison d’être of the 63-minute, 18-song set. (This counts the AI-assisted “Get Off The Internet,” which allowed the group to change from brightly colored costumes into sophisticated black-and-white ensembles.) JD Samson’s lead on “Viz” was a neon sign celebrating queer visibility, Johanna Fateman’s star turn on “Mediocrity Rules” freed all the overachievers and perfectionists to punch the air, in or out of tempo, and Hanna’s jump-rope act during “Deceptacon” defiantly demonstrated an embrace of aging and fully inhabiting the one body you have.

There’s really nothing comparable to the debate of “What’s Yr Take On Cassavetes” or the schoolyard singsong paean to the pioneers and comrades of “Hot Topic,” so experiencing their resurrection after Le Tigre’s long hiatus was nothing short of miraculous.

Unsurprisingly, the moments of supreme joy came from watching the band members interact—nods of encouragement during a particularly sweet guitar riff, grins exchanged at a missed cue or malfunctioning megaphone, the near synchronization of dance moves—and hearing them rock out as one indomitable unit on bangers like “My My Metrocard” and “TKO” or girl-gang pep talk “Keep On Livin’.”

Whether this reunion sticks or we have to wait another three presidencies for Le Tigre to come around again, the radical pleasure that radiated through the room was strong stuff, and it’d be a waste to keep it bottled up.

Shamir opened with his own inimitable blend of falsetto-fronted grunge, soul, punk, country and ‘90s-inspired noise. Highlights included an honest-to-goodness spiritual heir to Prince (“Cisgender,” from Shamir’s most recent release, Heterosexuality) and a pair of sweet tunes from his forthcoming Kill Rock Stars debut (“Our Song” and “Oversized Sweater”).

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich