Concert Review

Riot Grrrl legends Bikini Kill thrill Leeds

Kathleen Hanna and the girls wow a sold out O2 Leeds Academy 13/06/24

All words and photographs by Andi Callen. All rights reserved.

The last time I saw Bikini Kill, actually the only I time I’ve ever seen them before tonight, was also in Leeds but at a much much smaller venue. That night in 1993, at the fabled Duchess of York on Vicar Street, sadly now a Hugo Boss store, 300 or so of us packed the venue, with support from Bullyrag and Huggy Bear. Then I had hair, not much granted and a 30 inch waist. Now 3 decades later I’ve long since waved goodbye to both but my love of Kathleen Hanna has not dissipated. Tonight’s crowd is impossibly young, with scores of teenage and 20 something girls, interspersed with a few of us who were probably also at The Duchess that night. There are definitely some cool parents out tonight, bringing their daughters to the punk rock slaughter. It’s noticeable how few young males are in attendance.

2 years after the original tour was cancelled, this is the second time Ms Hanna has graced this island with her presence in a year, having brought Le Tigre over for a few dates in 2023. That night at the Albert Hall in Manchester was an evening of pure agit-power pop, choreographed and slick with matching visuals. Tonight is a whole different ballgame. Even playing a set of 25 songs, the whole show is done and dusted in little more than an hour. Truly punk rock.

Kathleen is resplendent in a bright pink and sparkly gold quasi-tutu and flat black pumps. Tonight she has come to dance! There is definitely an air of excitement amongst the expectant crowd, you can almost smell the teen spirit!

Sadly it seems that little has changed, as Hanna’s lyrics still have currency today. Bikini Kill haven’t had to write any new material for nearly 30 years, sexism, misogyny, sexual assault and trans/homophobia still haunt the music business and wider environs. Perhaps part of that problem lies within the absence tonight, of those who need that education.

With original guitarist Billy Karren not involved since the 2019 reunion, guitar and occasional bass duties are now delivered by Sara Landeau, who also plays with Hanna and Kathi Wilcox in The Julie Ruin. This probably explains why the band are so tight, delivering a succinct and powerful set.

They plough through the set at breakneck pace, slowing down slightly as the curves approach, pausing for pit stops, Hanna and drummer Tobi Vail switching roles effortlessly on the 5 songs that Vail vacates the drum stool for, with Wilcox handing tub thumping duties, Hanna content to pound bass in the shadows. Then it’s down the back straight at 200mph. Hanna pauses briefly to explain how the “girls to the front” cries back in the day were misunderstood and helped fuel the misogyny towards the scene. However, its an echo chamber as again she’s preaching to the converted.

It’s so great to hear these songs played live again and I wonder if this might be the last time I do.

There’s an anthemic end to the set with Suck My Left One, the everyday tale of incest before returning to play Rebel Girl and the whole downstairs explodes in a sea of hair swishing and fist pumping. Live it is so much more powerful than on record, even the Joan Jett produced single version.

The queue for merch after the show is insane and young women spill into the drizzly Yorkshire night, still clutching their newly purchased tees and tote bags. A memorable night that will stay in those young minds forever, and this old head too. Boys, you need to step up!

Set List

New Radio

This Is Not a Test

Don’t Need You

Jigsaw Youth

Feels Blind

I Hate Danger

In Accordance to Natural Law

Double Dare Ya


Resist Psychic Death

Tony Randall

For Only

Distinct Complicity

Demi Rep

Reject All American

Alien She

No Backrub


Hamster Baby

Tell Me So

I Like Fucking

Star Bellied Boy

Lil’ Red

Suck My Left One


Rebel Girl

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About The Author

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Andi Callen (Contributing Editor)

Original punk. Done everything there is to do in music, except run a record label! Addicted to noise and taking photographs of live music. Based on NW England, I've previously contributed to Louder Than War, MancAndi, The Punk Site, and Backseat Mafia, where I was Punk/Post Punk & Live Editor. Part of the original review team when Rocksound Magazine first started.
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