Photo: Jason Williamson

Sleater-Kinney: Live in Paris

Sleater-Kinney celebrates their 2015 reunion with a live album that captures the excitement and mood of their concerts without any hint of their decade-long hiatus.
Live in Paris
Sub Pop

After returning from a nearly decade-long hiatus with No Cities to Love in 2015, Sleater-Kinney embarked on an extensive and acclaimed tour, captured in this concert recorded in Paris. This live set was recorded on March 20, 2015, when the trio performed at the historic venue La Cigale. Live in Paris presents the band’s well-known stage presence completely, nailing an energy and intensity shared from the group to the crowd — and making up for lost time during the hiatus. This is a live album that relishes the reunion the band offered in 2015, fans will enjoy how well this captures Sleater-Kinney on stage, and casual listeners and anyone not aware of the band’s impact in the last two decades of pop music have the perfect introduction.

It opens with a screaming crowd and the jangling of guitar chords before drums and Corin Tucker’s vocals on “Price Tag” ease the audience into the reunited Sleater-Kinney’s concert. This opening is slow and deliberate, excitement and energy held back before unfolding explosively following the opening solo and vocals of “Oh!” Here Carrie Brownstein’s guitar licks and Janet Weiss’s drumming power-up the performance and Sleater-Kinney move through an exciting slew of new and older songs. Before diving into “What’s Mine Is Yours”, Tucker screams they “are so happy to be in Paris”, the first indication that the group was as genuinely excited to be back on stage as much as the cheering audience was to have them back in reunion. The decade-long hiatus comes through the album only once, in “What’s Mine Is Yours”, when the middle section slows with hesitant guitar and drum solos that seem to imply waiting.

Live in Paris pulls tracks from the band’s entire career, though the concert promoted No Cities to Love and the band’s return from hiatus, and its songs dominate the record from opener “Price Tag” through “A New Wave”, that album’s title track, and “Surface Envy”. If any track perfectly translates the mood and pace of the concert that night in Paris, it must be “Surface Envy”: the lyrics stream along in rapid succession, the music builds a rampage of sound that seems ready to collapse. The band then jump into “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” with the built-up energy before settling into lengthier songs on the second half. “Entertain” and “Jumpers” are from the trio’s 2005 album The Woods, which preceded their decade long hiatus, and fit here ready to make up for the hiatus and take in the excitement fans celebrated when the reunion was announced and the band returned with No Cities to Love. There’s apparent subdued desires with the songs on the second half, and Sleater-Kinney sound ready to emphasize and forge ahead with the ferocity many critics and fans celebrate.

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Reviews for No Cities to Love noted the album’s accessibility, and that same quality permeates Live in Paris. The overview of songs captured in barely 48 minutes opens the door for further exploration if you are not familiar with Sleater-Kinney’s acclaimed and praised career to date. Also, the band’s energy and excitement of performing and being in Paris dominates this record. Live albums often discard the moments between songs, and while it sounds that those were trimmed here, what remains acknowledges and offers gratitude to the audience and Paris. But as swift as they shout “merci, merci” they jump back into blistering solos and vocals. Fortunately, even with this frenetic pace and quickly moving onto the next song, the album never seems brief, and nowhere do the band seem ready to quit their show or leave the stage.

After penultimate track “Dig Me Out” and an onslaught of deserved cheers and applause, Brownstein (returns) to admit that the upcoming single-song encore is the band’s first on the tour, telling the audience they “are the best”. Then launching into “Modern Girl”, the song perfectly sums up the concert, closes the album, and entices you to push repeat and revel in the excitement again and again. Live in Paris is a live album that represents its role promoting a reunion album, but asks for repeat listens that push beyond that limited impact. This might only attract fans, but nowhere does it sound as though that was the intent behind the recording or this release.

RATING 8 / 10