Merci pour la musique! Feminist rock trio Sleater-Kinney released their first live album, “Live in Paris,” on Friday, January 27th, two years after their decade-long hiatus breaker “No Cities to Love” (2015).
Recorded in Paris at La Cigale, the album’s 13 songs capture 48 minutes of their 2015 tour across the world, featuring live tracks from their most recent album as well as some of their deeper cuts that help longtime fans relive the excitement of the band’s more active days. A milestone for the group, it helps move Sleater-Kinney closer to classic rock band status.
Sleater-Kinney was formed in 1994 and was relatively active until about 2006, when the members disbanded to focus on personal projects. The trio consists of drummer Janet Weiss and vocalists and guitarists Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker. All three women have been involved with the riot grrrl music scene since the early 1990s, with Brownstein playing with band Excuse 17 for two years, Weiss drumming for music group Quasi, and Tucker singing in Heavens to Betsy until that group split in the mid-’90s.
While Weiss is not Sleater-Kinney’s original drummer, she is the most recent and longest active performer in that role. Their momentous return with “No Cities to Love” proved the band still had a following and a presence in rock music, and “Live in Paris” captures a slice of that raucous energy they brought to their incredibly successful touring performances.
While there is nothing new on the album, “Live in Paris” is a well-produced selection of the highlights from all of the group’s past studio albums, excluding their 1995 self-named debut album and “All Hands on the Bad One” (2000). The opener, “Price Tag,” and following track “Oh!” immediately demonstrate the explosive liveliness of the trio, who have only gotten stronger as time has gone on.
Tucker’s voice stands out for its biting sharpness as she wails into the microphone and plays guitar along with Brownstein; they find a vibrant synergy as Weiss pounds the drums with a ferocity that’s palpable on the live album. The trio’s feminist attitude and lyrics gain new resonance when presented in the current world climate. From “Price Tag,” the lines, “We never really checked the price tag/When the cost comes in/It’s gonna be high,” take on a darker resonance in 2017, but also reinforce the need for women to raise their voices to make an impact, just like the band hopes to.
While some of their older songs, like “Start Together,” don’t have the same energy as the tracks off their newer studio albums, the whole thing is a treatment of the diverse discography of Sleater-Kinney that reminds listeners why they love the trio in the first place. Brownstein’s well-rounded vocals in “Modern Girl” bring the album to a close with a fresh take on one of their older songs, and it’s evident in the quality of her voice that she’s become a stronger singer since their hiatus, as have the other members of the band. “Live in Paris” showcases the evolution of the performers with a renewed sense of purpose that looks hopeful for the state of future group projects.
While live albums usually aren’t looked on with the same favor as more polished studio albums, “Live in Paris” crystallizes the sense of victorious strength Sleater-Kinney brought to their tour following “No Cities to Love.” It is very well-produced and enjoyable, and the captured crowd reactions and calls for encore add to the experience of their first live album. If anything, a milestone like this deserved to have more tracks to push the runtime to at least an hour, but the selection they chose to highlight covers a variety of the writing and musical talents of the performers.
While “Live in Paris” isn’t exactly a perfect introduction for newcomers and doesn’t provide any new tracks for longtime devotees of the band, it finds its sweet spot for those who want to feel a genuine Sleater-Kinney experience, as well as use this as a jumping point to revisit old studio albums. Rock music fans should definitely “Turn it On” and ignite “A New Wave” of Sleater-Kinney listeners.