The first ever live album from alt-rock / punk / riot grrl legends Sleater-Kinney (Carrie Brownstein – guitars and vocals, Corin Tucker – guitars and vocals, Janet Weist – drums and vocals) is a doozy. Live in Paris captures the band on their 2016 tour supporting the No Cities to Love album (their first in over a decade), and the only show of the tour where they performed a second encore.
Opening with the fiercely funky “Price Tag,” the band is already firing on all cylinders within the first thirty seconds. Tucker is growling and spitting lyrics like a rivet gun throughout it. “Oh!”, one of their biggest hits, keeps up the pace and you can envision the whole Parisian crowd bouncing throughout it. The crunch of “What’s Mine Is Yours” is only outmatched by Tucker’s battle cry voice. It also has a cool breakdown that flirts with psychedelia before Weis hammers out a tremendous fill that takes them back to angry rock.
“A New Wave” is chock-full of fuzz and bent notes as Brownstein and Tucker sing great double vocals on the chorus. “Start Together” is one of Sleater-Kinney’s best songs about rocky relationships. Tucker’s vocals are always pleading on it, as is the guitar work. “No Cities to Love,” from the album of the same name, is a slick song about attachment and how many of us never truly connect with the place we live (“There are no cities to love. It’s not the cities, it’s the weather we love.”).
“Surface Envy” has Tucker crying out for a little help in a relationship (“We win, we lose. Only together do we break the rules.”) and Brownstein and Weis pound out a hard rhythm behind her. I would’ve flipped had I been in the crowd when they played “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone.” It’s a powerful song about a girl with an unrequited crush and one of my favorites by them. “Turn It On” is a song about what might happen if that crush returns the affection.
Weis cuts loose at the beginning of “Entertain,” proving yet again that she’s one of the best rock drummers around nowadays. It’s a scathing song about a lover who expects Brownstein to entertain her all the time, but she lets her lover know that “reality is the new excitement.” “Jumpers” is one of Sleater-Kinney’s great examples of dual vocals from Brownstein and Tucker. The encores are “Dig Me Out” (a scorching punk track) and “Modern Girl” (a simple, but slightly fuzzed ode to being okay despite being alone).
Live in Paris might be the closest I get to a Sleater-Kinney show in a while, and I’m happy they released it. Everything you’ve heard about a live Sleater-Kinney show is true. This album is proof.
Keep your mind open.
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