The best American rock band have released their first live album.Sub Pop, 2017
7.7 / 10
That it has taken this long for Sleater-Kinney to release a live album speaks of their odd trajectory. They’ve always been great live, no doubting that, but they weren’t a band with any deal of mainstream recognition until recently, likely owing more to Portlandia than their own accomplishments. The time when a Sleater-Kinney live album makes business sense has come, and the results are fine, arguably great, but not spectacular.
Sleater-Kinney write, for the most part, tight songs that don’t offer much wiggle room for improvisation. Every drum hit and guitar strum is meticulously arranged, and the spectacle here is not how different they sound from their studio albums but how close to flawless they play this material in a live environment. That’s thrilling to witness live, but the effect is a bit muted when played through a stereo system at home. The big difference between the studio versions of these songs and what you get in Live in Paris is applause and cheers. The song selection has issues as well, leaning heavy on the band’s last two albums at the cost of some of the better cuts of the backlog. I’d have been plenty happy if “Surface Envy”, “Entertain”, and “Modern Girl” had been left off the set list in favor of “One More Hour”, “You’re No Rock’n’Roll Fun”, and “Far Away”.
If I sound down on this, it is because I was hoping for a bit more than what is here. What’s here, though, is still worth experiencing if you’ve any doubt of Sleater-Kinney’s chops. Janet Weiss, in particular, makes an enthusiastic case for being the best drummer alive. Sleater-Kinney are a great band that make great music, and Live in Paris is a great exhibition of their talents. I was just hoping for something a little better than this.