Live Review: Pussy Riot


The Art School, 22/11

“¡No pasarán!” is the shout from the stage, and the crowd goes mental – they’re not just here to dance to some bangers, they’re here to get revolutionary. It’s the last of Russian radical feminist group Pussy Riot’s four date UK tour, and the legendary activists are electric.

Before Pussy Riot take to the stage, everyone packed into the Art School have been treated to songs from Glaswegian band Bdy_Prts. The electro-pop duo have a beautifully ethereal Florence Welsh-esque vibe, captivating the crowd with stunning harmonies. After the relatively upbeat opener from them, it’s time to get punk.

‘Riot Days’ sees Maria Alyokhina – one of the three Pussy Riot members notoriously imprisoned in 2012 along with Nadezhda Tolokonnikov and Yekaterina Samutsevich – present her viewpoint of the now internationally infamous events. Also performing are two other Pussy Riot members, Olga and Nastya, along with Max from pop outfit AWOTT and Kyril Masheka, Maria’s stage partner. The project incorporates Pussy Riot’s vibrant sound with revolutionary messages, re-enactments and surreptitiously filmed footage from the time.

The performance traces the story of Maria’s arrest and imprisonment, from the planning of the protest in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, through their flight from the authorities, the trial broadcast around the world, the brutality of penal work camps and finally liberation. In the distinctive Pussy Riot style, no holds are barred. Masheka takes on the roles of jailors and policeman, before drenching the crowd from water bottles and body-popping manically. The music itself is great – atmospheric and pulsating – but almost takes a backseat to the story’s narrative.

And the crowd loves it. With every insult fired at Vladimir Putin, every call to revolution and every shout of freedom, they lose their shit. When Maria recreates the 35 second long “punk prayer” which cost her two years of her life, they quieten, overwhelmed by the emotion. ‘Riot Days’ is moving and empowering, but most of all inspiring. It’s a call to activism, and, as Maria says, “anyone can be Pussy Riot”.

[Louise Wylie – @womanpendulum]

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