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Pussy Riot ‘Riot Days’
Manchester
Nov 2017
Live Review

In a stunning audio-visual experience, Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot incorporates video footage, live music and spoken word as a way to bring to life her Riot Days book – an account of the Pussy Riot revolution and eventual jail term that brought them worldwide notoriety in their home country, Russia, and beyond.

Riot Days, is an adaptation of her new book in 3D on stage theatricals that has the multimedia power of Crass vamped up for the 21st century with electronics replacing guitars in dark droning electronica that perfectly matches the mood and power of the story

Can it really be all those years since Louder Than War was the first Western media outlet to pick up on Pussy Riot? We heard about them and ran a few stories and clips of the art/protest collective and their actions before it all culminated in the performance piece in the main Moscow church and then the two-year prison sentences for Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and fellow performer Yekaterina Samutsevich for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.

Never really a band they were pranksters – situationists working from the purest of punk template where ideas and action counted for more than anything so it’s intriguing that in 2017 they have not only managed to tell their story but with a musical backdrop that stands up on its own even before you add the compelling and powerful narrative

At pains to point out that this unique event is more than just a gig but a theatrical experience it stands as both with the music being enveloping electro punk and percussion from Max from the music duo AWOTT (Asian Women on the Telephone)  with squelches of skronk jazz sax from Pussy Riot founder, Nastya, that really pulls you in while Maria delivers her commentary and the story of herself, her Pussy Riot partners, Russia and of course Putin himself who hovers over the whole piece. There are so many tangents in here that it’s not easy to list them all but there is a powerful feminist and humanist clarion call and also a situationist questioning that is a cry for freedom in an increasingly fucked up world.

Pussy Riot may be Russian and their story is set on the streets, prisons and media battle for hearts and minds in their mother country but there is plenty in here that can easily refer to the west as well. Maria is a charismatic performer, her fierce intelligence shines through as she delivers her lines perfectly with an intensity and directness as the electronics seethe and the rest of the band throw their physical shapes playing out various roles in the unfolding story. It may be in Russian but the smart move of placing a screen with the lyrics in English really pays off both for following the story and adding to the audio-visual power of the performance.

It’s like watching the best punk rock show of 2017 – if punk rock was actually in tune to modern sounds – there are no guitars here, no shouting, just powerful direct messages, dashes of humour, moments of seething emotional honesty and a simple plea for freedom in a one hour show that is one of the best live experiences out there.

Inventive, passionate, darkly funny in parts, twitching with energy and intelligent defiance and anger and yet full of compassion this is a moral tale for our times delivered with an intense brilliance.

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