Fringe Review: Pussy Riot Live

Billed as a night of protest, the line-up for this mega-gig could best be described as eclectic.

By

Presented by RCC Fringe

Reviewed 7 March 2019

Billed as a night of protest, the line-up for this mega-gig could best be described as eclectic. Russia’s most famous punk activists were the headliners, but they were preceded by anti-consumerist activists Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping, Melbourne rockers Cash Savage & The Last Drinks, synth punk Ecca Vandal and the incomparable Yothu Yindi.

While Reverend Billy’s role was mostly to keep the crowd entertained between acts, Cash Savage & The Last Drinks lit up the night early on with waves of crashing noise. Anchored by a shimmering violin and pulsing rhythm section, the band had more than a few nods to the Bad Seeds in a set that surged and ebbed as it built to an electrifying end with a furious protest against “rich white men” in Collapse.

Ecca Vandal’s set melded electronic and punk in the vein of Skunk Anansie but lacked any sense of dynamism, pummelling the crowd with noise from beginning to end.

In contrast, Yothu Yindi were the undoubted highlight, raising the energy levels considerably as dancers prowled the stage in front of the musicians. The most uplifting music of the night was also a potent protest as they sang “Terra Nullius is dead and gone” on Mabo and united with performers from West Papua to demand recognition for the indigenous community there. Though there is still a huge amount of work required to achieve parity in this country, advocates like Yothu Yindi make it seem achievable, and many of the other musicians clearly agreed. By the time they finished with Treaty, they had been joined onstage by Ecca Vandal, the Stop Shopping Choir, Pussy Riot and Zaachariaha Fielding from Electric Fields, among others. It made for a crowded stage, but both performers and audience were united in an ecstatic celebration that provided a sense of unity and a reminder of the power of protest, and the need for more.

If the night had ended there, it would have been a huge success. Unfortunately it didn’t. The original Fringe listing had the concert finishing at 10. A revised setlist from the RCC put Pussy Riot onstage at 10:30. By 11:15 they still hadn’t taken the stage and many in the audience had protested with their feet and left. They were the lucky ones, as the headliners started with an indulgent performance that involved a member of Pussy Riot getting changed under a sheet, a poem called Daddy Wombat, a saxophone and a singing ninja. It quickly became evident that Pussy Riot are more of an idea than a band, and this was a far cry from their Riot Days show. Recruiting three crack Adelaide musicians to provide backing for rest of the set was a good idea, but the songs seemed half-formed at best. Which is a shame, because they let down the performers who preceded them.

Reviewed by Alexis Buxton-Collins

Hugely disappointing

Rating out of 5: 1 (Pussy Riot)/ 4(everyone else)

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