By David Chiu
The last time the British punk group The Raincoats played in New York was 13 years ago. But Friday’s masterful performance at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn made the long gap between appearances seem like hardly a factor- they rocked harder than any other young emerging band I’ve seen.
Friday was the last date of the Raincoats U.S. tour. Fronted by founding guitarist Ana Da Silva and bassist Gina Birch, this touring lineup included violinist Anne Wood and drummer Vice Cooler. The tour marks the 30th anniversary of the band’s self-titled classic debut and Birch is making a documentary about the band, currently in production. (For more on that read my Spinner story.)
The Raincoats started out as one of the first female British punk bands along with The Slits in the mid-‘70s. Their sound reflected the DIY aesthetic of that scene, though it was offset by their use of violin. The Raincoats broke up in the mid-‘80s but they became an influence especially on Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, whose intervention led to the Raincoats’ reunion in the early ‘90s.
The set list on Friday drew from the band’s four albums, kicking off with “No Side to Fall In” and followed by such songs as “You’re a Million,” “Shouting Out Loud,” “Don’t Be Mean,” “No One’s Little Girl” and “The Void.” The performances were enthusiastic as Da Silva and Birch traded off lead vocals on songs. Wood’s violin provided a cool counterpoint to the rest of the band’s rock playing, and Cooler’s drumming showed a lot of brawn. One highlight of the show was when former Slits guitarist Viv Albertine appeared on stage (she earlier opened for the band) and joined in for two numbers, including a cover of the Kinks’ “Lola.” Later, the encore featured “In Love” and “Fairytale in the Supermarket.” It isn’t surprising that the audience’s adulation for this band was felt throughout the entire evening. The fact that the Raincoats doesn’t often perform made this show special and poignant, and hopefully we won’t have to wait another 13 years to see them again.