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The Raincoats & Viv Albertine played Knitting Factory

by Martin Longley
Friday’s gig‘s sold out, although in the new Knitting Factory this still means that we’re not feeling claustrophobic. Still room to move. It’s like a mini-history of London punk, with former Slits singer/guitarist Viv Albertine playing a completely solo opening set that feels like it’s half monologue as she recalls the days of platonically sharing a bed with Sid Vicious and getting her one-time heroin fix from Johnny Thunders. Mother sits you on her knee, to tell you tales of the old days, but few bedtime stories tend to inhabit such a nihilistic world. The rules of punk are explained, and Albertine’s anecdotes come across as a mixture of naîve wonderment and epic sleaze: there’s something very strange about this legend-making material becoming a thing of thirty-plus year-old history. Sadly, Albertine’s tinny-guitared songs are quite basic and uninspiring, but the massive Slits legacy is indeed a difficult songbook to match.

Albertine fares much better later, guesting with The Raincoats to play “Adventures Close To Home”, which was originally a Slits ditty. This is the climax of a short US tour, coinciding with the reissue of the band’s ultra-classic 1979 debut album. Predictably, it’s these songs that provide the highlights, played in an authentically raw fashion, as if they were scrawled out only a few days previously. The face-painted Raincoats emanate sheer inclusive bonhomie, ebulliently bouncing and bounding. Gina Birch and Ana Da Silva swap vocals and guitars, whilst Anne Wood jumps around gleefully as she bows with a fierce attack to her sawtooth violin riffing.

Vice Cooler’s drumming is almost too professionally session-istic, but we can’t really argue with the added thunder-power he provides. There’s “No One’s Little Girl”, with its eeeek-ing violin/vocal harmonies, and the minor fluff of “Babydog” from their fleeting 1996 revival. The true classics, though, are “No Side To Fall In”, “Fairytale In The Supermarket”, “No Looking” and “Lola”, all delivered as a multi-vocalled rabble. The Raincoats remain completely committed, still in touch with their original ramshackle energy-forces.

Check out a video from Viv’s set, below…

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