The Raincoats In Rare Form for Chicago Debut

By Kim Bellware in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 22, 2011 9:20PM

Chicago had been waiting more than 30 years for a visit from '70s group The Raincoats. Monday night at the Double Door, the influential post-punkers proved to be well worth the wait.

After reaching a pinnacle, so many bands slide ungracefully in the other direction--and still re-group and tour in spite of that. Though we can't compare Monday's performance to any of The Raincoats' early live shows (the band's formation predates this writer by quite a bit), but it's not hard to believe that The Raincoats are actually an even better band today than they were in 1977.

The cathartic, unhinged energy the band was known for in their youth has matured into a bracing intensity that still strikes all sorts of emotional--and visceral--chords. The women, core members singer/guitarist Ana da Silva and singer/bassist Gina Birch, along with mid-'90s addition, violinist Anne Wood, are old enough to be grandmothers but their age revealed itself as an asset rather than a liability.

Hard charging as ever, it was almost orchestral how the band members riffed off each other and read for cues. On tracks like "No Side To Fall In," The Void" and "Shouting Out Loud," The Raincoats took the thrilling chaos of punk music without the side of amateurism. Da Silva expertly manipulated the fritzy, screeching notes each time she slid the capo down her guitar, while Wood notched her electric fiddling just right to create a sort of atonal harmony.

Vocally, da Silva and Birch created sparks with da Silva's lower, steady range and Birch's girlish yelp. When they weren't singing, The Raincoats were trading dry, British stage banter with the crowd and each other. For a band that's been lauded by Kurt Cobain and Johnny Rotten and has inspired scores of acts like Ponytail, Sonic Youth and The Breeders, their self-effacing attitude was charming.

They hinted that they weren't into the big encore spectacle, so they kept the crowd clapping for just a short time before reappearing for blazing versions of "Fairytale in the Supermarket" and our personal favorite, "In Love." The enthused crowd clearly wanted more, but after more than 30 years waiting for this show, everyone was more than happy with what they got.