The Slits | Pop review

The Masque, Liverpool

Ari Up bounds on and lifts up her rah-rah skirt to give the front row an extarodinarily intimate view of her white knickers with a cherry pattern. "I'm just a Typical Girl," quips the 47-year old.

But the all-girl feminist/Riot Grrrl icons and teen punk-reggae pioneers never were typical. Cut, released in 1979, featured the Slits naked except for strategically placed mud and loincloths. Their dub bass and angular guitar collisions still sound incredible, Up's dreadlocks writhing like Medusa's snakes as she sings in German-Jamaican patois.

Up is backed by original bassist Tessa Pollitt and three very young grrrls, however they become a quartet when teenage keyboard player Hollie Cook (daughter of Sex Pistol Paul) rushes off the stage. "Oh my God," shrieks Up. "Hollie's taking a shit!"

It transpires that Cook is actually vomiting, a situation Up rescues by inviting audience assistance. "Have you ever been to prison?" she asks the woman who helps sing Newtown. After the trademark radical reinvention of Marvin Gaye's I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Up pours water over her skirt on the grounds that she has to cool down her "poom-poom".

But however wild her antics, you never lose the sense that this unique and powerful woman is in control: carefully selecting crowd members for non-drunkenness, and deftly swerving when one of them tries to kiss her. Chaotically amazing songs like Love und Romance carry powerful messages about domestic violence and female stereotyping before a triumphant Typical Girls sees the crowd rush to invade the stage.

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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