Rainbow Girls, and Feral Mouth at Norwich Arts Centre, 10 September 2015
This was an event it was difficult to contain the excitement and anticipation for as the date drew closer for the return of Rainbow Girls to Norwich, a city they call their English home and a place in their heart every bit as special as the Rainbow Girls are to Norwich’s heart.
Once the day arrived I headed early to the NAC and was delighted to catch up with Erinn and Caitlin before the gig, and Vanessa and Savannah too a bit later on. To make things extra special it was also Miss Vanessa’s birthday. They brought with them some welcome Californian sunshine and a lot of colour.
The gig was a double-header with an hour long set from a five-piece Feral Mouth who really appeared to be back on form with the second half of the set especially strong, ironically after a very funny line from Jape concerning band practices! I loved the way they opened the set, without a word just a progressively louder Thump-thump-thump from Pedz’ drumkit before the band all joined in. They mixed up the set with some slower numbers to vary the tempo and the deep warmth from the bass and cello – an aspect of the band I love – they sounded strong and full. It was good to see them back at the Arts Centre, they don’t seem to have played too much in Norwich of late but I think they enjoyed themselves, it looked that way and the crowd were certainly having a blast. Towards the end of the set they threw in a couple of Townes covers (an artist with a huge influence on many Norwich artists) Nothin’, and finishing with a storming White Freight Liner.
The lovely Rainbow Girls too kicked off their set letting the music do the talking in fine style with an atmospheric “Stars” before of course reacquainting with the Norwich audience. There were plenty of friends and familiar faces in the audience but a lot of new ones too, during each song more and more people were dancing and moving closer … drawn in by the infectious music. I have adored this band since I first chanced upon them when The Vagaband brought them up here from Maverick and it’s been fascinating to observe how they have developed as a band and how their sound has changed. Since last year they have lost (amicably) Cheyenne but rather than try and replace her, which would be no easy task, they not added anyone to the line up and adapted which of course means a new sound too. The sound hinted at on the likes of “Naked” on last year’s tour are more to the fore now, being rockier and more electric. A superb West Coast 60s/70s garage pop sound at times, a few funky numbers and always those delicious harmonies delivered in fine style. I love their older sets but I’m finding the new material very, very exciting too. Everything they do they do with a sense of fun but they are full of attitude too with some strong messages in the songs. Don’t cross these girls, and especially not in a sexist way as the subject of She-Bop Nation discovered to his cost. Some of the songs from the second album are still evolving in a live setting and some are becoming real standout moments, such as No Girls Allowed, and She-Bop Nation. These girls are strong and self-empowered, living the dream but living in the moment, free spirits always ready for the next adventure.
We were treated to some stunning new tracks, I heard “It’s Alright”, and “Can We Keep This Love Alive” on the live stream of their first date of the tour at The Convent and was really impressed with them as I was with all the new ones, the band are heading in an exciting direction with a strong cohesive sound and unique identity. Something is growing with this band, the friendship bonds and connections within the band both as friends and musicians makes them a tight unit willing to experiment and also be playful. They get better and better. A musician friend I bumped into afterwards said he had waited 40 years for a band like this, this band, to come along.
It was a shame that The Vagaband crowd couldn’t be here to join in the fun but they were having fun of their own at Bestival but were here in spirit and Erinn relayed the story of their meeting at Maverick. A cameo from Ali and Kirsty hula-hooping down the front were the only things missing but everyone was having a fantastic time anyway with seemingly the whole place dancing. I spoke to a number of people seeing the Rainbow Girls for the first time – the word of mouth thing about this band is very strong – and they unanimously loved it. They spread such a positive vibe and have a special energy. It’s one of the many things I love about these supremely talented musicians and wonderful people, they just leave me feeling so good … I have felt this on every occasion I have seen them.
For two hours or so they rocked the auditorium and joked between songs before a weird end of set encore moment where a guitar strap spectacularly failed and a mic and guitar both noisily fell whilst beer and water also got spilled but undeterred they finished with a glorious cover of Don’t Let Me Down (the moment when the guitar strap let them down), which fits in very well as there is sometimes something Beatles-esque about their melodies. It wasn’t finished here though, the music was simply taken to the bar where they played a few numbers with Jape, Pedz, and John from the Ferals, and of course the audience joining in with Proud Mary. A lovely way to end the night which nobody wanted to end. In fact it didn’t … a bit later on the girls sang a birthday song to Vanessa in, where else but The Ten Bells.
I love this band so much, more so each time I see them. They are unique and brilliant. See them if you get the chance, certainly buy their albums – both of which are packed full of great songs expertly played … and full of heart and soul. They are so alive. On a Thursday night when there were at least seven other significant gigs taking place, everybody here was smiling and enthusing after this gig … this is the Rainbow Girls effect. It always makes me want to experience the whole thing all over again immediately. As always, the came, they played, they won new fans and admirers, and also made new friends.
Many thanks to Rainbow Girls, Feral Mouth, Blue House Music, and Norwich Arts Centre.
words and photos (c) richard shashamane 2015