Pussy Riot duo in NYC to promote Amnesty International concert @ Barclays Center

At Barclays Center, the sentiment was more bittersweet and tangible than anyone might have realized.

“Live Aid co-organizer Bob Geldof also added his input by addressing the dwindling crowd:  “This is supposed to be a concert to ensnare the youth of America but I don’t see anyone under the age of 60,” he complained, before dedicating his short set to the memory of Pete Seeger.”

With more Marxists in New York than in Moscow, Pussy Riot should expect a chilly reception from New Yorkers.

Two members of the Russian  feminist punk collective who were jailed by their home country for ‘hooliganism,’ held a press conference at Amnesty International’s headquarters to promote yesterday’s event ‘Bringing Human Rights Home’ concert in Brooklyn.  The two members of the punk collective were joined by Madonna, The Flaming Lips, Lauryn Hill, and Cold War Kids, among others.

Members of the Pussy Riot collective and Madonna

Members of the Pussy Riot collective and Madonna

The two women were convicted of “hooliganism” in 2012 after staging a protest against President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow church.

The duo came to New York City with a political agenda: A brighter future for Russia which includes the overthrow of Vladimir Putin because “We don’t want a shirtless man on a horse leading us.” They also want to visit prisons in the United States.

They did better with satirist Stephen Colbert, but the interview was so bizarre that the answers given by the duo might have left viewers wondering about whether Russia will be better if led by the Pussy Riots.

Welcome to the United States. Have you been to an Olive Garden yet?” That’s how Stephen Colbert opened his interview with Pussy Riot on Tuesday night’s episode of The Colbert Report. Despite speaking through a translator, Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina  were laughing along as Colbert made jokes about being a personal friend of Vladimir Putin and rolling their eyes when he threatened to search them following the taping of the episode. ”We’ve had two years of practice hiding things from searches,” Nadya replied.

When Colbert asked the women why they were against Putin, someone “who’s just trying to preserve the peace and bring Russia to a brighter future,” Masha responded, ”We have different ideas about a brighter future. We don’t want a shirtless man on a horse leading us.” They also intend “to look at prisons in the United States, talk to human rights activists, and learn from their experience.” Following their release, the women have called for reform of the prison Russian system.

Nadya and Masha said they were released early from prison because “[Putin and other government officials] were fed up with us.” Asked if they believed it was a publicity stunt ahead of the Olympic Games, they replied, “We don’t think it was a successful stunt; we don’t think it improved the image of Russian. Maybe Putin made a mistake and should throw us back in jail.

As for why they came to America, Nadya and Masha said they intend “to look at prisons, talk to human rights activists, and learn from their experience.” Following their release, the women have called for reform of the prison Russian system. The duo did not say if they intend to visit the Guantanamo Base prison.

Lastly, Colbert asked about the origins of Pussy Riot and how one (such as himself) could become a member. “Even you” could be in Pussy Riot, they told him. “We could even come up with an honorary Pussy Riot tradition for youbut we’ll only talk to you about this after you call Putin.” Well, ask and you shall receive and by episode’s end, Colbert was sporting some bright new head wear: Colbert Pussy Riot

And if you’re wondering why they call themselves Pussy Riot and why they use the English translation, it’s because “we wanted to let English-speaking people enjoy themselves,” explained Nadya. (???)

Amnesty International Concert @ Barclays Center

Brooklyn’s Barclays Center has hosted everything from boxing matches to pop concerts, but until last night, the venue’s premises hadn’t been used as a recruitment station for the Revolutionary Communist Party. The unique occasion was Amnesty International’s Bring Human Rights Home Concert, the Jingle Ball of charitable giving, a show hyped in the States for its very special guest stars: two of the formerly jailed members of Pussy Riot.

The concert itself, however, didn’t launch with a ton of revolutionary energy. The first hour’s highlights only included Colbie Caillat’s performance of “Brighter Than the Sun” and the Fray’s extended take on — but of course — “How to Save a Life.”

After an introduction from once-jailed Iranian blogger Kianoosh Sanjari, Blondie finally made the concert feel like one, keeping the crowd on its feet even through their 2013 track “A Rose By Any Name.” Before “Call Me” ended the set, Debbie Harry announced the determined message of “One Way or Another” was “especially appropriate for this event.”

If Blondie managed to unite all the disparate fans in the arena, Cake could barely bring together the Cake fans in the building. Fortunately, their set was followed by the most anticipated portion of the night, when Madonna (black coat, Grammys cane, Comme des Fuckdown beanie) introduced recently freed Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, recalling how the Russian leg of her latest tour was threatened for encouraging of “gay behavior” before Nadya and Maria themselves addressed the crowd.

Speaking through a translator, the duo opened with the sort of truisms we had been hearing all night – “We have to remember that freedom is not a given,” for instance – before offering the sort of specific, goal-oriented call-to-action that had heretofore been missing, reading closing statements of trials for political prisoners currently awaiting sentencing. “This is our last chance to say something to them before they are locked up for five or six years,” they explained. And though many had hoped for a performance of some sort, what we received instead was undoubtedly more appropriate, a nod to Amnesty, a “thank you for the support” and an account of ongoing struggles back home. As another member of the collective had told Vice nearly two years ago, “We’ll never give a gig in a club or in any special musical space.”  Yeah…

The crowd’s chants of “Russia will be free” seemed like a perfect cap for the night, but instead marked only the halfway point of the show, and Imagine Dragons began to make their way toward the stage. If the Pussy Riot collective envision rock & roll as a way to disrupt and even change society, Imagine Dragons use it to slowly chip away at the world’s surplus of drum sticks. Lead singer Dan Reynolds snapped the first one midway through their opening song, and by the time they got to the end of “Radioactive,” four of the five band members — everyone but the bassist — was hitting some sort of percussion.

Next up, Lauryn Hill used her time onstage to play a single song suite, one that began with “Ready or Not” and concluded with some liberationist reggae, providing the only performance that seemed truly revolutionary.

Bob Geldof nearly spoke for longer than Cold War Kids had played, then continued to play three songs that left the arena emptier than it had been since that band’s opening set.

Tegan and Sara were short and sweet, giving those remaining the first refreshing dance songs that had been heard in hours, and the Flaming Lips closed with Wayne Coyne dressed in a tinsel cape, standing on a small tower of amps and asking if we realize that everyone we know someday will die. With Pussy Riot — who’ve bravely suffered at the mercy of the Russian legal system — in the building, the sentiment was more bittersweet and tangible than anyone might have realized.