Classic Rock (Christmas '04)

Playback - Reviews

Dream on

Two shows in one week for the iconic 'anti-Blondie' - one a lo-fi hits set, and one with 18-piece orchestra . Hark at her!

Siouxsie Sioux
100 Club, London

ALMOST EXACTLY 28 YEARS BEFORE THIS very rainy night in London's West End, the 100 Club gave birth to something horrible and glamorous. The so-called Bromley contingent, tired of being mere scenesters, colourful clowns basking in the reflected glow of the Sex Pistols, decided to do something themselves. 28 years ago, the then plain young Suzie took to the stage along with soon-to-be Adam And The Ants songwriter Marco Pirroni on guitar, Steve Havoc on bass, and one Sidney Vicious on drums. Over a minimal thud and squalls of feedback, the soon-to-be Siouxsie chanted the Lord's Prayer and screeched lines from Twist And Shout' and 'Knocking on Heaven's Door'. After 20 minutes, they slouched offstage, and goth had been born.

Now only Siouxsie remains from the original line-up (Steve Severin, nee Havoc, appears to be on gardening leave); others in her band tonight include her long-time drummer and beau Budgie, ex-Psychedelic Fur Knox Chandler, and Leonard Eto, Japanese percussionist and Creatures (Siouxsie's side project) collaborator.

Strolling on stage an hour late, she looks like an explosion in a fancy-dress factory: her head is adorned with red and black feathers, like a flapper girl on her way to Hades; whatever age she is now (she was already in her 20s the first time she played here), a dress with a vertiginously plunging neckline reveals the kind of physique that a teenager would be proud of; the outfit is set off by swooping triangles of silk hanging from her cuffs.

A heavily percussive sound underpins a set divided between classic Banshees ('Christine','Happy House') and relatively recent Creatures material ('Godzilla', 'Second Floor'). Siouxsie claims to be celebrating punk, so there will be no "fucking encores"; at the end she flounces offstage like a slightly tipsy cyborg geisha girl.

An abandoned set list reveals that it is the 100 Club's strict curfew that has prevented us from hearing 'Cities In Dust' and 'Spellbound'. But for an hour and 20 minutes in this small club we've been in the very close presence ("I can touch you...It's disgusting!" she is moved to remark) of a singular talent that borders on genius. You're left wondering why so few younger singers have the ice-cool poise, glamour and magnetic presence that this woman has in spades. Fabulous.

John Doran

Siouxsie' s Dream Show
Royal Festival Hall, London

WHILE HORDES OF PUNK PIONEERS expectorated a common 'change or die' gospel at every dictaphone thrust their way in 76 (and my god there were a few), it was only a matter of months before the majority metamorphosed into petulant Stones clones cranking out tired Who riffs, and who got very picky indeed about after- show hors d'oeuvre requirements. But thankfully Siouxsie Sioux - prior to her ludicrously well- documented Pistols epiphany - worshipped at the church of Dame David, and consequently Bowie's 1970s penchant for chameleon-like experimentation, exploratory innovation and sartorial spectacle rubbed off.

More than any other first-generation punk icon, Siouxsie sowed the seeds of change with a pared- down, Euro-goth minimalism that prepared the way for Joy Division et al. But, over a quarter of a century later, the spectre of cloying nostalgia threatens to hobble Siouxsie's characteristic forward momentum like never before.

We're told that she's playing with an orchestra and a Japanese master percussionist; yet we still turn up expecting the Banshees' greatest hits, augmented with heroic strings and the merest suggestion of an oriental backbeat. And when we don't get wall-to wall early-80s crowd-pleasers - other than a token half-dozen (the set list closely resembles the 100 Club one, although we do get to hear the excised 'Cities In Dust' and 'Spellbound') - we mumble into our bondage flaps about 'missed opportunities' and 'self-indulgence'. But Siouxsie Sioux, looking as supernaturally beautiful as ever, ultimately prevails. The 18-piece orchestra are perpetually smothered in an unrelenting fusillade of kimono-flapping Creatures percussion, but with such a commanding presence at centre stage, frankly, who cares?

Siouxsie, like Bowie, transcends the nit-picking criticism of rose-tinting, stasis-hugging, image-cloning nostalgists. After all, it's her Dream Show; we're just the insignificant, 'disgusting' bed bugs that she deigns to call 'audience', gawd bless her.

Ian Fortnam

Contributed by Bonnie Bryant.

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