Shepherds Bush Empire
The Independent (7.12.02)
SCREECHING TO THE CONVERTED; LIVE SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES SHEPHERD'S BUSH EMPIRE LONDON
Siouxsie Sioux may be older, but she's lost none of her rage
There is no one like Siouxsie. I think this is a guarantee. Arrogant she may be, but what she's always made clear is that she won't play the marketing game; she despises the corporate music industry, and rightly so. Whatever you made of tonight, no one can vent spleen so uncompromisingly. Siouxsie has never done an acting course, she's never been a kids' TV presenter, and she'd never get signed now: she's far too scary, too lethally raw.
We know about Siouxsie. Part of the notorious Bromley Contingent who surrounded the vanguard of punk, her fame was kick-started when she played an impromptu set at the 100 Club's 1976 Punk Festival, delivering the "Lord's Prayer" in a way no one had quite heard it before (and variously described as "magnificent" and "unbearable"). Sid Vicious was in the band.
It's 25 years since punk. In the interim, the Banshees have turned out sacks of LPs, travelling through art-punk of the most incendiary kind, setting a template for what would become goth. Seven years ago they split; but now they're back. What they turned in this evening was a nihilistic, aggressive, sleazy romp, a walk down memory lane that reminded you how perverse things once were. The scene is set with an empty stage and the existential thudding of a Neu track, Krautrock of the most hypnotic kind. Then here they are. Steve Severin, white-blond, on bass. Budgie, hands bandaged. Knox Chandler on guitar. And Siouxsie, in pinstriped suit, sequinned eyes and hair like a black parakeet's. She's 45, looks 18; pacts with the devil have no doubt been made.
What do we get? The Berliner-cabaret howl of "Pure", from '78, Siouxsie's voice truly disaffected. The Teutonic, deconstructed smash of "Metal Postcard". The sound is deafening, and the balcony is rocking - feels as if it might come loose. By the end of "Christine" (the strawberry girl), Budgie is wheezing, almost crippled already, arms round his chest; Sioux has removed her jacket to reveal a glittering bra top, and looks like a demonic mix of Anita Dobson, Betty Boop and the Queen of Sheba. As "Cities in Dust" begins to take the building apart, she drags at a bouncer as he tries to restrain the stage-divers, and when he won't listen, knocks him to the ground with a roar of "Get DOWN!" When "Voodoo Dolly" gathers its pounding, erotic beat, she's writhing on her knees and rolling her eyes like Blade Runner's dysfunctional pleasure unit Pris.
Did it work? For my money, it was too heavy, too unsubtle, but this was a set for themselves, and Siouxsie, in her primal bellow, clearly has things to exorcise. It's the insurrection she stands for that counts. They could've done the crowd-pleasers. They preferred not to. What they did was encore with "Peek-A-Boo", complete with accordions and opening act the Ex-Girls, three eccentric Japanese divas dressed as frogs. In context, it didn't seem that odd.
Contributed by Jerry Burch.