The Guardian (7.12.02)

Pop: Siouxsie and the Banshees: Shepherds Bush Empire, London + + + - -

John Aizlewood

The inevitably imminent best of album notwithstanding, the reasons for Siouxsie and the Banshees' re-formation are the same as Dollar's or The Belle Stars'. In the seven years since the Banshees shuffled to a halt, Siouxsie and Budgie's Creatures barely raised a ripple, and Steven Severin was reduced to releasing internet solo albums. No matter - the parent group still retains a fanatical following of elderly goths.

In his leather overcoat and leather trousers, spiky-haired new guitarist Knox Chandler is such a goth parody he gives every impression of playing in a Banshees tribute band, which, with bitter irony, is the perennial fate of the re-formed. Despite spitefully omitting their only top 10 hits, Dear Prudence and Hong Kong Garden, Siouxsie and her Banshees work hard. Siouxsie begins the evening dressed as a regional newsreader, all shiny suit and David Steele-esque shirt and tie. By Icon, she has begun to disrobe; by the end, she's down to a glittery bra.

Their strengths and weaknesses remain. They were always very good at being very good, but conspicuously lacked the fairy dust of genius. That cannot change now. Nor will the limitations of Siouxsie's harsh, inflexible voice be overcome: as the evening progresses, it becomes tinier and tinnier.

Yet there is dignity here. Siouxsie has a different dance for each song and exudes charisma, and Severin is still a supremely inventive bassist. Oddly, though, the drummer is the star. Budgie not only anchors the band and hits so hard he needs to wear gloves, he actually leads the sound. The crowd naturally want hits and they get some, delivered with the same grace with which Siouxsie accepts a bunch of flowers. With its "Whoh, oh" chorus, their best song, Cities in Dust is a heady percussive flurry of delight, Israel retains its enigmatic status and Spellbound is an air-punching romp.

Contributed by Jerry Burch.

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