San Francisco Chronicle (April 26th, 2002)
Banshees' battle never ends
Musical rebels still beyond mainstream
Neva Chonin, Chronicle Pop Music Critic
Sometimes, history actually does repeat itself. When Siouxsie and the Banshees played their first show 26 years ago, rock music was in the doldrums, glutted with derivative, bombastic arena-rock acts. When Siouxsie and the Banshees played the fifth show of their "7 Year Itch" reunion tour at the Fillmore, rock music -- well, you get the picture.
The intervening years saw the Banshees evolve from punk pioneers to Goth icons before dissolving in 1996, and Wednesday's sold-out concert -- the first of two in San Francisco -- touched on nearly every aspect of the band's pre- 1986 career (notably excepting 1984's "Hyaena" album), beginning with "Pure," the first track on its debut full-length, "The Scream" (1978). Accompanied by nonstop audience whooping, the Banshees time-shifted into the '80s with "Jigsaw Feeling" and "Cascade" before returning to their roots with "Metal Postcard."
Despite the cavalcade of classics, the set began sluggishly, hobbled by an abysmal sound mix that buried vocals beneath a wall of drums. The sound eventually improved enough to reveal that the singer's once-formidable voice has grown hoarser with time. Sticking to a lower register, Sioux didn't attempt the wailing heights of her early years, but to be fair, most vocalists wouldn't have attempted her trademark octave-swooping feats in the first place.
The years have had little effect on the lead Banshee's indomitable stage presence, however. As the band -- co-founder and bassist Steven Severin, guitarist Knox Chandler and drummer Budgie, Sioux's partner in the spin-off band the Creatures -- roared through favorites old ("Nicotine Stain," "Arabian Nights," "Christine") and less old ("Cities in Dust," "Land's End," "Lullaby"),she strutted, danced sinuously and let rip with lethal high kicks.
"They call me an ice bitch, but they got it wrong, you know," she announced after doffing her black suit jacket to reveal a black halter top. "I like it hot."
And the night did heat up as the band hit its stride, beginning with raging versions of "Switch" and "Nightshift" and crescendoing into the ever-eerie "Voodoo Dolly." That set-topping number ended with Sioux writhing on floor, raven hair slicked to her head, bellowing the song's coda with all the elastic power of her salad days.
The encore was equally impressive, moving from the rhythmic boom of "Spellbound" to a sinister cover of the Beatles' "Blue Jay Way" that transformed the song's warped psychedelia into a bad trip par excellence.
"Here you are, here we are," Sioux purred earlier in the evening as she introduced the song "I Could Be Again." "MTV, radio -- we don't need that f-- crap."
Her cheering fans heartily concurred. Minus the MTV reference, the statement echoed Sioux's observations of the late '70s, when the Banshees boasted a hefty following but couldn't find a record label willing to sign them. Voices might grow scratchy, but musical rebels and the cults they spawn neither die nor fade away. Like the mainstream industry they reject and are rejected by, they're a cyclical phenomenon.
Contributed by Jerry Burch.