May 8, 2013
XOYO, 32-37 Cowper Street, London, EC2A 4AP
It was twenty nine years ago that I first saw Siouxsie perform at The Birmingham Odeon. I’d bunked off school that afternoon, as word on the Goth grapevine was that The Banshees would be doing a soundcheck; hopefully, we’d catch them leaving and perhaps even get their autographs. The stage door rattled, and Siouxsie, Budgie, Steve Severin and Robert Smith duly obliged the hundred-or-so of us who’d been waiting patiently. Siouxsie, all-smiles, was nothing like the Ice Queen we knew from interviews, videos or Top of the Pops – her felt-tip scrawl on the sleeve of my home-made kimono turning ordinary cloth into something as sacrosanct as the Turin shroud. Later, at the concert, when I heckled “HONG KONG GARDEN” for the nth time, knowing full well they wouldn’t play their debut hit (as they had stated in countless interviews, that they wouldn’t be performing it in the foreseeable future), Siouxsie snarled “Why don’t you fuck off and get your night bus home?” If you want anyone to tell you to fuck off, it’s Siouxsie…
At the first night of Siouxsie’s two shows for Meltdown curated by Yoko Ono, Punk’s High Priestess might have mellowed – engaging with her audience more warmly than I’ve ever witnessed – but the icy demeanour of Siouxsie-the-performer was still there. Every freeze-frame posture, high-kick and fuck-you pout was greeted ecstatically – Siouxsie hamming it up to wring maximum reaction from a packed house. The first part of the show comprised of the entire Kaleidoscope album – the se on stage: monolithic venetian blinds referencing the L.P.’s cover as well as ‘Christine’, its second single’s, video. Siouxsie even transformed the largely-instrumental two-minute track ‘Clock Face’ into a tour-de-force with her vocal punctuations and air-punches. Siouxsie began the show wearing a white ankle-length PVC dress, frequently displayed to maximum advantage with protracted whirling dervish spins. Then, she wriggled out of her skirt for the sleazy synth strut of ‘Red Light’, her skin-tight cat-suit, that’s as much a mainstay of her look as her Theda Bara eyeliner, revealing a killer body to be envied by women half her age. ‘Skin’ afforded Siouxsie an opportunity to make a dig at fashion designers in the audience who persist in using fur, while ‘Eve Black/Eve White’ afforded us an opportunity to bask in Siouxsie’s faultless rendition of this fan-favourite B-side.
A quartet of Banshees’ hits, ‘Israel’, ‘Arabian Knights’ and ‘Cities In Dust’ followed, including their greatest commercial success, their definitive cover of The Beatles’ ‘Dear Prudence’, fittingly presaged with a shout-out to Yoko Ono for inviting her to headline this year’s Meltdown – the emerald lighting which bathed the stage for ‘Dear Prudence’, a homage to its emerald record sleeve. ‘Loveless’, from 2007’s Mantaray solo outing, and ‘Face To Face’, The Banshees’ 45 from Batman Returns complete with Batman searchlights flooding the auditorium ceiling, finished the show. Our rapturous ovation was rewarded with an encore of the little-known ‘Careless Love’ from The Edge Of Love soundtrack, this Cabaret pastiche camped up with a burlesque chair routine and a barbed purr worthy of Agnes Bernelle; the Mantaray bump-‘n’-grinder ‘Here Comes That Day’ came next, before a bombastic finale of its lead single ‘Into A Swan’.
Screaming “SIOUXSIE” to try to grab her attention, as she sauntered off stage her eyes met mine. She smiled; nearly three decades after she told me to fuck off, if I’d want anyone to smile at me it’s Siouxsie! And as a post-script to that Birmingham Odeon concert back in `84, at a charity auction a couple of years ago I bid for a photograph of Siouxsie which would be signed for the lucky winner. When her office rang me to ask what dedication I’d like … well, there’s a framed photo on my living-room signed “To Carl, Fuck off + get your night bus home! Siouxsie Sioux XX” Apart from being a true pioneer and a great performer, the lady’s got a sense of humour. God bless you, Siouxsie Sioux.