H&H // LIVE: SIOUXSIE, VIV ALBERTINE – ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL – 17/06/13
Originally posted on Hooting & Howling
The return of Siouxsie was always going to be big for anyone, myself included, who spent their early teenage years channelling 80’s goth – even if the real movement had ended 20 years prior – and 2 sold out nights at the Royal Festival Hall as part of Yoko Ono‘s incarnation of Meltdown Festival was the perfect way to do it. After the first night consisting of The Banshees‘ ‘Kaleidoscope’ played in it’s entirety – unannounced, naturally – and an encore of countless hits from every era, the final, for a Monday evening on the Southbank, had a lot to live up to.
But first, Viv Albertine of ocassional Slits fame, warmed up the crowd. The set was at times pure brilliance, with a backing band comprised of synths, strings and a lot of bass making a lot of incredible noise behind Viv’s smarmy lyrics, and at others beautifully shambolic, with shockingly bad sound quality and trashy guitar that didn’t really go anywhere. You couldn’t help but feel the entire thing demonstrated a desperate effort to remain “cool” and relevant after thirty years that wasn’t quite working, a perfect juxtaposition of what was to come next.
At the first sight of dry ice and a band flouncing onto the stage, the entirety of the venue was a standing ovation and diving towards the stage and, despite a valiant effort from security, the power of Siouxsie was quite too much to make anyone “remain seated”. From the moment the woman herself pranced onstage dressed head to toe in white vinyl with the confidence of a thousand, she thundered through ‘Happy House ‘with audience grinning from ear to ear, then at the simple summoning command of “Let’s go Kaleidoscopin’!”, everyone was clamouring at her feet.
For the next hour, we did exactly that.
Siouxsie, complete with the untouchable power of a minimal band, gradually stormed through the album once again, as if it had been 5 minutes, not 5 years. Thereafter the standouts came through thick and fast, and with violence in the form of a crazy woman (there’s always one, isn’t there?) swiftly warded off in true punk fashion by some sharp obscenities and a quick shove that earnt Siouxsie one of the greatest applauses of the night, the crowd seemed more united in delight than before and began doing their very best to hit the soaring toplines of Kaleidoscope’s genius. Tracks like ‘Christine’ and ‘Red Light’ too conjured up some otherworldly dancing for all involved and the conclusion anyone that can carry off being half godlike, half terrifying whilst still retaining one of the most empowering voices of a mere 33 years, was widely reached.
The word “idol” is thrown about a bit, but by the closing notes of ‘Eve White/Eve Black’ and a brief disappearance from the stage, it certainly made sense. Everyone was stood back and gazing at each other in awe – one genre defining album down, she hadn’t even played the hits yet.
The first encore of the evening was met with yet more clamouring and with the declaring of “The next time I come back, remind me not to do it in white vinyl” in a visibly sweltering venue, she soldiered on with some of The Banshees’ best. Naturally proceedings began with the quadruple hit of arguably the four best tracks the woman has ever written – or not, as the case may be – that was enough to cause more mass frenzy, by which point everyone, including security, had lost all civilized manner in favour of jumping around, it was for the best. It spanned from ‘Israel’, yet again showcasing some more incredible vocals untainted since the 80s, ‘Arabian Knights’, at her primitive best, ‘Cities In Dust’, an unexpected one that marked the point of insanity, and finally ‘Dear Prudence’, definingly better than The Beatles’ original and seemingly more poignant from everyone’s perspective, especially that of a one Yoko Ono closely watching from the balcony.
After that onslaught, she fled the stage once again, but in less than a minute the thunder returned, this time with a more solo approach in the form of ‘Loveless’ and inevitably yet more Banshees, ‘Face To Face’ – both still absolutely top class, it was very hard to flaw anything with the set or performance by this point, the overemphasis on the fact she is fifty six and hasnt lost any of the punk since the 70s is utterly necessary and continued after yet another breather – just for tension – beginning the penultimate, third encore.
‘Careless Love’ and ‘Here Comes That Day’ proceeded in racous manner – for only one solo album Sioux’s conjured up an incredible amount of hits, and it’s still certainly showing. Lastly, the inevitable monster of ‘Into A Swan’, complete with crunching synths and yet more soaring vocals, solidified that lack of loss again and the whole crowd appeared to be at the command of Siouxsie entirely, remarkable moments like that can hardly ever be pulled off in quite so much style.
Finally, after the most nervous minutes of our lives, previous knowledge that ‘Spellbound’ was on Saturday’s setlist but never happened brimming, she returned for exactly that. 3 and a half very much final, final minutes of obliterating the stage and on a closing note, she jumped off in a delighful “see you soon” leaving a trail of awestruck fans behind. One to join the ranks of successful comebacks of 2013, I think so….and it doesn’t feel like we are quite done with yet….just how soon, exactly?