NME (11.4.78)

Live Review by Emma Ruth

Siouxsie And The Banshees

Hello Siouxsie! Good to be back, huh?

Well, not that good. The Banshees’ third or fourth trip to Leeds was the first time the city had seen the band since they finally put their cards on the table, generated some capital investment and decided to take their music to the people.

It took a lot of time, sporadic fracas, dry frustration and several rounds of ‘Sid Vicious Is Innocent’ before Siouxsie introduced herself to the gathered multitudes at the university. When she did, it seemed to have been worth the wait.

Moving like an impassioned Marionette (her critics would say sub-Patti Smith), dressed almost haute couture in various permutations (and layers) of black and white, Siouxsie rightfully presented herself as another Star for the New Age.

The rest of the band are no stooges: black-dressed, implacable guitarist John McKay, the last recruited Banshee, hair falling like a German egghead’s thrummed some interesting up-tempo dirges, while drummer Kenny Morris (employing the same wrist action as the guy from Sham) treated concepts like ‘convention’ and ‘orthodoxy’ like they were dirty words.

Bassist Steve Severin, of course, is a different player in a different ball game. Co-architect of The Banshees’ integrity putsch, Severin has come a long way since the days when the band was contract-less, their music was ‘copyright control’ and he used to dedicate "Helter Skelter" - the first number here - to Roman Polanski. (Alienation is up for grabs in this band).

But if you can’t believe everything you read about Siouxsie and The Banshees, you still have to believe something - and if only 10 per cent of their much-vaunted obsession with ice-honesty and complete control is really true then that’s 10 per cent more than on offer most other places.

They got a bad deal here. Apart from having their road crew busted after the gig, the roughnecks here were even more boorish than usual.

The songs are a problem, too. "Switch", "Mirage" and "Suburban Relapse" are pretty good live numbers, but they came over as computerised punk to the people who had no previous experience of the band.

Similarly, "Metal", ‘for John Hartfield’ (the legendary anti-Nazi montage propagandist) meant little to the uninitiated: like the others, this song really needs to be recognised, which is why (in the provinces, anyway, and before the release of "The Scream") the band seem to distance themselves into an identity crisis.

"Hong Kong Garden" - received ecstatically - proved the point: much of this audience (if not the bulk) thought of The Banshees as an avant-garde singles band (with a very nice-looking cantatrice). Which is why, after average responses elsewhere, the band played their traditional "Lord’s Prayer" finale and declined to encore.

Siouxsie had sensed all along that the circumjacent mood wasn’t too cool. Deprived on the night (at Siouxsie’s request?) of canned grog, there was nothing for the loons to fling but huge quantities of slanderous abuse and multi-coloured sputum. (Your lensman for the night paid the price for coming between Siouxsie and the line of fire).

She tried hard to get them to "calm down" (and it was no punk put-on) but, as she said, she couldn’t "feed" off us such was the aggressive, distasteful attitude.

Siouxsie probably thought she’d seen the last of this number a long time ago.

The Banshees have played better and they will bring it on home again. It was suggested that they couldn’t handle an audience of this size. Or that even Snow Queens can have off-nights. But I’d guess that The Banshees really are trying to rip the perimeters of Radical Art, and that they recognise they’re not going to achieve that without intelligent support.

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