Sounds (4.21.79)

Live review by Dave McCullough

Alienation is no fun

Siouxsie And The Banshees

The Rainbow is a magnet for the lookalikes who scamper on shaky stillettos down the echoing tube tunnels and skate through the teaming rain and the blackened side-streets to the holy Image, the Icon, the Goddess. A crowd of glad-to-be-greys. Cold, bitter children on a night out. But why come here? Why? The Banshees’ music is black, doomy and colder than the night outside. You could stand in any bus-shelter if you wanted that effect!

Siouxsie doesn’t cater for ‘entertainment’, which is fair enough: the music searches for something, constantly strives for something higher than the average expressive faculties of rock and roll. OK whether they manage to convey and simply assimilate their basic themes and currents of thought is questionable. But a good gig on a Saturday night? Maybe masochism is hip again.

Everybody seemed to be sitting in somebody else’s seat by the time The Human League appeared and the atmosphere was none too amicable. Whatever, The League did their stuff, easy, simple synth-rock with a slide-screen on each flank flashing meaningless signs. Dead boring. Dead bourgeois. The Human League are like ELP and Genesis and it’s a comment upon the so-called ‘punks’ present that they were, for the most part, lapped up. The League are, most nauseating of all, very patronising. They play The Righteous Brother’s ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ and Gary Glitter’s ‘Rock And Roll’ as if to assure their audience that ‘yes, dears, we’re one of you after all, so don’t worry about the technology or the thigh length suede boots...’ They do a song called ‘Blind Youth’, which really says it all. Oh, and Adrian did the lights!

Siouxsie’s a big star now. She’s distant and untouchable. Siouxsie sucks. You go on a band’s impression for the most part, don’t you? Well, Siouxsie at the Rainbow (Wow!) was a wizened Judy Garland image of total despair. The gig was a mess from start to finish. Everything seemed to go wrong. For a start the bozos down the front gave the gig a chilling 1984 aura by wasting the front row of seats. My, how macho, how punky, how BRAVE! Credit to the bouncers for (ostensibly) keeping their cool in the face of sub-intellectual, collective identity crises.

The set began with ‘Staircase’, the sound finding it’s feet over the lightweight, somehow undeveloped single. Siouxsie bounced typically, more compulsory it seemed than inspired, squeezed into such narrow images she must be nearly choking half-way through every song. The band stand almost completely still throughout the set, unmoved by any vague beat figures in the music. It’s features such as this that separate the Banshees from middle-field rock, but the features slide into alienation as well. The separation between band and audience is astonishing and, to me, highly disagreeable.

The set consisted mainly of new songs. Courageous but somehow contrived and merely part of the general image of ‘being different’, maintaining some sort of introspective and, for all intents and purposes, false sense of the unique. ‘Placebo Effect’, ‘Playground Twist’ and ‘Premature Burial’ went way way above everybody’s immediate and urgent sensibilities I’d guess; the song structures are interesting and inventive but they are undermined by their own supposedly admirable sterility.

The catchy sections, the stomping teutonic rushes, detract from rather than enhance the overall structures and convey a fragmented, bitty effect. ‘Icon’, lifting from a reserved opening to that inexhorable metallic race of music, impressed (again transiently). The standards, ‘Hong Kong Garden’, ‘Metal Postcard’, ‘Helter Skelter’ et al were pedestrian and routine. It was an uncomfortable feeling.

Siouxsie and band, moreover, insisted on bantering with the crowd and firing (even) mock kicks at the busy bouncers, pretending some link, some basic communication with the bemused crowd. Siouxsie and band want the best of both worlds, and it’s their undoubted naievite, their badly disguised confusion, their cant, that I find most unappealing in them. Yeah, Siouxsie’s such a tease. Siouxsie’s such a scream.

Back to Articles