The stage of the Royal Festival Hall is spare save for drums and guitar stands; a skeletal aesthetic complemented only by a backdrop of Venetian blinds. There’s a palpable frisson akin to awaiting an audience with a Queen; which this is of sorts. From the second Siouxsie stalks onto the stage the crowd rush to her feet, emphatic, emotional.
It’s no exaggeration to say she’s like a contemporary Cleopatra (or murderous Medea). Her 56 years have not withered her, gloriously resplendent in white PVC Pam Hogg dress with tight bodice and full skirt: something she will verbally regret under these scorching lights later.
She opens with a scathing, sarcastic ‘Happy House’; but those expecting a predictable greatest hits set will be delighted to hear instead the seminal 1980 album ‘Kaleidoscope’ in full. It’s a crafty choice, for it’s an album of transition and myriad mesmerising textures; an alluring combination of feral iconoclastic Sioux and the later, gothic glamour of the grande dame before us now.
She’s unlike any other pop star, more like a Dietrich or a Garbo, a woman who knows her strengths and angles. She’s stately, completely un-humbled by the effusive applause and reception. They are entirely expected.
‘Hybrid’ has her whirling like a dervish, skirt fanning out like an enormous water lily. She’s never been the most natural mover but she works the jutting elbowed, kung fu warrior dance she’s been cultivating for over 30 years to the absolute angular max.
The sleazy electro of ‘Red Light’ is phenomenal and still sounds incredibly contemporary; it could honestly be by any of the new wave pretenders kicking around at the moment. She tentatively begins ‘Eve White/Eve Black’ then reclines on the drum riser and slides around on her back like a python or panther (insert any predator) before getting stuck in about the song, literally screaming like a banshee at the close.
During the encore she deploys classics from her back catalogue like deadly shurikens. A graceful ‘Israel’ is spot on, a shimmering and sinuous lament which has everyone swaying.
Her band this evening is good, but these serpentine songs are undoubtedly missing the majesty of McGeoch and Budgie. ‘Cities In Dust’ is dedicated to tonight’s patron Yoko Ono and it’s a blinding rendition. ‘Dear Prudence’ still inspires the biggest response of the evening, with even those previously seated now drawn into the melee.
Then, just to mix things up, we get an unexpected cover of Kurt Weill’s cabaret classic ‘Careless Love’. Siouxsie's astride a café chair, wearing a strap-on bustle and cowboy hat.
She also performs a few tracks from her solo album ‘MantaRay’ which hold up exceptionally well, especially the beguiling ‘Into A Swan’. The final encore is a spine-tingling rendition of ‘Spellbound’.
Siouxsie remains a skilfully sensuous sorceress.
Words: Anna Wilson
Photos: Andy Sturmey
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