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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London, November 5th 2007
I’ve been away, and as a result missed two much anticipated gigs on the Whiskyfun schedule. Rufus Wainwright ended a UK tour at the Hammersmith Apollo (he’s now touring continental Europe). “Weird” said the Photographer, who attended in my absence, “especially when he put on the lederhosen and long white socks”. And the malt-whisky loving KT Tunstall turned in a couple of nights at the Roundhouse – “Good – but most engaging when she played without the band”. Which is where we are tonight (although you might be forgiven for thinking we’re in the middle of a war zone as over-specified fireworks explode in the sky all around us). But not before we’ve paid a quick trip to the noodle house round the corner for some chicken chow mein and chop suey.
Yup – it’s the feisty ‘Ice Queen of Punk’ and ‘Queen of Goth’, the Bill Grundy baiting Siouxsie, aka Siouxsie Sioux, notably once of the genre-defying Siouxsie and the Banshees and no doubt occasionally still called by someone plain Susan Ballion.
Siouxsie is back with her first solo album Mantaray and a clutch of London gigs to promote it, before heading off to the US of A. The Roundhouse is sold out; it’s a mixture of ageing punks, Goths, gays and the odd civilian. The audience is, well let’s say, boisterous (actually I noticed on one of the Siouxsie forums that they were described as “c***ts” which seemed a little unfair). We’re jammed in front of the sound desk. Someone appears to have written “Gangway” on the back of my otherwise rather cool charity shop leather jacket. The Photographer can barely see a thing (see photograph). As in fact neither can the professional snappers, who’ve been banned from the front of the stage and are climbing all over us and the sound desk trying to get a shot of this most photogenic of performers, cursing their luck.
Siouxsie’s band take the stage – drums, keyboard, bass, guitar and a very atmospheric glockenspiel. They start playing the opening chords of ‘They follow you’ as Siouxsie strides to the stage in some sort of glossy bondage playsuit (as I believe they’re called), hair as black as pitch, make up exemplary. They work through two more songs from the new album before reeling off three oldies (which I did get the feeling, as a non Siouxsie fan, that I might have recognised), ‘Arabian Nights’, ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Night shift’.
The rest of the main set is devoted entirely to Mantaray. I’ve read that this material isn’t really Siouxsie at her darkest, but it’s certainly gloomy enough for me. And as the evening progresses it begins to feel as though the songs are really nothing more than a backdrop for Siouxsie’s physical presence on the stage, which is, to say the least, imposing. It’s certainly much stronger than her voice, which is tired, sometimes flat, limited in range compared to her earlier years, and occasionally makes me think “Bring back Lene Lovich”. But she dances, menacingly sways, kicks and karate chops her way through the performance with a remarkable energy, and manages to finish off on a high note with ‘Into a swan’, her single taken from the new album (where her singing reminded me, strangely enough, of Wreckless Eric). As a first encore she sings ‘Nicotine stain’ (soon to be banned in the UK, I’ve no doubt) and turns in a cover of Basement Jaxx’s ‘Cish cash’. At this point, slightly deaf, and dumbed by the good-humoured jostling we decided to make a sharp exit, to the tones of ‘Hong Kong Garden”, which was, or so I’m told, followed by ‘Israel’ and a long standing favourite cover, “Hello I love you”.
An entertaining enough night, with a rousing performance weakened only by the noted deficiencies in Ms Siouxsie’s voice department. And I could rather get to like some of the tracks off the new album – ‘though heaven knows what sort of mood I’d need to be in to play them at home. Anyway, if you get the chance to lash out a few quids on a ticket to see her then I certainly wouldn’t miss the opportunity. Such single-minded performers as Ms Siouxsie are few and far between, and they deserve all the support they can get. - Nick Morgan (concert photograph by Kate) Mantaray

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