see all the photos from this concert here

An Evening With Siouxsie
B.B. King Blues Club and Grill, New York City
Monday September 6 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

I kid you not, dear reader. The venue for tonight’s gig really does style itself a ‘blues club and grill’. From this, you might infer that Siouxsie is playing a ramshackle roadhouse, a down-home bar in a downtown backstreet somewhere in, say, Louisiana or Kentucky. But nothing could be further than the truth. In fact, we’re slap on 42nd street in NYC, and the venue is large, plush, thickly-carpeted, air-conned to the max, and decidedly upmarket. Whether or not the club has anything to do with B.B. King himself is another matter. Although the veteran blues guitarist’s name and likeness are featured in neon-lit glitz on the sign outside (thus creating the rather odd impression that Siouxsie is actually the support band at a B.B.  King gig), there’s nothing to indicate whether he actually has any kind of business interest in the place. If the venue is simply using the great man’s name to lend a bit of cred to the establishment, all I can say is that I hope he’s getting royalties.

While we’re considering names, it’s worth noting that tonight’s show is simply billed as ‘an evening with Siouxsie’. Not the Banshees, not The Creatures - this is Siouxsie in a new guise, as a solo performer, with a set that draws in material from all her previous incarnations. But this doesn’t mean she’s alone on stage. We have a full band which features Budgie on drums (of course), recent Creatures collaborator Leonard Eto on a fearsome array of Japanese percussion, and late-model Banshees guitarist Knox Chandler. Add two supercool twin girls on backing vocals (clocking them is a real how-many-beers-did-I have-tonight moment) and a noo-wavey looking guy in white DMs on keyboards, and there you have the band.  Significantly, given the tales we’ve doubtless all heard about the Siouxsie-versus-Severin stresses which so enlivened the latter-day incarnations of the Banshees, there is no bass guitar in this line-up. It’s as if Siouxsie is so reluctant to risk opening that particular box of delights again that she hasn’t merely severed all ties with Severin - she’s nixed the idea of having any bass player at all.

The band arrange themselves in their places without ceremony, and are greeted with a huge gale of applause from the packed house. There’s a feeling of goodwill in the air, a sense that something positive and special is about to unfold. And then, with a wham and a blam and a cannonade of drumbeats the show is under way, kicking off with a selection of new tracks from The Creatures’ recent east-meets-west percussion frenzy that is the ‘Hai!’ album. Siouxsie herself is on fine form, swooping and gyrating around the stage like she’s been on the whoopee pills. I have seen Siouxise in good moods and bad moods, cheery and curmudgeonly, but I’ve never seen her having so much fun at a gig as she clearly is tonight. This is always the great unknown of any Siouxsie performance: will she be in a good mood, or will she be in a strop? Both moods will, in different ways, get you a good show, but on balance I think I like happy Siouxsie more than stroppy Siouxsie.

The band pitch merrily into the set list, giving us a bit of everything: we begin with recent Creatures and progress seamlessly to vintage Banshees.  ‘Godzilla’ in particular is a lunatic beat-barrage, Budgie and Leonard Eto setting up a downright funky percussion groove as they trade tricks and licks, Siouxsie yelling out those magnificently silly lyrics like they mean all things profound. Budgie comes down the front for his turn in the spotlight, laying into a couple of downstage drums, wearing a grin like he knows something tasty is being cooked up tonight. Siouxsie is on top form between the songs, joshing with the crowd and goading the venue management for turning the air conditioning up too high - ‘Wankers!’  Endearingly, Siouxsie always becomes extremely saaarf Laaahndon at such moments.  Well-wishers in the seething crowd proffer gifts towards her throughout the show - I’m amused to see a hand rise out of the mosh bearing a neatly-wrapped parcel, gold ribbon and all. What, I wonder, does that person expect Siouxsie to do? Stop the entire gig to unwrap her present - ‘Oh! A tea towel! Just what I’ve always wanted!’  There’s a bloke just in front of me who’s brought along a large and cumbersome bunch of flowers which he waves like a football trophy. He thrusts the flowers at Siouxsie, who adopts a comedy-horror expression and waves him away, and then she’s off to the other side of the stage, hamming it up for the photographers in the front row. Another hand emerges from the melee, holding a small camera.  Siouxsie leans into the lens and lets out an open-mouthed ‘Waaarrrgh!’ just as his flash goes off. Someone, somewhere, has a photograph of Siouxsie’s tonsils. If I had been able to find that photo on the web, believe me, you’d see it here.

But let’s not divert ourselves too much from the music. The band squeezes new life into familiar songs: I’m particularly struck by the grooved-up version of ‘Kiss Them For Me’. It’s lithe and forceful, packing far more of a punch than the rather wet album version, on which Stephen Hague’s programmed-to-death production suppressed the band’s natural identity.  Remember Stephen Hague? Hot-shot producer of the early 90s, who only ever had one snare drum sound which he imposed upon every band - nothing short of a criminal technique when you’re working with a drummer as individual and creative as Budgie. We also get a curiously beefy version of ‘Happy House’, the stark minimalism of the original replaced by a bigger, warmer, arrangement, as if the band have been feeding the song up on protein pills and Bovril. But for my money the showstopper has to be ‘Second Floor’ - always an epic, and never more so than tonight. It roars, it churns, it builds and builds into a mighty anthem, Siouxsie swirling like a flamenco dancer as the song reaches its crescendo - and then, instead of a conventional ending, it all drops and drops and drops away, the tempo slowing down, Siouxsie collapsing slowly to the floor until she’s on her knees, beating the stage as she drags out the final words: ‘Second....flooorrr...’. And then it all finally shudders to a halt; the audience hesitant, reluctant to applaud, unsure if it’s all really finished - and then the roar of the crowd nearly brings B.B. King’s roof down.

There are encores. Of course there are encores. ‘Face To Face’ (‘This is for all you lovers of bats and cats,’ says Siouxsie), a staccato, jumping-bean ‘Right Now’, and a positively rifftastic ‘Arabian Knights’, with Knox chugging away on the guitar like a good ‘un. Finally, it’s all over. Everyone lines up for a bow - good old Knox, a tousled teddy bear in black, getting his own special cheer - and then the band heads backstage, picking their way through the hardware. As Siouxsie makes for the exit, the bloke with the flowers makes one last attempt to attract her attention, waving his by now bedraggled blooms over the barrier. This time, Siouxsie relents. Just as she’s about to walk offstage, she half-turns, half-smiles, and holds her hand out behind her back in that time-honoured ‘backhander’ gesture. The persistent florist passes his flowers to her like a secret agent handing over the files, and then, with a wink and a grin, she’s gone.

Out into the white light night of 42nd street, where so much artificial illumination pours into the air that I’m temporarily disoriented, convinced that somehow the world has turned and it’s daylight again. That was classic Siouxsie, fired up and on the rampage, no quarter given and obviously having a good time doing it. At a time when so many of her contemporaries from the punk era and after are plodding round the revival circuit, or contemplating everyone-else-is-doing-it-so-why-don’t-we reformations, it’s good to see an artist so unequivocally at the top of her game, and moving forward with the creativity throttle wide open. Siouxsie, as ever, is the standard everyone else has to beat.

see all the photos from this concert here

The Creatures' website - official source of all current Siouxsie info:

Unofficial Siouxsie site - best for comprehensive tour info, setlists, photos, reviews, etc:
(Check the 'Tour' section to find this gig)

The B.B. King Blues Club & Grill:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: