11/20/1982 Melody Maker
Spellbound Siouxsie And The Banshees Odeon, Birmingham
As if jinxed by their own audacious self-possession, the Banshees have only
to mention live performance for some bolt from the blue to singe their
well-laid plans. With Siouxsie's throat-scare so recently consigned to the
realms of exaggeration and their antipathy towards touring duly relaxed, John
McGeoch's nervous exhaustion suddenly threatened to jeopardise the deserved
culmination of this, the most intensely transient period in the band's
But, for the second time in three frantic years, enter the Cure's Robert
Smith on substitute guitar and, raising a curt two fingers to grinning fate,
the Banshees shouldered the challenge and set out, determined to fulfil their
Opening in Brum before a young and curious crowd, they fired off the edge
of their nerves, fed from the offal of first night jitters and boldly grafted
Smith's underestimated embroidery into the gap left by McGeoch's missing
True, it is hard not to wince at the overcompensation of Budgie's opening
percussive salvo, hard not to writhe with anxiety as the Banshees sought to
tap the tension and work through the temptation to play straight and safe
into the richer rewards of radical redefinition.
Prepared, indeed determined, to take risks, a Banshees show never
attempts a faithful translation from vinyl into flesh - they respect
themselves too much for that! Rather, from the string trio's giddy
introduction to "Fireworks" to the locomotive menace of "Sin In My Heart",
the songs are stripped and stretched, unafraid to jettison the more delicate
dimensions of the records for an urgent, animal insistence.
Light, film, costume, gesture and sound all gel into a unique experience.
Certainly, tonight I saw, heard and felt what I never have before and never
will again; the ritual, compelling sinews to stretch and lips to synch along
with a danger and dignity that never casts the band in the role of performing
puppets, not degrades the audience into Pavlovian disciples. One or two in
front of me twitched to pogo, voices were raised requesting "Love In A Void".
No-one got what they wanted, but no-one can have left disappointed.
Whether thrilled by the exquisite marriage of slides and imagery during the
encore "Israel", chilled by the creeeping insistence of "Nightshift" or, like
me, exhilerated as the tearing clutches of "Voodoo Dolly" relaxed into a
beguiling caress and then suddenly snapped into a spitting curse, the crowd
stood literally spellbound as the Banshees learned a new proficiency,
realised the fact and began probing further.
Tonight they touched brilliance briefly - more than most bands ever do.
Beware and rejoice, there's far more to come and a long way to go.