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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 history.

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 commitments.

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 articulacy.

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.

- Steve Sutherland

 

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