dimanche, octobre 10, 2004

Siouxsie & mo'

Siouxsie Sioux, 100 Club, London

Super Furry Animals' Lightning Fryday, Royal Festival Hall, London

The Ice Queen thaws. We melt

By Simon Price

10 October 2004

'Welcome to the legendary 100 Club," she says with a deferent salute, in the full knowledge that she is a very big reason why it deserves that adjective. "It's also legendary because it was the only place to let the Pistols play." The word "also" is the giveaway. If Siouxsie Sioux is being a little too modest by mentioning the Pistols, it's surely because she knows there's no need to overstate her own case for legendary status.

A little over 28 years ago, Susan Ballion, teenage member of the Bromley Contingent, Sex Pistols hanger-on and well-known face-about-town, stepped up onto this very stage and reinvented herself as Siouxsie Sioux. In her shock-faced make-up, jet black hair, S&M attire, peephole bra and Nazi armband, she provided one of the most enduring images of punk rock, even if, by all accounts, her musical contribution - a 15-minute version of The Lord's Prayer incorporating bits of "Smoke on the Water" and "Twist and Shout", played cack-handedly by future Ants guitarist Marco Pirroni, enduring Banshees bassist Steve Severin and talent-vacuum Sid Vicious on drums - was not yet the finished article.

Kicking through the Burger King wrappers and grime of Oxford Street on the way to this re-enactment, you wonder how much has changed in the interim. Everything, and nothing.

She takes the stage like an ambulant, bipedal Venice Biennale, and you realise that, throughout 10 to 15 years of dressed-down, "unpretentious", keep-it-simple baggy, grunge and Britrock, Sioux - now 47, but looking half that, and utterly devoid of bingo wings - has never for a moment doubted that this thing that she does is still valid. And why should she? Her arms, emphasised by a kimono contraption with wizard sleeves, are a capoeira whirl of twisted wrists, her hair scraped back geisha-style (but prettified with a headdress of ibis feathers in red and black), her face a 50/50 harlequin mask of fear and revulsion, her lips a crimson Cherie Booth QC scowl, her eyes painted with their famous Cleopatra maquillage.

Beyond the visual familiarity, nobody knows what to expect. Word has it we're only going to get Hai, last year's album by The Creatures (the longest-running and most fruitful side project in rock), a rumour bolstered by the presence of Japanese percussionist and Creatures collaborator Leonard Eto in a band which also includes Sioux's husband and ever-present drummer Budgie, and Psychedelic Furs guitarist Knox Chandler.

Instead, after a couple of Creatures cuts, she indulges and thrills us with Banshees hits like "Happy House", "Dear Prudence", "Christine", "Kiss Them For Me" and "Arabian Nights".

Given the proximity of her roaring greasepaint to the smell of the crowd, she's necessarily a warmer, friendlier presence than her Ice Queen image would suggest: "I can... touch you! It's... disgusting!" Suddenly, she's gone, with a dramatic Gloria Swanson flourish: "Since we're here to celebrate an attitude... no fucking encores!" A statement which is weakened when I am handed a setlist which allows for not one but two encore sessions (including such SATB classics as "Spellbound" and "Cities In Dust" and The Creatures' "Right Now"), indicating that the abrupt finale was down to the 100 Club's strict adherence to its curfew, and nothing punkier than that.

Maybe we'll get them at the Royal Festival Hall this weekend, where she's doing it all again, this time with an orchestra.

Speaking of which, Super Furry Animals took over the RFH last Friday for a very special evening. Having already curated the All Tomorrow's Parties weekender at Camber Sands, SFA were a logical choice to seize control of the South Bank for one night, and Glenn Max gave them the call.

"They said 'We've got this hall, do you want to hold a festival in it?'," Gruff Rhys explains in that incomparably mellifluous Welsh accent, while wearing a Mighty Morphin helmet and brandishing something which is either a Star Wars light sabre or a hi-tech druid's staff.

"We said 'Can you change it to the People's Festival Hall for the day?' They said 'No, we'll get the sack.' But we did it anyway..." The first thing I see, when I enter the Ballroom, is a man in a green and purple leotard, contorted upside-down on top of a podium, farting in tune with popular classical music hits.

Along with the more traditional musical attractions - Cardiff-based laptop folker (and former Boo Radley) Bravecaptain, DJ Richard "Aphex Twin" James and Welsh SFA protégés Zabrinski - Lightning Fryday also features a Howard Marks (drug dealer, raconteur and SFA affiliate) Confession Booth, an exhibition of Pete Fowler's "Monsterism" artwork, and a posse of monks playing trumpets. I also meet a witch - not just any witch, but the High Priestess of a coven - although I don't think she's part of the show.

The highlights, however, are the three separate sets from Super Furry Animals, who are arguably the greatest active band on earth (and when I say "arguably", I mean, sit me down, buy me a drink, and I'll argue it).

No other band blends such a diverse spectrum of influences - Brian Wilson to Buzzcocks, Lee Perry to Nick Drake, Miles Davis to ELO, Anhrefn to Kraftwerk - with such deliciously successful results. No other band could write as heartbreaking a break-up song as "Ice Hockey Hair" ("Tell me what to do if it all falls through/ Can you point me a direction I can take my shoes?" No other band could get 2,000 people shouting "STOP!, said the puppy..." or chanting a verse as liberating as "I'm a minger, you're a minger too/ So come on minger, I want to ming with you!" Next year, give them the Meltdown.

Siouxsie Sioux: Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 (08703 800 400), Fri & Sat


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