Saturday, February 9, 2008

I burst right out into a swan

I realized as I was standing impatiently among the crowd of malcontents at Irving Plaza last night waiting for Siouxsie Sioux to come out, that I had been doing the exact same thing 20 years ago in St. Petersburg, Florida at Jannus Landing.

Not much in my life has changed.

Hers, on the other hand, has been upheaved several times - first the Banshees, her band since the mid-70s, disintegrated, which left her with The Creatures - her side project with husband Budgie. Then she and Budgie divorced, which she revealed to the world just last year - and she's on her own musically and emotionally for the first time in three decades.

I wondered what she would be like.

The Banshees carried me through most of my adolescent and young adult life. I remember very vividly the moment my friend Carolyn Schmidt handed me Tinderbox and Hyaena in tenth grade. She was trying to upgrade my musical sensibilities which at that point didn't really delve any deeper into the realm of alternative music than The Cure.

What Carolyn didn't realize was that she was introducing me to what would come closest to being a musical icon in my life. Some have Madonna, some have Judy, some even have one of those pernicious little talentless coozes littering the airways these days.

I have Siouxsie.

When I saw her on the 'Song From the Edge of the World' tour, I was a puffy teenager, filled with angst-ridden awe that I was about to witness live, in the flesh, the bleak matron of sinister music who had filled my nights with visions of a happy apocalypse.

As I warbled along to giddy lines like, "This unrest crucifies my chest / without anaesthetic it cuts / through tumorous flesh" and "sucking leeches feel the need / sucking dry unsated stomach pops / sharpened knives with flying sparks / sagging bodies with stretch marks," I felt as if she were really speaking to me.

Like I had found a second mother.

She guided me through high school, college, young adulthood - well, you get the point. She's always been there.

When Mantaray came out last year, I was ecstatic. Most chanteuses as they grow older seem to fade into bland routine.

Take Annie Lennox for example - her past two albums have been wishy-washy, dreary pseudo-soul/R&B hogwash that I would rather wipe my ass with than listen to (I tried. I really did. I love her - but, COME ON. That "Sing" song almost made me vomit). She used to be brilliant. She still could be. Instead, she chooses to sing 'lite' rock - the kind of shit you hear while waiting in the dentist's office. Soothing.

Fuck that.

Siouxsie proved that she would never settle - Banshees, Budgie or not. She kicks just as much ass by herself as she did with her former accomplices. Maybe even more. Siouxsie has managed to retain the disdain she held for pretty much everything when the Banshees formed in 1976, molding it to suit her as her life changes, without falling into a 'musical comfort zone.'

All I can say is, it is working well for her.

After waiting for nearly FIVE hours for her to come on, I was getting impatient. I'm not one to stay up past ten o'clock these days, having become prematurely geriatric, and she was crossing the line. I wanted to go to bed and I wanted to go to bed RIGHT NOW. My back was hurting, I hadn't gotten to use my neti pot, I hadn't done any moon salutations... my routine was being fucked with.

But all that peevishness faded into obscurity the moment she slinked out onstage.

Anyone who looked at the recent photos of her immediately said the same thing - "Oh, that took some MAJOR photoshopping." Because she looks flawless. FLAWLESS. in every recent photo. But, no. There was no photoshop work done on her. I can say with all seriousness that she looks younger and better NOW than she did when I saw her in 1987. She was wearing a form-fitting spandex body suit that exposed everything - and it was all PERFECT. Not a wrinkle on her face, not a sagging pocket of blub, not even a hint of spare tire.

I have never seen her move the way she did last night. She danced hypnotically throughout the entire show, spinning, kicking, undulating, performing slightly suggestive pelvic thrusts. At one point she fixed her gaze on a google-eyed goth in the front row and grabbed her left foot in her hand, singing all the while. Not breaking eye contact or concentration on her song, she lifted her left leg up into a standing split, bringing her foot over her head.

Her unmoving glare was telling that goth and everyone else - "That's right, motherfuckers. Look at this shit."

She started her show with three songs from Mantaray - "They Follow You" being the first. She followed those with three Banshees songs from the album Juju - "Arabian Knights," "Spellbound" and "Night Shift" - one of my personal favorites.

After sating the crowd with those cherubic gems, she returned to newer material.

When she sang "Sea of Tranquility," I was one enormous goosebump, clasping my hands at my heart in rapt glee similar to that of a child seeing its first puppy scampering toward it for the very first time. I haven't been that happy in AGES.

She ended the list with "into a Swan," sending the entire audience into a foaming frenzy that lasted long after she and her band walked off-stage. When she came back out, she graced us all with an old favorite, "Israel," and then "Cish Cash," a song she did with Basement Jaxx. She then said good night and the lights came up. But it was a trick - she performed one final number.

"This song is 30 years old," she said, eliciting a simultaneous groan from the crowd as we all realized that we are a bunch of old bastards clinging to our youths at this point. Oh well, who gives a fuck.

Then she sang "Hong Kong Garden." I have never liked this song. I hated it the first time I heard it, I hated it just as much the last time I heard it. But hearing her do it last night, watching her jump up and down, her black, teased hair bouncing as she shook her perfect ass at the audience and kicked her legs out over the crowd, I loved it.

When it was over, my friend Norn turned to me and said, "She really did turn into a Swan."

And he was absolutely right.