Siouxsie and the Banshees: The Seven Year Itch
Even before forming the Banshees, Siouxsie Sioux was a well known face on the punk scene. A mainstay at Sex Pistols gigs, she also appeared on their infamous Grundy interview sporting her Clockwork Orange make-up and swastika arm-band. Owing to her status, she was asked to fill in a slot at the well known 100 Club, in which she performed a twenty minute rendition of the Lord’s Prayer with backing from Steve Severin on bass, Marco Pirroni on lead guitar and a certain Sid Vicious on drums.
Whilst the band went through several different line-ups (Pirroni went on to join Adam and the Ants; Sid Vicious the Sex Pistols), Siouxsie and the Banshees went on to produce at least one seminal album, 1978’s The Scream, and a number of classic singles, including Metal Postcard, Hong Kong Garden and Beatles’ cover Dear Prudence.
Despite splitting in 1996 after eighteen years, the Banshees’ career was still able to encompass eleven albums and guitarists ranging from The Cure’s Robert Smith to Magazine’s John McKeough (Severin remained on bass, as did Budgie on drums upon joining in 1979, having previously worked with that other major female-fronted punk band, The Slits). Although Siouxsie and Budgie went on to form the Creatures, Banshees material wouldn’t be performed again until 2002, when the band reformed and embarked on their Seven Year Itch Tour - the title referring to the number of years since they had last been on the road.
The concert of that tour which appears on this DVD was recorded at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 10th July 2002. What was interesting about this tour was the Banshees’ decision to play rarely heard (and rarely available) material rather than go for the traditional “best of” set-list of hits. Indeed, this created a situation where the tour didn’t appear to be a cynical money-making exercise in the way that the Velvet Underground and Sex Pistols reunions had been in the past. Rather, it produced a series of fantastic gigs of which this DVD provides a wonderful record.
What’s most remarkable is not only the fact that the band appear to be truly enjoying themselves (as indeed are the audience), but the sheer tightness of the band. Serving as guitarist for these gigs was Knox Chandler who had worked with the Banshees before (but only in small capacities) as well as the Psychedelic Furs. More recently he co-wrote Depeche Mode singer Dave Gahan’s first solo album, and proves to work extremely well with the band here. As would be expected both Severin and Budgie, having been with the band for many years approach the material with a true professionalism, and of course Siouxsie proves to be magnificent.
Given the music that the Banshees’ produce (driven by strong rhythms, accompanied by pared down guitar and vocals), it is of great importance that the band be this together. Whilst lumped in with punk bands such as the Slits and the Sex Pistols, their influences ranged far greater than this (taking in the likes of the Velvet Underground and “Krautrockers” Can) and the band seem better suited when placed with the post-punk genre that encompassed the likes of Joy Division, Scritti Politti and Gang of Four. Moreover, they created a distinctive sound that is immediately recognisable and proved to be a strong influence on eighties goth bands such as Fields of the Nephilim. Indeed, this distinctive sound is ably recreated for the concert so much so that a cover of George Harrison’s Blue Jay Way would appear to be a Banshees original to those unaware of its source.
Apart from the Harrison song, the setlist covers a ten-year period of the band’s recording careers, taking in early singles Pure and Metal Postcard, obscure B-side I Could Be Again and Peek-a-Boo from 1988’s Peepshow album (with backing vocals from Japanese act eX-Girl, who provided support for the tour). What’s truly astounding is how each track sounds equally good and how they complement each other so well. Of course, this creates a situation where no one particular track can be centred out for attention, rather the entire concert works as a satisfying whole. (Though if I did have to pick my favourites then I’d plump for Metal Postcard as it is, to my mind, one of the finest singles of the seventies, and I Could Be Again owing to its unfamiliarity.)
Picture and Sound
The disc is presented with a 16:9 anamorphic transfer and is shot in a fashion so as not to draw attention to itself. Instead the music is allowed to do the speaking which works in the concert’s favour. Moreover, the image is entirely flawless, again allowing for no distractions from its main intention.
Soundwise, Sanctuary have offered three choice of audio: 2.0, 5.1 and DTS mixes. Each works fine, though there is some excellent use of the rear speakers in the latter two options and, of course, both of these allow for a fine workout of the sub-woofer.
Only two brief featurettes are provided. “Beginning to Scratch” shows the band in preparation for the gig and encompasses both the sound-check and footage from the dressing room. Lasting only six minutes, little information is divulged though it does allow a sight of Siouxsie without her make-up
The other featurette, entitled “Backstage Budgie” offers a guided tour of, unsurprisingly, backstage at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire by drummer Budgie. Again, this is a short piece (eleven minutes), though Budgie proves to an affable presence, and the featurette is a likeable diversion.
An excellent concert which both looks and sounds great. Understandably, this will not be a DVD for non-fans, though for both connoisseurs and newcomers alike, this should prove an invaluable purchase.