Siouxsie Sioux’s rescheduled Cruel World Festival show reunites her with US fans
Near the end of her set, Siouxsie Sioux smiled in wonder at the show she’d finally played – 15 years after her last North American performance – at Cruel World Festival in Pasadena on Sunday.
“Is everybody happy?” she asked at the end of “Christine,” a fan favorite from her years with Siouxsie and the Banshees. “It’s been such a long time. I don’t know how it happened. And now we’re here.”
That it actually happened at all took a small miracle to overcome an act of God after the threat of lightning and hail forced Cruel World to cancel her appearance on Saturday.
Iggy Pop was halfway through his set at the time, with Siouxsie’s headlining turn still half an hour off. Her fans, many of whom had traveled from far off to see her only U.S. performance this year, were distraught.
But by Sunday morning, the festival promoters had found the best solution possible. Siouxsie would perform Sunday night, now for 90 minutes instead of the originally planned hour. Iggy Pop would return to do his full set, and Gary Numan, who had played earlier Saturday, would do a second set as a bonus.
“I couldn’t believe what happened last night,” Siouxsie said near the start of the show, describing the moment the Pasadena Fire Department pulled the plug on the show due to the threat of lightning in the area.
“The wonderful fire department broke in. I was trying to tell them, ‘It’s part of our (bleepin’) light show!’”
Was it worth the wait and extra trouble? For those who were able to return on Sunday, it was magic, a wonderful night that harked back to the earliest days of post-punk and goth rock that Siouxsie and the Banshees helped create.
The show opened with the slow, grinding roll of .”Night Shift” and the ominous march of “Arabian Knights,” two of the four songs off that group’s 1981 album “Juju” in the set.
Siouxsie appeared for the first one in a hooded robe-like dress cut from a shiny gold fabric that reflected light back on the fans, dancing as she did throughout the night with her arms writhing above her head and about her body.
“Thank you for coming back,” she said at the end of the second song, then referred to the decision to make up the show immediately. “After 15 years, come back next year?” No, she indicated, that wasn’t going to happen.
Cheers greeted the opening notes of “Kiss Them For Me,” the 1991 dance-rock single that at No. 23 represented the Banshees’ only appearance in the U.S. Top 40. At the close, she dedicated it to “Mr. Jones, if he’s here tonight – he was last night,” possibly a reference to Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, a band of which the teenaged Siouxsie was an early friend and follower.
The Beatles’ cover of “Dear Prudence,” which at No. 3 was the Banshee’s top single on the U.K. charts, followed, and as throughout the show the dim glow of cell phone cameras backlit the crowd once more.
For most of the show, there were few signs that Siouxsie had only played a handful of shows in the last decade. Some European dates preceded her Cruel World set, and with the exception of the fan favorite “Cities in Dust,” on which her vocals seemed a step behind the tempo of the band, she sounded strong throughout.
Other highlights included “Face to Face,” the Banshees’ contribution to Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns” soundtrack, and “But Not Them,” a song from the Creatures, her side project with Banshees’ drummer Budgie, which featured mostly her vocals over her current band’s percussionists.
The main set reached a peak at the finish with “Christine” and “Happy Home,” a back-to-back pair of terrific songs from “Kaleidoscope,” the third Banshees’ album, released in 1980, and “Into a Swan,” one of four songs from her 2007 solo album “Mantaray.”
With extra time on Sunday, fans got three songs over two encores including “Spellbound,” one of the very best of the Banshees, and “Israel,” which she said they’d only decided during the final encore break to play on Sunday, and she hoped they did not mess up.
It was perfect, as was the decision to come back and play Cruel World on Sunday and put smiles on the sad faces on all those goths left bereft on Saturday.
Iggy Pop, in an hour-long set before Siouxsie, was his typically wonderful self, a cheerful godfather of punk, his voice as strong at 75 as it has been for decades.
He’d made it through five-and-half songs on Saturday before the severe weather warnings forced him off stage. On Sunday he got through 11 songs, 12 if you count the instrumental number his terrific band played before he arrived to kick off his set with “Five Foot One.”
“Hey! Deja vu, baby!” Pop shouted to the crowd, welcoming them back to Cruel World at the finish of his first number.
His band for Cruel World provided terrific backing on hits from his work with the Stooges, including “T.V. Eye” and “Raw Power” played early in the set, and solo numbers such as “The Passenger” and “Lust For Life.” This wasn’t the all-star band the Losers, which featured Duff McKagen of Guns N’ Roses and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
While he didn’t introduce them we did spot one of his past collaborators, Sarah Lipstate, who performs as Noveller, on guitar on Sunday. Jazz trumpet player Leron Thomas was another returnee to the band, and he and a trombonist added nice horn flourishes to songs such as “I’m Sick of You” and “Search and Destroy,” which wrapped up his set.
Gary Numan sounded as good as he had the previous day, though most of the crowd hadn’t made it through the long lines to enter the festival grounds by the time his set was finished.