Royal Festival Hall, London

Simon Price on pop: Siouxsie Sioux says, 'Don't wear vinyl on a hot night, kids!'

5.00

The first lady of punk shrugs off a meltdown at Meltdown for her high-kicking comeback

It's always the quiet ones you have to watch – the peripheral faces in the penumbra, at the edge of the spotlight's glare. So it was with punk rock, when a handful of minor Sex Pistols hangers-on later became the players who would show a torchlit route out of the bowdlerised, codified cabaret that punk had become by the late Seventies. Adam Ant, Steve Strange and, above all others, Siouxsie Sioux.

Few would have predicted it in September 1976, when the teenage Susan Ballion led a scratch Siouxsie and the Banshees at the 100 Club's Punk Special, wearing a swastika armband she'd spend a lifetime answering for, caterwauling through a 14-minute rendition of The Lord's Prayer, and prompting a backhanded compliment from the Pistols' Glen Matlock: "I don't know what it is, but it's not rock'n'roll."

The Scream (1978) and Join Hands (1979) pioneered a kind of cryogenic psychedelia, their combination of icy, abrasive harshness with lyrical mystique and previously verboten artiness laying the blueprint for what would later be known as Gothic rock. The 1980 album Kaleidoscope, though, is what Sioux chooses to perform in full when ending a half- decade absence for Yoko Ono's Meltdown.

With its themes of mental trauma and voyeurism – and, let's be blunt, cracking tunes (you'll know "Happy House" and "Christine") – that album defined the Banshees sound. And if the word "icon" is overused, make no mistake: on stage and in the flesh Siouxsie is the living, high-kicking, wrist-twirling, real thing.

At the Royal Festival Hall she's looking incredible: the unmistakeable raven hair, death-mask eyes and scarlet scowl augmented by a white PVC outfit that's part kabuki, part Action Man parachutist, part Clockwork Orange droog.

A sweat-drenched midsummer hour later, Sioux vows: "Next time I come back after five years, I won't wear vinyl."

She's sounding ferocious too, the voice – always an obstinate semitone below the natural melody – as impressive as her ability to get her foot vertically above her own head. And her band, a lean three-piece, manfully make up for the absence of actual Banshees.

Kaleidoscope is followed by a second half that includes "Dear Prudence" (watched by Ono, the widow of the man who wrote it), blues standard "Careless Love" astride a high-backed chair, and the ultimate horror-punk anthem, "Spellbound".

The incongruous party balloons thrown by misguided fans, along with the Venetian blind backdrop, are an inadvertent throwback to old Top of the Pops appearances when the Banshees were gloriously out of place. Sioux is never truly in her element unless she's kicking against the pricks.

Accidentally chiming with the times is always pleasing, but in the hands of Pet Shop Boys (O2, London *****) it starts to look deliberate. "Integral", written in 2007 as a response to the Blair government's identity card scheme, suddenly feels even more relevant: "If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear/If you've something to hide, you shouldn't even be here/Long live us, the Persuaded 'We'..."

It's one of the many ways PSB, a band who have been around long enough for Chris Lowe's "Boy" cap to be fashionable three times over, sound shiny and new on their current tour.

Lowe's mixology skills are to the fore – the segue from "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing" into "Suburbia" is a thing of beauty – and the trick of repurposing a macho rock cover, in this case Springsteen's "Last to Die", and running it into more standard camp fare like Bernstein's "Somewhere", echoes their chart-topping "Where the Streets Have No Name/Can't Take my Eyes off You" medley.

As always, it's a costume spectacular of deadpan Dadaism – ballet dancers in buffalo headdresses, mirrorball helmets, and the laser display they break out for "I'm Not Scared", throwing vortices of green beams around the concrete cavern of the O2, are among the best I've ever seen.

The material from the forthcoming Electric holds up well, notably "Thursday", but we're soon into a run of "Rent", "It's a Sin", "Domino Dancing", "Always on My Mind", the hits from PSB's imperial phase – Neil Tennant's own wonderful term; he always did have a way with words.

The planned serendipity continues to the very end, when "Go West", a cover that alludes to the false dreams raised by the fall of Soviet communism, is followed by "West End Girls", which alludes to the revolution that started it all. It's almost as if they know what they're doing.

Critic's Choice

Tom Tom Club, the punk-funk pioneers led by Talking Heads rhythm section Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, play the 100 Club, London (Mon); Thekla, Bristol (Tue); Brudenell Social Club, Leeds (Thu) ahead of weekend spots at Glastonbury and the Eden Project. Meanwhile, original Jersey Boy Frankie Valli brings The Four Seasons to the LG Arena, Birmingham (tomorrow/Sunday) and Royal Albert Hall, London (Tue & Wed).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz