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).

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week