Shakespears Sister bury the hatchet with a hypnotic set at the London Palladium
After a mere 26-year hiatus, this distinctive band have reformed with a new EP and mini-tour. The lustrous Palladium had a festive feel, filled with chic Goths and sequins; old friends greeting each other. A man in a beret with devil horns floated around. A woman who looked like the dowager countess of a now-defunct European principality arrived. One could tell those attending the gig from the tube, such was the dark glamour of the attendees.
Marcella Detroit and Siobhan Fahey strutted on stage amidst smoke and dispersing acrimony bedecked in bejewelled western-style suits. Dialogue from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and gunfight music from spaghetti westerns preceded their entrance, poking fun at a less-than-cordial split in 1993. If you Google what happened, it has to be the harshest band breakup ever, so one has to salute Detroit’s magnanimity. They had buried the hatchet, “but not in each other luckily”, Detroit noted.
The music still sounded fresh: the mix of Detroit’s multi-instrumentalist prowess with Fahey’s dangerous rock persona is unique. The rocky guitar mixed with Detroit’s operatic trills, detached from the tune, created an ethereal vibe. This combination was used to most memorable effect on their 1993 uber-hit Stay. A rendition of their best-known song felt a little perfunctory. There’s a reason the track has stuck around: it’s an excellent tune and it would have been satisfying for it to be made more of, perhaps extended or given a new arrangement to provide an element of surprise. Nevertheless, it’s still one of the best pop songs ever and thrilling to watch, especially with the mixture of Detroit’s entreaty and Fahey’s menacing entrance.
When the two frontwomen sang together, it was with uneasy harmony, always on the cusp of curdling, perhaps reflective of the relationship itself. Somehow, this made the sound more exciting and moreish. Glam stomp Heroine, catchy You’re History and crowd-pleaser Hombre were highlights.
New material was recorded in the desert outside LA and it sounded washed with that environment, with honky-tonk piano on Dangerous Game and Detroit unleashing some spectacular harmonica. The lyrics were clearly informed by grief over heartbreak and felt simple but personal. Richard Hawley was guest on duet When She Finds You.
There were some nerves and some of the rock histrionics were a half a beat too tentative, but after more than a quarter of a century, they were still hypnotic.
Photos: Arianna Cavalensi
For further information and future events visit Shakespears Sister’s website here.
Watch the video for Stay here: