Kiss them for Lee

by Ryan Snyder

Six years ago, Lee Wallace stood on stage at the annual winter installment of Joe G’s Cover Band Explosion, hair dyed jet black and cast into precarious spikes, playing the part of Robert Smith as his band covered the Cure to benefit the Guilford County Animal Shelter. One year ago, the event became a benefit for Wallace himself. The Greensboro musician and animal lover was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and needed a double lung transplant — in theory, a death sentence. This past Saturday night, as Joe G’s Cover Band Explosion resumed its founding mission, Wallace stood on stage with a copse of wild, black hair and wearing a volume of eyeliner. He was once again, almost miraculously, playing the part of Robert Smith, thanks in part to the very event he helped to grow.

This reading, however, was a bit dif ferent.

The disconsolate goth prince of years ago was traded for version that couldn’t bear to hide his elation. Grin after grin betrayed his character’s melancholy carriage as he eyed his spiraling dervish of a counterpart, Siouxsie Sioux (played splendidly by Crystal Bright). Smith’s stints in Siouxsie & the Banshees were limited to a combined span of only four years, though the anatopistic and parachronistic inconsistencies of a set list that included “Kiss Them for Me” and “Cities In Dust” were acknowledged on the meta. “So many words and I’m getting so old,” Bright said after “Happy House,” before noting that she wrote “Christine” — a song about dissociated personality disorder — before she was actually born. The irony didn’t seem lost on Robert Smith.

Bright and Wallace weren’t alone in their spot-on portrayals. The Leeves’s Jerrod Smith assumed the chary glaze of deceased Morphine frontman Mark Sandman, along with his deceptively tricky two-string slide bass style. For all of the tortuous character detail with which Bright imbued her Siouxsie, Morphine’s heavily baritone-centric sound was possibly a more complicated one to get right. The fine nuances between Sandman’s voice, his narrow-register bass and Dana Colley’s husky baritone sax demand a tenacious attention to detail — it could have easily liquesced into a puddle of pre-subsonic rumble — but Smith and Corporate Fandango sax man Cheston Harris delivered. They menaced with “Buena” and “Murder for the Money” while the icy groove of “Let’s Take a Trip Together” and “Cure for Pain” numbed, sentiments that the Banshees’ agitated swagger would counter with rampant enthusiasm and a familiar, smiling face.