THE SISTERS OF MERCY
THE ROUNDHOUSE
SAT SEPT 21st 2019

The Sisters Of Mercy are an enigma wrapped in a riddle surrounded by layers of dry ice, novelist Julie Hamill attempts to unravel the imperial darkness and is further enamoured by their delicious mystery…

The Sisters got in my skin when I was fifteen, after I started going out with the first goth in town, Alyn.  He looked like Andrew Eldritch, black jeans and jacket, sculpted face, black hair, usually alone with the air of a baddie. He didn’t look like anybody else in Airdrie.  This mysterious lonesome goth put the needle on The Reptile House EP, and then First And Last And Always, after which I followed the band for myself and completed an effective teen transfer to the dark side.  I fell for The Sisters, and enjoyed a quicksand sink into inky songs which, over time got rockier and punched out of the radio like gunfire.

Thirty years on, The Sisters Of Mercy are still one of my most listened to bands. They sound only like themselves, and this can’t be over-emphisised.  They are a fix, a buzz, everything Andrew Eldritch delivers in hot deep drawl, and as I head to The Roundhouse I feel the thrill of fifteen, and I’m absolutely desperate to hear ‘Marian’.

There’s a blinding lightshow of blue spot lights amidst the darkness of the stage as More opens the show, and yes, Andrew (interviewed in depth here) sounds magnificent and deep and distinct and brutal and croaky and precise and exactly and bang on – as he should.  The crowd immediately shout back ‘MORE!’ in response and we’re off on a high bounce.  However. I can’t see the boss.  Where is he? Oh!  He was at the side of the stage doing the intro.  Now he’s at the centre mic.  Wait, he’s moved again. In and out of the black to the back, front, left and right, impossible to see. Thus ensues a show where my eyes chase Eldritch round the stage in and out of flashing lights and shadows as he plays hide and seek and I try to get a glimpse of his Voldemort silhouette.  I’m frustrated with his fidgeting but his voice is just perfect.  

The new 6’5” tall guitarist, Dylan Smith, makes an impressive frame as he delivers the crispy twisty Sisters sounds really well, particularly on Alice, when the lights take a ballistic turn.  The crowd gives it back ten fold.  Arms are up in the air voices sing every word as the band race through the set with customary and satisfying zero chit-chat in between.  Good.  I don’t want the weather.  We’re standing at the back near the pillars and I enjoy seeing the finger shapes of hands through the lights which all adds to slight horror film ambience but at this point I’m jealous of those crushed at the front, getting the full black rush.

The setlist is a mix of old and new.  One of the new songs, Show Me, sounds amazing and I’m dying to hear it again.  First And Last And Always has been slowed down a bit since the departure of the wondrous Chris Catalyst, but it’s still played so fast it’s like it’s been run inside a washing machine on spin.  Nobody is complaining and old goths in vintage tshirts find youth in their bodies to wobble as we’re all transported back to better times. Everybody is loving Arms which thrusts henceforth with romance.

Dominion/Mother Russiasuits the venue and booms out into the round with brutal dominance. Flood II does it again, the sound is nailed.  We’re treated to No Time To Cry but sadly no Marian which was played the night before. 

Lucretia rules the encores followed by Vision Thing, Temple Of Love(riotous) and This Corrosionand then it’s over and The Sisters Of Mercy disappear. The realisation that Eldritch is still a magnificent mystery is present amongst the crowd (even if he isn’t) and The Sisters Of Mercy remain, on any Eldritch line up, in the skin. I hope he never changes.

Shuffling out, I notice that everybody is smiling.  There is jubilance in the dark.

Set List from Setlist.com

  1. More
  2. Ribbons
  3. Doctor Jeep / Detonation Boulevard
  4. When You Don’t See Me
  5. No Time to Cry
  6. Show Me
  7. Alice
  8. First and Last and Always
  9. Arms
  10. Better Reptile
  11. Dominion / Mother Russia
  12. We Are the Same, Susanne
  13. Still
  14. Something Fast
  15. I Was Wrong
  16. Flood IIEncore:
  17. Lucretia My Reflection
  18. Vision Thing
  19. Temple of Love
  20. This Corrosion@juliehamill is a London based Scottish writer.  Her new novel, ‘Jackie’ is published on 15 October. Hamill will be interviewing Wayne Hussey live on stage at The Dublin Castle rock n roll book club, on 4 November.

———— END——–

Julie Hamill is a London-based Scottish author and broadcaster with a new novel, Jackie out on 15 October, 2019. 

@juliehamill

Further information:

http://www.atriumtalent.com/talent/julie-hamill-agent-julie-hamill-writer-broadcaster/

13 COMMENTS

  1. Good review, but you didn’t mention the terrible sound quality! And it was so quiet. Really let down by that. Missed potential.

    • Thank god someone with ears! I agree the sound wasn’t spot on at all. We stood by the sound desk and got guitars sounding like they were under duvets. The classic songs were amended and tweaked to up the anti on drums and bass. Even though no bass player was present. We left early. Disappointing dirge.

  2. Wow what a very generous review. We saw it differently, we did smile as we left after the murder of Temple of Love done on tbe cheap and cut to shreds.

  3. That’s a great review Julie and you’ve totally captured the ambience; there really is nothing like SOM.

    I have to say I thought the mix was shit though. From where I was it was mushy at best. I didn’t even recognise “First And Last And Always” until a minute or so in and it has a very distinctive intro. Also, no “Gimme Shelter”? Copyright problems maybe.

    Anyway, thanks for a good read and letting me relive a great night for a few minutes.

  4. Stood in front of sound desk. Very poor sound quality. Pity, I waited a long time to see them. Left half way through as I didn’t want to hear any more songs destroyed. There really needs to be a live bass player too.

  5. Andrew should fire the guitar players (too young to understand the SOM universe) (and lead guitarist smiling on stage, shocking!).
    He should also fire the tourist coming back from Ibiza with his Hawaian shirt.
    The Sisters of Mercy fans should deserve much more than a karaoke performance.
    And for the end… No bass on Marian… Imagine…
    Jean Marc (2nd row on sept 20th)

  6. Oh please. Just saw the same show in Melbourne October 30th and it was miserable. These songs are 30 years old and you can really tell from this show. I wasn’t expecting that much, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this bad. To be honest, there’s nothing much left except shallow pastiche in 2019. Eldritch moves around the stage, gesturing like a robot, with all the imputed spirit of one. He comes across as utterly mechanical. You can tell he’s done this show what, hundreds, thousands of times? And is heartily sick of it. This is just about the money, and fair enough, the venue was packed. At the start. But I saw a steady drain of people leaving as the show droned on. There’s not a single word of interaction with the audience except for a solitary “Thank you” from the guitarist. I guess that’s supposed to convey the mystique of the SoM but come on, it’s 2019, not 1989. Lighten up. Speaking of lighting it’s terrible. The whole show is backlit. Every single moment of it. Amongst endless clouds of dry ice. This makes it difficult to see anything at all really except blue and yellow and red glows from the lights glaring in your eyes. God forbid we should see Eldritch at 60. The worst thing though was the music itself. Maybe it was the venue but it was a terrible mix, all thump and bass with the crowd blaring over the top. I could hear all of my 15 neighbours chatting away the whole show long. And what the hell is with the guitarist Dylan Smith taking over all the backing vocals/choirs of the original songs? I wasn’t expecting a 40 part choir during This Corrosion or anything but, this guy just can’t sing. Most of the songs were destroyed by his warbling borderline false falsetto attempts to replicate the female vocal parts of the originals, which were way louder in the mix than Eldritch’s own, barely audible much of the time. Imagine all the Gothic glory of the massive choir part in This Corrosion replaced with a teen boy’s voice singing, badly. I wanted to hear Eldritch’s voice, not Smith’s. . Leave him to be super good looking and spunky which seems to be the main reason for his presence. The whole performance would have been more in place at some seedy Las Vegas venue, a faded act soldiering on against time. Kudos to them almost selling out the venue (given it was the 2nd time ever they played this city) but I doubt it will ever happen again.

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