This was the first of two shows The Sisters Of Mercy were playing at Camden’s famous Roundhouse venue at the start of the band’s current UK and European tour. As Andrew Eldritch points out, he’s amazed that 42 years after The Sisters Of Mercy played their first show, they are still going. I have to say, if you asked me when I first saw them play in 1984, that 39 years later not only would I be seeing them live again, but I’d be on the guest list to review the show, I would not have believed you. Part of the reason for that disbelief is that after almost every show I’ve ever seen by The Sisters Of Mercy about a third of the audience swear they will never go and see the band again as they were terrible, this show was in no way an exception to that rule, yet was still far better than the last show I saw The Sisters Of Mercy play.
Sisters Of Mercy @ Roundhouse
Opening for The Sisters Of Mercy were The Virginmarys, who have slimmed down from a trio to a duo since the pandemic. They opened with The Meds, a tune that had some furiously expansive guitar to let us know what effect those meds were having on singer Ally Dickaty and drummer Danny Dolan. The tension rose on Into The Dust as all the things that make them want to kill the bastard they are singing about.
Thousand Times had them claiming they were 95 miles from down south while in fact being down south, as the interplay between the duo was helped by Danny’s theatrical drumming, even if some of Ally’s vocals were lost, as he needed them turned up by about 15 decibels. Sweet Loretta is one of the few tunes people they really care about, as the slightly slower place allowed for greater dynamics between the duo.
Ally told us that the band’s new single was out on October 6th but never bothered to tell us it’s called Where Are You Now? before they launched into a thousand-miles-per-hour run through it, super speedy taut rock. They made clear on NYC that they were not singing about California but it was also rather similar to several of the bands other songs. Lost Weekend gives a sordid account of a one-night stand far more staying power than the actual liaison had.
Look Out For My Brother made clear they would rather we all care for each other than fight over nothing, as they brought a tight set to a close with Bang Bang Bang, Danny hitting his bell every time Ally sang Bang Bang Bang. And they were gone to a good round of applause.
As The current line up of The Sisters Of Mercy came on stage, the curtain fell to reveal the as expected mainly black backdrop, for Andrew Eldritch to begin stalking the stage as they opened with new song Don’t Drive On Ice which is great advice. The song sounded like classic The Sisters Of Mercy with Ben Christo’s lead guitar dark and magisterial.
Ribbons was full of the deep dark drum sound of Doctor Avalanche who was being manipulated by Ravey Davey’s last minute replacement Chris Catalyst as Andrew disappeared to the sides of the stage a couple of times. I Will Call You, one of the newer songs, was full of Dylan Smith’s bleak guitar driving us into a drug-induced state as I tried to make out Andrew’s vocals that seemed, at times, a little mumbled.
The first big roar of the night went up for the first few bars of Alice. As the song got going, it was clear the audience were singing it louder and more clearly than Von himself, although he played up to that, encouraging us all to sing along to the only song I think I’ve heard them play live every time I’ve seen them.
It was back to one of The Sisters Of Mercy’s many unreleased songs for But Genevieve, brought a great dark club dance-floor feel with it, with many in the audience dancing along. First And Last And Always was greeted like the old friend it is, Ben and Dylan’s guitars meshing perfectly as Ben seemed to share the vocals with Andrew.
Considering what’s currently happening in Ukraine, I was surprised that they didn’t introduce Dominion/Mother Russia properly, as this classic floor-filler got a great reaction, still sounding magnificent no matter how indistinct some of Von’s vocals were, the audience making up for it.
Summer is one of the less likely things you expect The Sisters to sing about, this version had good dynamics as again Ben seemed to be singing almost more than Andrew. Marian sounded imperious and the effects Doktor Avalanche added really helped. As always, Andrew wanted More, and in this case it would be More guitar and More vocals.
Instrumental 86 might be a newer song that allows Andrew to disappear for a breather, but it has the classic Sisters dance-floor sound, perfect to change some lightbulbs to. Andrew re-emerged at the start of Doctor Jeep/Detonation Boulevard, the classic that had loads of bass from the good Doktor to help drive this classic along.
Eyes Of Caligula is another new one that might have reflected how Von sees himself, as the undisputed dark lord of goth (I know he hates the term), but he really has been king of the sound for far too long now. I Was Wrong isn’t always a sentiment you would expect from Mr Eldritch but everyone has to apologise once in a while, this is as close as he gets to that, I know a lot of the bands fans think they deserve an apology for the bands performance, this may have to do.
I think Crash & Burn was in the set the last time I saw The Sisters, as Ben again took about half the vocals as Andrew was pacing across the stage. Here was one of the newest songs in the set, but it sounded much like a golden oldie, Andrew also seemed to make a point of really singing the lyrics more clearly as if he really was happy to be Here in Camden.
Vision Thing was the only song to get a visible mosh pit, as this hit went down better than most of the set. On The Beach certainly isn’t a tribute to Neil Young, but another dance-floor ready goth banger if it were to be released as the single it sounds like it should be.
They then closed with one last new song, When I’m On Fire, the band kind of had been musically, if not vocally, for much of the set, as they sounded far better than the last time I saw them. At the end of the song they just downed tools and walked off to almost silence, it took a minute or two for the clapping and cheering to begin to bring them back for an encore, like people were deciding if they wanted an encore or not.
Eventually they came back on as Ben began to play Lucretia My Reflection, the deep drum machine synth bass really got going, this sounded really great. Then Dylan Smith seemed to have some problems with his guitar, he was talking with the tech guy, at which point Andrew took his guitar from him, handed it to the tech guy and signalled for Dylan to leave the stage, almost as if he was being dismissed. As he didn’t play the second show it does indeed appear he was sacked live onstage.
Then with just one guitar and Doktor Avalanche, they played a fantastic rendition of Temple Of Love that again had louder audience singing than Andrew was managing, but at least this time he was encouraging it. They then closed the show with This Corrosion that, as you’d expect ,went down well showing that The Sisters Of Mercy are just about still worth seeing live, while living up to several of the legends surrounding the band’s live performances, this being a show many fans found hard to take, the acoustics at The Roundhouse not helping matters.
Live review of The Sisters Of Mercy @ Roundhouse on 22nd September 2023 by Simon Phillips. Photography by Adrian Hextall on 23rd September 2023.