Sunday 19 November 2023

The Sisters Of Mercy, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported By VirginMarys

I have seen the VirginMarys a few times live always as a support band but not for some time, so it's no surprise to learn that it's now ten years since the guitarist-drummer twosome of Ally Dickaty and Danny Dolan's first album and they were together a while before that.

They are just as I remember. Lively and... loud. Particularly those drums but they are also hugely impressive as they literally blow us away with their grunge/punk tunes.

Then for those with any eardrums left. It's time for the Sisters.

It's also been a while since I saw the Sisters of Mercy. Far too long I think. I stopped going because they seemed to have become almost a parody of themselves. The last time I saw them at Rock City the sound was really poor, the best days of Andrew Eldritch's vocal cords seemed well behind him while the stage was so utterly drenched in dry ice that you were left wondering if there was actually a band there on stage at all and you had fallen for some elaborate scam.

So yes, I've been away too long, because tonight was nothing like that. Tonight the Sisters rocked up at Rock City and rocked out, putting on an amazing stage show and the assembled masses loved it. The sound was top notch, Eldritch's voice problems seemed in remission while not only was the dry ice in moderation but they even have a decent light show going on.


Whereas last time I though the band just seemed to be going through the motions this time that certainly isn't the case. The band’s two guitarists long-time collaborator Ben Christo and newbie 'Sister' Kai, a replacement for Dylan Smith who was dispensed with earlier in the tour, are fully engaged tonight and throwing old skool rock poses all over the stage. While Chris Catalyst man’s Doktor Avalanche the drum machine, whatever that involves.  

Then there's Eldritch, and yes his voice isn’t what it was but he more than gets by tonight for a man of 64.

You could be a cynic and say the show involves a lot of karaoke. Doktor Avalanche the drum machine has, of course, always been a thing for them but now it's all the keyboard parts and also all the bass lines as the band have long since dispensed with a bass guitarist. 

The band power through a set routed in 1990's 'Vision Thing' album with 'Doctor Jeep', 'Ribbons', a truly thumping 'More' and 'I Was Wrong' featuring along with the classic that is 'Alice', 'Marian' and the Sisterhood's 'Giving Ground' which are interspersed with numerous unreleased songs before they end the main set with another classic in the 'Temple of Love'.   


The 'new' songs are controversial and always have been because the Sisters have released zilch since 'Vision Thing' apart from the 1993 'Under The Gun' single, which doesn't feature tonight, but they still keep performing new tracks. Tonight’s set consists of no less than eight of these but it has to be said that most of them are pretty good. This wasn't the case when they first started adding new tracks a couple of decades ago but then they've obviously had plenty of time to refine them.

Eldritch long ago said he saw no reason to release a new record and seems to abhor the prospect of entering a recording studio, employing the necessary people and then paying them both for time and royalties. Why bother, he says, when people can just come to a gig. Problem with that is, despite their prodigious touring record, most fans are probably only attending one gig a year and then when Eldritch eventually stops touring all you will be left with are the dodgy YouTube clips recorded on someone's phone. 

He really needs to sort this and to be fair to him he didn't entirely rule out a new release in recent interviews. As I'm sure he knows, the music industry has evolved and we now live in an era of self-published music and the likes of Bandcamp.

Of course he may be worried that a new record wouldn't be able to live up to the older ones and it probably won't but that's missing the point.

While the set is fantastic, the encore is something else. They have a saxophone up on stage for the instrumental 'Sandstorm' but then it's the fantastic threesome from 'Floodland' of ‘Dominion / Mother Russia', a truly bombastic 'Lucretia My Reflection' and then to close the Hey now! Hey now now! singalong of 'This Corrosion'. Top night.

On the basis of the reaction tonight, and the band's enduring popularity as demonstrated by practically every venue on this tour hanging up the 'sold out' signs, a new record would sell rather well. I think he is missing an open goal here. Get it sorted.

The Sisters of Mercy Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK and European Tour 2023

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