WORDS AND IMAGES PAUL EVANS
It’s a chilly November night in Manchester and I’m about to be engulfed in the dark, enigmatic world of the iconic Sisters of Mercy as they grace the stage of the Academy. In the vast and diverse landscape of musical genres there are few bands who have sparked as much debate about their genre as The Sisters of Mercy. Formed in 1980 and led by the enigmatic Andrew Eldritch they are a band who have left an indelible mark on the alternative music scene with their dark and atmospheric sound. A sound encompassing elements of post-punk, new wave and even electronica. First up tonight though are The VirginMarys.
Hailing from Macclesfield, The VirginMarys have been around for a while now and it seems they are finally getting the attention they deserve. A duo who somehow manage to create such an intense sound with only Ally Dickaty’s guitar, impassioned vocals and Danny Dolan’s powerful drums and they need to be seen live. The crowd are very, very receptive to their thunderous indie/punk rock. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd applaud a support band as much as they do tonight. They are definitely on my radar to see them again soon and you need to search them out.
Lights dim and smoke begins to fill the stage (what are the odds) as the opening chords of “Doctor Jeep / Detonation Boulevard” reverberate through the darkness. The combination of Andrew Eldritch’s deep, resonant vocals, the atmospheric guitar work of Ben and Kai and the drumming of Doktor Avalanche setting the tone for what is going to be an ominous and exhilarating night. “Don’t Drive on Ice” follows, its haunting melody echoing like a ghostly lament before the tempo shifts with the pulsating beats of “Ribbons” showcasing the band’s ability to seamlessly blend post-punk and the darker elements they are predominantly known for.
The sonic exploration continues with “Alice” and “Summer”, Eldritch’s vocals sounding perfect as the emotional weight of “Alice” resonates with the sold-out crowd. Especially evident during “More”, the band have an ability to create an otherworldly atmosphere where the combination of guitars, synths and vocals transport the audience to a realm where time seems to stand still. Amongst this sonic onslaught the melancholic strains, evocative lyrics and Eldritch’s lingering delivery of “Marian” brings a moment of much needed introspection. Andrew’s vocals are more mature and it’s more polished than the time I saw them in the mid 1980s, Ben and Kai also adding a stage presence that wasn’t there in the darkness of 1985.
Tonight’s stage is a canvas for the interplay of light and shadow, alternating between deep reds and icy blues, enhancing the theatricality of the performance and mirroring the duality inherent in The Sisters of Mercy’s music. Not everything they recorded was gloom ridden you know. Eldritch is clad in his trademark shades, his once stationary, enigmatic stage presence replaced with a sinister stage prowling. His iconic vocals and words painting vivid imagery in my mind adding to the night’s mystique.
As the setlist unfolds, each song is a chapter in the band’s sonic narrative. It’s a carefully crafted journey through recorded output and as the band don’t record anymore, songs you will only ever hear live. Driving rhythms and foreboding melodies continue with “Eyes of Caligula”, “But Genevieve” and The Sisterhood’s “Giving Ground”. The crowd swaying and moving, caught in the hypnotic spell woven by the band’s lesser-known work before the incendiary “When I’m on Fire” and haunting “On the Beach” lead us into the set closer.
“Temple of Love” is the iconic Sisters song for me. Sure, there’s “Anaconda” and “Adrenochrome, but for sheer majesty “Temple of Love” is THE Sisters song. Thunderous applauses and cheers fill the venue as Eldritch’s vocals soar over the songs driving rhythm, a testament to the enduring power of this classic track. “Dominion / Mother Russia” and “Lucretia My Reflection” follow, the juxtaposition of Eldritch’s commanding vocals and the atmospheric instrumentation creating sonic masterpieces. The musical synergy of the band with added saxophone elevating tonight’s performance to new heights and crowd reaction.
The night reaches its zenith with the iconic “This Corrosion,” a tour de force that encapsulates the grandeur and drama of The Sisters of Mercy’s music. The stage bathed in a cascade of lights, Eldritch’s vocals cutting through the air with a commanding presence, bringing the night to a triumphant close as the crowd become a sea of hands raised in unison. The anthemic chorus, accompanied by a cascade of lights creates a moment of pure sonic transcendence. Eldritch, the enigmatic maestro at the centre of it all, conducting the final crescendo with a commanding presence that leaves an indelible mark on the night as the stage is bathed in the warm glow of applause and cheers.
It’s the best I’ve seen The Sisters of Mercy in a long time tonight. Andrew’s vocals sounded superb and the band were spellbinding. Hell, they even looked liked they were enjoying themselves. Do yourself a favour catch this iconic band before it’s too late.
1/ Doctor Jeep / Detonation Boulevard
2/ Don’t Drive on Ice
7/ I Will Call You
9/ Eyes of Caligula
10/ Giving Ground
11/ But Genevieve
12/ I Was Wrong
14/ When I’m on Fire
15/ On the Beach
16/ Temple of Love
18/ Dominion / Mother Russia
19/ Lucretia My Reflection
20/ This Corrosion
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I’ve loved music since forever. Graphic designer, photographer and artist at painted.papillon.smile (www.ppsdesign.co.uk)