Sisters Of Mercy

Sisters Of Mercy

London Kentish Town Forum, England • 2.12.98

First, please note the lack of an opening band. I can only think of one other “arena level” margin-walking band that has reaches that level of hubris — Metallica. This is the first of many portents of the form the Sisters of Mercy have assumed after years of virtual inactivity and mystique-building. But the audience are innocently preoccupied with admiring the vast amounts of dry ice billowing through the hall, listening to the creepy new age music over the P.A., and admiring one another’s cowboy boots and spider-web capes. The poor fools cannot even begin to grasp the level of total Rawk experience they are to be subjected to. Witness the Wagnerian intro music as Eldritch, looking like a bleach-blonde miniature Bowie, and… a couple of other guys (too much dry ice) stride on stage and swagger straight through “First and Last and Always.” Following close is a vicious take on “Ribbons,” with all of its delicate subtlety stomped to death by huge metallic Kiss platform boots. Apparently Eldritch has decided to take his Mötörhead influence to its logical conclusion. Does he have to spell it out for you?

Okay, he does. Twice. Over squalling feedback he imperiously announces, “We are the Sisters of Mercy. We are a rock band.” And though it is impossible to see the band, the ROCK is in plain view. “Dominion/ Mother Russia,” “Giving Ground,” “This Corrosion,” “Vision Thing,” all delivered in a manner befitting Mötörhead and David Bowie “jamming” on Depeche Mode’s equipment live at Red Rocks. Eldritch shows off his Alan Vega impersonations while stretching his voice to limits not heard on their studio product: screams, feral growls, moans, a near operatic intensity. The audience are often at a loss on how to react. You can tell they rrreally want to do some spooky dancing/a flower blooms arm movements, but this is a rock show and you just can’t do that poncey nonsense to songs like this. What are you, a Mission fan or something? In fact, you get the feeling that Eldritch would be absolutely elated if his core audience just disappeared, and in its place appeared a bunch of frenzied Slayer fans. The blood is still on the ground from the Dark Harvest Festival; Eldritch has no time for g*ths anymore. “We are the light at the end of your pitiful little tunnel,” he sneers right before “Alice.” The Sisters willingly cultivate an atmosphere of alienation and detachment — from the Bowie-in-Berlin stage presence, to the Blade Runner lights and dry ice shield. Eldritch is contemptuously assured in his circus maximus spectacle. They can even throw an acoustic version of, I think, “Something Fast,” incongruously right into the middle of the set, before reverting back into Fear Factory mode to devour their own back catalogue.

Encore? Yeah, why not, it’s the rock thing to do. The Sisters finish the night by pissing all over your classic-rock guilty pleasures. They turn Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” into a pillar of steel and then somehow fade it into Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” What else can a poor boy do…

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