Sisters of Mercy cornered in Melbourne

They weren’t, of course. I spied just the one fan hovering by the stage exit, and he was fended off by the driver, and then waved off through the glass, clutching his LP as the English trio piled into their escape vehicle.

Inside Melbourne’s packed and venerable shed, The Corner, there were two, perhaps three people wearing white. One was Andrew Eldritch, lead singer and founder and main man of the Sisters of Mercy. Through the constant fog, the bald, sunglassed figure looked astronautical at times; sadly, the image was belied by the reality of the terry towling hoodie. This was rock ‘n’ roll in gym chic. This was NOT GOTH, okay?

The crowd was, largely, so corseted and coiffed, a delight to behold, the goths and the rockabillies and the rock hounds, the veteran fans and the newest generation flocking to see the UK legends roll out 90 minutes of classic not-goth rock. Hm, perhaps best not to write songs such as ‘Lucretia My Reflection’ — an absolute winner tonight, holding up one of the two encores — if you don’t want the children of the night to bulk out your fan base.

Kyla Ward reports from the front line!

Points to Eldritch, his wonderful guitarist and so-active bassist: they changed the set list from last week’s Auckland gig, even whacking the instrumental into the second encore. The hits were still there, of course: ‘More’, ‘Detonation Boulevard’, ‘Vision Thing’, ‘This Corrosion’, ‘Dominion/Mother Russia’, ‘Alice’, the closing ‘Temple of Love’, and others. Unknowns were there, too, moreso thank in NZ if feeble memory serves, allowing the chitter-chatter to rise. My advice, should you be so inclined as to attend this Thursday’s gig, is to get up close, where you can peer through the fog and catch some of the action, and perhaps lip read the lyrics you know so well. Because from the back, Eldritch was largely unintelligible save for those occasional lupine howls, those particularly enunciated choruses.

He was, however, compared to the Auckland outing, verily loquacious, even addressing a couple up the front, and exhorting attendance on Thursday for the band’s second and last sideshow outside the Soundwave festival.

Kudos to the Corner bar staff; have I ever been so quickly, efficiently and politely served at any live venue before?

All of which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy tonight’s gig. The Sisters are formative to me, comfort and mood music, and to hear them play, even in this thoroughly competent and enjoyable incarnation, is a delight. I like Eldritch’s onstage super-cool persona, I love the lights strobing out from the mist, I love the beats and the songs of decay and loss and displacement, the cynicism and world-weariness and the headbanging riffs. It’s rock ‘n’ roll to be lost in and taken away by and moved by. But yes, perhaps, live, best appreciated from up the front.


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Sisters of Mercy bring it on home in Auckland

It was the gig I excpected it to be. The gig I’d waited 20 years or so for. The Sisters of Mercy — well, founder and main man Andrew Eldritch with a guitarist, bassist and laptop wrangler — live and loud at Auckland’s Powerstation on Wednesday night.

It was a no-nonsense set-up. A plain, industrial stage dressing of pipes, guitar, bass, smoke machines working so hard the band sometimes vanished. And holding court, Eldritch – bald, sunglasses, goatee, military blacks. Delivering virtual spoken word in uber cool style, cigarette in hand as he whispered and moaned into the mic. For an hour and a half. Song after song, notorious drum machine Dr Avalanche not giving a moment to pause.

They offered a playlist to die for: an assortment of hits, b-sides and a couple of unrecorded tunes including ‘Summer’, played to an ecstatic full house. A young crowd with a presentable smattering of overt goths. Not enough to rankle the infamous goth-shy Eldritch, or if so, he made no comment. In fact, he said barely a word that wasn’t a lyric.

‘Ribbons’ opened. There was ‘Dominion’, ‘First and Last and Always’, ‘Detonation Boulevard’, ‘Alice’, ‘Vision Thing’, ‘More’ (not the 12″!) … and two (albeit seemingly scripted) thumping encores featuring a highlight of the night in ‘Lucretia My Reflection’ and a strangely uninspiring ‘Temple of Love’ to close.

Underpinning it all were those familiar, at times repetitive beats, lashings of superb guitar, a stray wish for a drummer to help kick things up and around a bit. Eldritch was a little hard to hear early in the piece, but there was no denying the power of the constant battering to transport the listener. Twenty years in the waiting, and the Sisters did not disappoint, even if they didn’t surprise.

Bring on Melbourne, where they play two gigs at the Corner in their only non-Soundwave tour appearance Down Under!