Review – The Sisters of Mercy @ Olympia Theatre, 11/11/11

You don’t have to be a goth to like The Sisters of Mercy, in fact they (or he) would probably prefer it if you weren’t as it’s not a label they’re happy with. This is just as well, as though I may have the black hair, I wasn’t prepared to match the effort of others as I would need to go a step further by dunking my face in gram flour to douse my Eastern glow.

If you like dry ice machines a TSOM gig would be a real treat! In all seriousness, the severity switch should’ve been turned down a few notches, but to their credit I’ve never seen a band cloaked in so much as to give a mysterious illusion; made more ambient by coloured and strobe lightning. TSOM isn’t a band that wants to chat with you, they want you to chase their shadows and limbs before leaving you satisfactorily lost.

This was the first time I saw them live and in a city that had been starved of them for about fifteen years. All sorts were there, so it wasn’t just a stereotypical sea of black contrasting against the regal red of the theatre. TSOM are as old me so it would’ve been comical to see many ageing vampires anyway. There was a support band too of course, and they gave it their best for an audience, that as ever, only cares for the headliner.

Apart from being stunned by the galaxial visuals (think looking at Orion’s Belt), I had a bit of trouble tapping my foot and mouthing some lyrics as I didn’t know half of what they were playing. It’s been 21yrs since the band released an original studio album but this hasn’t stopped them from airing new material. New for me as certainly some punters recognised the songs very well. There were a couple of songs I knew even that took a few minutes for my brain to register as familiar, possibly because they don’t always recreate recorded sounds.

The big draws of the night – that is where some people in my seated area got up and danced – were the beefy hits such as Dominion/Mother Russia, More and Temple of Love. They might’ve lacked some of the electronic nuances of the studio versions but the feel came across well. One other plus of a band that relies on a drum machine than a drummer is that in a live situation nothing gets drowned by the acoustic instrument; useful with such a baritone-heavy singer (more so than on record) as Andrew Eldritch. A handful of laptops glowing with the Apple logo in the corner of the stage served as an ample band mate to the three men in front.

I don’t think we’ll see TSOM moving a league up to stadiums any time soon, and it would be a shame if they did as the band creates enough distance between us and them in an intimate venue. Classic, moody, albums like Floodland will keep trickling in new fans by word of mouth, and as long as there’s rubbish like The X Factor on TV, long may they keep being awkward and fascinating on stage.

See a 1988 (lip-syncing) TV performance by TSOM below. I add this over an Olympia Theatre version as the song is best heard by newcomers as recorded; albeit this is a single edit.

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