Tuesday, September 16, 2014

[Live music] The Sisters of Mercy

This is a concert I went to back in July.

You know these people. They are a famous goth band from the past whose heyday was the 1980s. They have not released any records since the early 1990s. I refer to them with plural pronouns, yet the passage of time has seen the Sisters of Mercy become just the one person, Andrew Eldritch. He recruits various session musicians and the like whenever he decides to go on the road. Mr Eldritch does not tour very often which makes me think he must be independently wealthy or something. Or maybe he has a job in the City and just tours as the Sisters as a hobby.

The last time I saw the Sisters, they were playing in the Olympia. I was up in the Gods, which made for an alienating experience. The sound was not great either (not a surprise for Olympia concerts). Together these made for a less than satisfactory night out. This time they were playing in Vicar Street, a venue famous for its excellent sound and for its open floor plan that allows anyone determined enough to get up to the front. So I decided to give them another go.

I met my gothic friend Angela in the Lord Edward for a pre-concert drink. It was not busy. There were folk-trad musicians playing there in an unobtrusive manner. It was nice.

As expected, the crowd in Vicar Street was a load of people in their 40s with who don't get out much. There were some younger sexy goth ladies, or maybe it is a wonder what extreme make-up can accomplish. But mostly it was old people like myself.
Mr Eldtritch is himself getting on a bit. He has now lost his hair and seems to have compensated by growing a little goatee beard. He was entertaining to watch. Belying his austere reputation he eschewed static poses and did a lot of posing around and jokey working of the crowd. In some ways this led to cognitive dissonance (I would have expected him to have remained stock still, surrounded by dry ice), but it was amusing.

The sound however was disappointing, with most of the songs sounding very thin and like the palest shadows of their recorded versions. Given how reliant the band are on programmed bits and bobs this did seem a bit poor, suggesting a certain laziness on their part. There were some odd choices about the band's line-up too. With Eldritch were a couple of session guitarists, at least one of whom was a bit of a pretty boy. They had no bassist; classic Sisters tunes are very bass-heavy, so this must have played a large part in making everything sound a bit thin.

The crowd was surprisingly stinky. The hot weather must have caught people unawares and they had not adjusted their bathing habits accordingly. As the event went on, many became over excited and tried to relive their youth by aggressive moshing. It seemed a bit too much to me and it was noticeable how almost uniformly male the moshing zone was. As is the way of these things, I don't think the intention was to push women from the front but it had that effect to at least some extent.

Overall I was underwhelmed by the experience. The weak sound and lack of bass made many of the songs almost unrecognisable, or recognisable only as thin and ineffectual versions of their true selves. This did not come across as a band trying to reinvent their old tunes, more as a band making a pig's ear of them. Having now definitively filed the Sisters of Mercy under bands who have duff live sound, I cannot see myself going to see them again in the future. It also put me off seeing the reformed Jesus & Mary Chain, who played here recently.

The Sisters of Mercy in the Olympia

Eldritch Panda (Giant Panda Zoo)


Simon said...

Have you encountered Marvel's Merciless Sisters? (click See what's inside...)

ian said...