Words & Pictures Adrian Hextall \ (C) MindHex Media
As the nights start to draw in, as the sun sets on Camden Town, hordes of people, dressed in black (and one guy in a white Fred Perry polo shirt – we’ll come back to that) descended on The Roundhouse for what has become a bit of a regular thing for fans of The Sisters of Mercy. The last time they played here was back in 2019 but of course, a small matter of a pandemic has prevented the Godfathers of Gothic Rock music from returning to what has become their very own Temple of [Musical] Love.
One of the key factors of a Sisters show is the choice of support band. The acts that get the prestigious slot, before the headliners hit the stage, are few and varied in style. Back in 2019 we witnessed a performance from Amenra with a vocalist who sung the entire set with his back to the band. Our review from that evening can be found here:
Fast forward to 2021 and the support over 3 nights, celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Sisters of Mercy, were Friday: Jesus Jones, Saturday: A.A. Williams and on Sunday: I Like Trains. In those three we have, indie rock superstars, a death-gospel singer-songwriter and an alternative post rock band from the north of England. If it proves one thing, it’s that The Sisters of Mercy can play alongside anyone and appeal to almost any audience.
With our man Stan, drinking partner and camera bag carrier, in the white Fred Perry polo shirt, standing out like a beacon calling out to Gondor for support to take on the armies of Sauron, dancing his happy dance at the thought of seeing indie favourites Jesus Jones, our initial thought was how would Mike Edwards and Co. go down with a predominantly darker, more rock orientated audience?
To be honest, we needn’t have worried. Charging out of the blocks as if it were the first show the band had played in almost two years…. [it was], the levels of energy exuded by Jesus Jones was off the scale. Recognising that they had an audience who may or may not be familiar with their music, they used every inch of the stage, every move and every trick known to them to work the crowd and well…..it worked.
Whilst “Play the Hits” might well have been an easy option, with songs like ‘International Bright Young Thing” and ‘Real, Real, Real’, possibly featuring in the setlist, the songs would have felt at odds with the mood of the crowd and more importantly the band they were here to support. As such, we were treated to a grittier, louder Jesus Jones and whilst some of the more well known songs like ‘Info Freako’ and ‘Right Here, Right Now’ did make an appearance, the majority of songs were clearly played to suit the crowd.
Special mention as always goes to the “always high on life” Iain Baker on keys and samples. His pre show preparation has always been and seemingly remains as such, to pour copious amounts of itching powder into his underwear and then head out on stage [allegedly]. Fair play to a man heading towards his 50th birthday, performing with the energy of someone at least 25 years younger!
Zeroes and Ones
Two and Two
All the Answers
Bring It on Down
Right Here, Right Now
What Would You Know?
Who? Where? Why?
Sisters of Mercy
As Jesus Jones left the stage and the area was reset for the arrival of the headliners, mirrors were moved into place, backlights were set up, the Roundhouse was engulfed in darkness and at just after 9:00pm, The Sisters of Mercy arrived to play the first of their celebratory 3 nights.
As the photo gallery will prove, a Sisters show is heavy on the darkness and embraces the mood and vibe of the ominous music that has been a firm favourite of the army of fans they have commanded for the last 4 decades.
That is of course until the first chords of the opening song are presented to a welcoming crowd. ‘But Genevieve’ was first presented to audiences in Manchester in March 2020, literally days before the world went south and we in the U.K. went into our first enforced lockdown. As such, this was the first time I’d heard the song in any form and what a track it is.. epic in style, dark in tone and totally in keeping with the sound that first defined the band all that time ago.
To prove the point, TSoM then followed it up with ‘Ribbons’ from 1990’s ‘Vision Thing’, the last full album they produced. The old and the new sit side by side like old friends who’ve been in a setlist for years. It goes to show that Mr Eldritch hasn’t lost his touch and if his way of presenting new music to the masses is simply through the live arena then so be it. It’s a great way to entice fans old and new to the shows on the off chance that new music will be aired that night.
With Ben Christo and Dylan Smith moving around the stage, flitting in and out of the shadows, pausing briefly in the glare of the spotlights, it fell to Andrew Eldritch to do what he does best and stalk the stage like some form of predator waiting to pounce on his unsuspecting prey. Lending atmosphere and gravity to the show, the effects immerse the band in darkness with only Ravey Davey in any form of constant lighting as he and Doktor Avalanche handled the beats, samples and swirls at the back of the stage.
As the show progressed, the singles and the hits flowed before we were presented with another new song. ‘Black Sail’ like ‘But Genevieve’ had first premiered back in March 2020 in Manchester and of course was destined to be parked until the Anniversary celebrations could once again commence in the Autumn of 2021. Once again, moody, dark and ominous, we always knew this was a work in progress. Whether the version we heard in London could be considered the final version depends on the mind that is Mr Eldritch, but for now we are just happy that new music is being aired.
From that point onwards it was more hit than mystery with the likes of ‘Flood II’, ‘Lucretia My Reflection’, and the Jim Steinman penned ‘More’ being performed before we got the two definitive tracks that every Sisters of Mercy fans insists on hearing at a show; ‘Temple of Love’ and show closer ‘This Corrosion’.
Both performed to perfection and before we knew it, the band had left the stage, the house lights had come on, cueing much hissing from a vast proportion of the crowd who don’t go out in the daylight much and we all stepped out into the Camden night to return home.
Two more shows would follow but this was a perfect way to kickstart the 40th Anniversary celebrations.
Crash and Burn
No Time to Cry
I Will Call You
First and Last and Always
I Was Wrong
Never Land (A Fragment)
Lucretia My Reflection
Temple of Love