It’s the second night of Sisters Of Mercy’s three-night residential at London’s iconic Roundhouse, and the streets and pubs of Chalk Farm are teeming with goths, wall-to-wall black velvet, lace and chokers.
Warming up the stage for SOM is the curiously named A A Williams – who performs almost entirely unlit apart from a giant illuminated A behind her, which serves to ensure that no one forgets to wonder what the ‘A’s stand for. She saturates the slowly filling venue with self-penned melancholy dark-folk songs, mostly from her album Forever Blue, and it’s easy to draw comparisons with All About Eve or early Cat Power. It’s the kind of music that deserves silence, headphones and a floor or a windswept beach rather than chattering, beer-spilling incomers who haven’t yet clocked that an intense atmosphere is building. It’s well-received though, and undoubtedly mental notes are being made to revisit this artist.
In the midst of the hiss of dry ice now pouring into the Roundhouse, Sisters emerge onto the stage – the unmistakable first chords of More strike up, Andrew Eldritch growls, Ben Christo’s guitar chimes in, Doktor Avalanche (doktored by Ravey Davey) starts up and the fans erupt. Eldritch seems even more enigmatic than usual, his face only occasionally lit by a laser spotlight but he’s generally hidden in darkness, occasionally skulking in the wings. Christo and bassist Dylan Smith are more extrovert, rock sentries flanking their leader on either side. Sonically, the band is on solid form, although slightly fuzzy-sounding tonight, Eldritch’s vocals often muffled – a hazard of erratic Roundhouse acoustics perhaps, which sometimes only work best for those standing in the middle. The Sisters power through the back catalogue, interspersed with three of their newer songs – a bit like the Cure, they’ve been promising fans a new album for a number of years now, but to their credit new songs But Genevieve, Black Sail and I Will Call You are all pretty good. Never Land (A Fragment), which has been played much in recent years, also makes a welcome appearance (well, anything from Floodland is welcome really, let’s face it).
But the highlights of any Sisters show are always going to be the much-loved hits – the powerful Dominion/Mother Russia dominates the first section, with imperious Marion and Flood II following shortly afterward. Smith’s rendering of the all-important Lucretia bassline is masterful, supported by those all-familiar riffs from Christo. The band sound tighter than ever. The show builds to a natural crescendo with Temple Of Love and This Corrosion in the final encore, the audience is in rapture, the show ends on a massive high, and the same goths pour back out of the venue, satisfied and smudged.