Venue : LONDON , ROADHOUSE 23-09-2023
Warming up the stage is Macclesfield duo Virginmarys, who have been around for almost 15 years now and have supported the likes of Skunk Anansie, We Are Scientists and Queens Of The Stone Age. There is a raw energy, they’re in the realms of Green Day, at times a cross between Motorhead and rockabilly. Ally Dickaty’s vocals are intense and accurate and it’s hard to think of anyone who hits the drums harder than Danny Dolan. It’s a great set from two seriously committed and talented guys who are hopefully going places.
In a world where people seem to like to (a) moan a lot and (b) jump on bandwagons, aging bands like The Sisters Of Mercy have their work cut out to keep everyone happy. Tonight is the second of two nights at London’s Roundhouse kicking off a huge European and UK tour, and there seems to be high drama – guitarist Dylan Smith is nowhere to be seen, there are whispered rumours that he was sacked during the encore of last night’s show, and Chris Catalyst has made a surprise return to the band, on Doktor Avalanche duties tonight. One wonders how the tour that’s stretching ahead of them is going to shape up.
Luckily, Ben Christo is fully capable of carrying the daunting burden of being two guitarists in one. He brings positive energy, rock star charisma and exceptionally good musicianship, and every now and then Andrew Eldritch cracks a rare smile; he seems to be enjoying himself.
Carefully avoiding mention of the g-word, which seems to offend all of these post punk rock bands of a certain era, the place is swarming with goths (oops, there it is) of all flavours and ages, here to worship at another Temple Of Love-in at the Roundhouse, bearing cobwebs shaved into heads and silver skull handbags.
There’s been a deluge of fan-grumbling on the net and expectations are not high for tonight’s sound and performance. However, and again this may be contentious, this suddenly depleted band switches on a new energy to give the best show possible, in the circumstances. Christo always throws 100% into his performance, covering every inch of the stage and throwing rock star shapes, and tonight Eldritch is constantly moving, growling and prowling, communicating with and responding to his audience. Those standing at stage left are treated to much Eldritch attention; he comes across time and again, gesturing and posturing, embodying the songs.
As a fan of the aesthetics of the Roundhouse but generally not impressed by the sound – it really does depend where you stand in this venue – the sound tonight passes muster and the music sounds good. (Overly) critical attention has been paid of late to Eldritch’s voice – it’s hard not to wonder why it comes as a shock to some that most singers’ voices change over time. It’s strange how some people think this means the band should stop performing. Baffling.
The setlist is essentially the same as last night’s, with a few deviations. It’s a nice balance between newer songs, starting and ending with “I Will Call You”, “On The Beach” and “When I’m On Fire”, plus also “Don’t Drive On Ice” and “But Genevieve”, and classics from the SOM hitlist. There’s an early peak with “Dominion/Mother Russia”, always a firm favourite (just missing that instantly recognisable introductory bassline) and The Sisterhood’s Giving Ground makes another appearance. The very best are saved for the encore – again, due to lack of bass guitar, “Lucretia (My Reflection)” is virtually unrecognisable at the start, but thankfully finds its own identity fairly quickly. “Temple Of Love” and “This Corrosion” are simply majestic and a tonic for the darkest soul.
As the show regrettably comes to an end, Eldritch says “We know this has been a bit different, we know this has been a bit special – we’re glad you did your thing”.
A great show. And to the naysayers, I say nay.