Posts Tagged ‘new songs’

Christopher Nosnibor

Last week, there was a brief buzz around the Internet observing that on 1st September 2021, 1980 was as far away as the start of World War 2 was in 1980. It’s one of those startling perspective moments that takes some computing. Being five in 1980, WW2 felt like ancient history, despite the fact my father was born before the end of the war. To me, the music of the 1980s still feels comparatively recent, and I can recall events from the 80s – The Falklands War, for example – with remarkable clarity. And yet I have colleagues who are adults who weren’t even born until the late 90s, who feel the music of the 80s is as relevant to them as I find most music of the 50s and 60s.

It seems crazy to think, then, that The Sisters of Mercy’s last studio album was released a few months before their tenth anniversary shows in Leeds in February 1991, and now, here we are, belatedly marking their fortieth year in existence. Not that no new album means no new material: they may still play a lot of old favourites, but The Sisters are by no means a heritage band (seemingly to the annoyance of some of their older fans who lament the fact they don’t still sound like it’s 1985).

This trio of dates sees a different support act each night, and if the return of previous recent supports AA Williams and I Like Trains makes perfect sense, Jesus Jones being tonight’s openers seemed like an odd choice.

The last time I saw Jesus Jones was supporting The Cure as part of Radio 1’s Great British Music Weekend in December 91. I’d never really been a fan, and the highlight of their set for me was the dreadlocked guitarist falling off the stage. Still, they were fun enough, and the same is true thirty years later. As they kick off with the indie rave bleepfest of ‘Zeros and Ones’ I’m immediately reminded that while the guitar sound was alright, they were just too melodic and lacking in nuts for my taste. ‘Right Here, Right Now’, with its baggy beat sounds both dated and a bit thin. Bassist Al Doughty throws Peter Hook shapes, while Ian baker nominally plays keyboards, spending most of the set charging around the stage and lurching his keyboard around on its stand. It was annoying back in the 90s, and it’s perhaps even more annoying now. Interestingly, for a band with a lot of hits, they tend to focus more on material from the rather edgier first album, with ‘Info Freako’ being a clear set highlight.

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Jesus Jones

There’s some grand JG Thirlwell-style style dramatic orchestral ambient cross played over the PA between bands, and with lights moving a curtain suspended from the incredibly high ceiling, the sense of theatre, and of occasion, are considerable, not least of all the nod to the band’s legendary ‘Wake’ performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1985. Tonight, the curtain comes down rather than up to reveal the band in positions, from which they step forward and positively burst into ‘But Genevieve’. It’s immediately apparent that the three of them have been itching to get out to do this, and the rare level of energy Eldritch had shown on the last tour, just days before lockdown in March 2020 is exceeded here. Effusing welcomes and greetings with unbridled enthusiasm. It’s uncharacteristic to say the least, but it’s a joyous reunion that’s massively appreciated by the gathered crowd, which spans a notable demographic, including a lot of people, both male and female, who were probably barely born around the time of the twentieth anniversary show, let alone the tenth. And why not? For all the ‘goth’ copyists who’ve emerged through the years, there is only one Sisters.

They’re straight into ‘Ribbons’, and it’s stonking, delivered with real zeal, before steaming into a full-throttle ‘Crash and Burn’, which has long been a standout among the post-studio year. If tonight’s set list is remarkably similar to that of the Leeds show last year, it’s hard to find fault in the song selection: there will always be songs that would have bene nice to hear – ‘Better Reptile’, for example, or, indeed anything from the Reptile House EP, but you have to hand it to The Sisters for remaining true to their lack of compromise. Any other band with their catalogue would have dug up ‘Body Electric’ and more earlier songs for a truly career-spanning set to mark the occasion. But that simply isn’t how they work. Deal with it, or don’t.

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The Sisters of Mercy

Being the first night, a few minor slips were probably to be expected – there were missed cues for both guitarists, wrong chords and wrong lyrics, but these were all part of the buzz: for so many years, The Sisters have been accused of going through the motions or otherwise playing safe. Tonight, they’re giving it everything and more. That it’s not always pitch-perfect is part of the appeal, and reminds of the Sisters of old, with a particularly interesting / old style vocal performance on ‘No Time to Cry’, a song Eldritch has always seemed to struggle with by writing lyrical lines too long without a pause for breath. He does, however, manage occasional sups from a bottle of something that most certainly isn’t water between songs and sometimes verses, and this seems to keep him buoyant and energised.

After blasting through strong renditions of ‘Alice, ‘Dominion / Mother Russia’ and a brooding ‘Show Me’, Andrew gets to take a break – and no doubt have a quick fag – while the guitarists get to play rock gods and race about the stage as they showcase a new instrumental.

‘Marian’ and ‘First and Last and Always’ are dispatched at pace, before Dylan switches to acoustic guitar for ‘Black Sail’. ‘When I’m ready, motherfucker!’ Eldritch admonishes him as he strikes the first chords prematurely, but it’s good-natured banter, and it’s a strong rendition. I’m vaguely amused by the prospect that this was written while Eldritch was loafing around watching Netflix’s airing of the raunchy pirate series prequel to Treasure Island. Heave away, indeed. It’s followed by a personal favourite of mine, ‘I Was Wrong’. Eldritch was always a deft lyricist, and ‘I can love my fellow man / but I’m damned if I’ll love yours’ is a classic.

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The Sisters of Mercy

It paves the way for a truly searing rendition of ‘Flood II’, with ben Christo’s guitar blistering and burning from the very first howls of feedback, and Eldritch again finds his full voice. He may not hit all the right notes on a technical level, but is unquestionably at his best when he just fucking goes for it and sings up instead of mumbling and growling. So, to be clear to the detractors: missed notes and off-key but performed with passion beats grumbling low in the mix while trying to hold the tune. That said, his voice sounds stronger now than at any point on the last decade or more, and it seems fair to say the Sisters aren’t done yet.

After the first encore of a mesmerising ‘Neverland (A Fragment)’ and the throwaway, truncated ‘Lucretia’, I’m forced to skip for a train back to York, missing the second encore – but I’ve left happy. We can’t realistically expect as fiftieth anniversary show, but for the time being, it’s a joy to see The Sisters of Mercy emerging from lockdown energised and sounding solid.

Christopher Nosnibor

Despite having seen The Sisters countless times since their 1990 comeback at Wembley Arena, and despite their performances being spectacularly patchy (true also of their early years and even cult heyday up to ’85, if you believe the evidence of the bootlegs over the fans who were present but often under various influences) and often disappointing, I was still mega-revved to see the band that, when push comes to shove, will always rank as my favourite act of all time. I make no apologies for this.

The city’s half-deserted – which was also true of York on departure – even in rush hour in these COVID-19 paranoid times, but the O2 is packed with goths and lesser goths of all ages, shapes and sizes.

I’m here as a paying punter, and I’m here on my own, and manage to see almost none of the many people I’m connected with via social media who are also present as I hunker down in my usual spot in the front row by the speaker stack to the left as facing. I’m determined to guard it so fiercely, I adopt the resolve of the Birmingham NEC ‘92 gig: no beer, no nipping off for a pee. Pee trips can take 15 to 20 minutes in venues like this, and the beer is dismal and expensive, so screw that, although the three pints I had in a pub up the rad beforehand begin to press harder about halfway through the set.

Having not had much time to investigate beforehand, A. A. Williams is something of an unknown quantity beyond being a purveyor of ‘doom gospel’. Going on the presentation and first few bars, I was expecting her to be an addition to the bracket occupied by Chelsea Wolfe and Emma Ruth Rundle, but as the set progresses, it’s apparent that Williams is less given to pushing the weightier end of things. She leads her band – a standard enough rock set-up with a second guitar alongside her own to fill out the sound and add depth and texture – through a proficient and suitably dark-hued set. But without any significant dynamics, sonically or in terms of performance, it all feels a little flat, samey, and contained, lacking in drama. I want MORE!

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A. A. Williams

The Sisters do give us ‘More’, and lots more besides, and while ‘More’ is reserved for a blistering hit-filled encore, the set packs plenty of bangers and more energy than we’ve seen in some time, elevating this well above what’s become something of a standard semi-obligatory exercise in merch-pedalling and showcasing a new song or two.

Having watched the latest new songs ‘Show Me’ and ‘Better Reptile’, aired on the mainland leg of the tour a few months ago, countless times already, to the extent that they’re both etched into my brain, am I keen to hear them for the first time properly? Hell yeah. But that doesn’t blunt either the anticipation or the thrill, and while there’s no ‘Better Reptile’ tonight, the buzz of a set that launches with a new song is cerebral and physical but not necessarily one ready articulable in words. After an atmospheric intro, ‘But Genevie’ slams in and is an instant classic, and better still, the mix is crisp and clear and Eldritch’s vocals aren’t only up in the mix, but he’s singing up with a vocal strength that’s not been displayed in far too long.

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The Sisters of Mercy

While he doesn’t sustain it throughout the entirety of the set, reverting to the subsonic grumbling, growling thing he’s become prone to over the last decade for many of the songs – and at times very much to their detriment – there are moments where he really does go all out, not least of all on an extended ‘Flood II’ that has to be up there with any performance since their return to the live circuit in 1990.

The standard of the new songs – with ‘Show Me’ being aired along with ‘I Will Call You’, ‘Black Sail’ and instrumental number ‘Kickline’ – is up there with the reinstated ‘rash and Burn’, and it’s elating to hear – although the elation is tempered by the eternal frustration of a continued lack of studio activity.

The vintage cuts – ‘First and Last and Always’, ‘No Time to Cry’, ‘Marian’ are played at breakneck speed, but instead of feeling throwaway or like they wanted to get them over with, as has been the case on some previous outings, they feel energised and urgent, and their brevity leaves room for an extended ‘Lucretia, My Reflection’ in a hit-packed encore which saw the band really cutting loose with ‘More’, ‘Temple of Love’, and ‘Lucretia’ before wrapping up with ‘This Corrosion’.

After 18 songs performed by a band on renewed form, not to mention a rare showing of ‘I Was Wrong’ (a personal fave) we can probably forgive the absence of ‘Vision Thing’.

Writing this after the fact, in the knowledge that it proved to be the penultimate show of the tour only heightens the appreciation of the event. The later-day Sisters shows may be divisive in fan communities, and it’s a fact they can be variable, but this home outing proved that on a god night, the Sisters have still got it.