The Sisters of Mercy this year finally abandoned its 15-year hiatus from live performances in the United States, with a tour including a sold-out performance at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. Residents of Flatbush had to wonder what caused a sudden sea change in the neighborhood. Before and after the concert, the approximately 10-block walk back and forth from the subway station to the theatre looked like a goth parade, heavy on black leather, lace, fishnet stockings, boots, and makeup. The long-awaited return of the Sisters of Mercy was a very special occasion for the New York area’s goth community.
The Sisters of Mercy formed in 1980 in Leeds, England, and released three albums before becoming a touring entity only in 1990. Vocalist Andrew Eldritch and the drum machine, dubbed Doktor Avalanche, are the band’s only constants. The touring band currently also consists of guitarists Ben Christo and Dylan Smith, with Dave “Ravey Davey” Creffield operating Doktor Avalanche.
After a set by A Primitive Evolution and intermission, the musicians in the Sisters of Mercy took their positions on stage and started playing a new song, “Don’t Drive on Ice.” Eldritch strolled on stage and took no static position. From the start of the set to the end, he wandered the dark stage. The stage was lit with several upward-facing lights that resembled pillars. Occasionally, a musician would step into the darkness-piercing spotlight. For most of the show, the audience saw Eldritch only as a stalking silhouette.
Although the Sisters of Mercy have not released any new music in 33 years, the performance seemed dominated by new material – 10 unrecorded songs in total, which were received well by the audience. Nevertheless, Eldritch knows where the gold is and the set included 12 of the brand’s better known songs. A medley of “Dominion” and “Mother Russia” brought out countless cell phones, although viewers will be challenged to locate the musicians in the dark videos. The audience similarly welcomed “Alice,” “Marian,” “Lucretia My Reflection,” “Temple of Love,” and “This Corrosion.”
Eldritch’s voice was a gritty and growling baritone – a fine match for the dark setting of the show. His deep, haunting voice resonated through the venue. Christo offered significant vocal support and often sounded higher in the mix than the Eldritch. He also demonstrated that he is a guitar virtuoso as he injected numerous stinging leads, while Smith delivered fewer solos. Together, Christo and Smith exploded on “Instrumental 86,” the cascades of dual guitar leads a rarity in goth rock. All this was layered onto “Ravey” Dave Creffield’s deep beats.
The show was not all killer, however. The brooding, atmospheric sound grew monotonous at times, to the point where extended passages in several songs became filler. Visually, the fans would have enjoyed being able to see the musicians clearly.
Since the 1980s, Eldritch has contested all references to him being an icon of the gothic music community. Nevertheless, everything about the concert was gothic. Even without new releases, Sisters of Mercy remains the leading band in goth music.