The Sisters of Mercy Thursday, November 20th, 2008 Ogden Theatre, Denver Better Than: Getting 86’d.
By the time I got into the Ogden, the Sisters were already performing. Before going into the performance space proper I had been talking with a friend and thought it was a CD playing and not a real live band because, well, live bands usually sound a little more burly and spontaneous than what I was hearing outside.
That having been said, the Sisters were playing one of their fans’ favorites, “This Corrosion” with the female backing choruses with nary a female backing singer in sight. As per usual, the stage was enshrouded with fog and bright lights with gels of varying colors coloring and ultimately piercing the fog once it cleared. The Sisters are known for this kind of Theater of the Obscure trick but to me it’s just a bunch of pretentious theater that serves as a thinly veiled blanket to cover one’s insecurity. It looks okay but more than one person at the show said, “I guess they’re playing but you can’t see anything.” From my experience, bands who use theater well do it to enhance the show rather than use it to hide behind. These guys didn’t need to do that but maybe they felt that their sparse and simple music -- surely also what makes the act’s music likeable -- needed to be propped up in the live setting with the latest in stage craft technology circa 1979.
Andrew Eldritch was flanked on both sides by guitarists, one with a mohawk, the other looking a bit like Daniel Ash with a mane of black hair. I didn’t see a bass player, and it was obvious that the drums were either canned or played in such a way as to sound like that since there was no evidence of a live drummer. Perhaps Son of Doktor Avalanche was present. Eldritch carried off the vocals well and I appreciated how his delivery was akin to a hip-hop artist but sung at a much lower register. He also pulled off a falsetto well at various points in the set.
The Sisters pulled from the full range of their catalog including “Dominion/Mother Russia,” “On the Wire,” and “Flood I.” But other than some enthusiasm from the guitarists and some theatrical flourishes from Eldritch, it may as well have been watched on television. There was no fire or real intensity coming off the stage. Maybe that’s what this band has always been about, but listening to its albums for nearly two decades, it seems that Eldritch, at least, has some fire in his belly that begs to be unleashed.
During the encore, the act performed “Vision Thing,” “Lucretia My Reflection,” and “Temple of Love.” It was during Vision Thing that a man twice my body weight came barreling at me as I was trying to take a final picture or two from the area directly in front of the stage. I didn’t see him until he grabbed and then pushed me and told me to “Get the fuck out of here,” in an English accent.
Once I was off to the side, the oaf insisted that a photo agreement I had signed clearly stated that photos were only permitted during songs “3, 4 and 5,” when, if fact, the agreement said no such thing. And then this thug demanded I delete all the pictures I had taken. (Ed note: While Tom didn't indeed delete the photos as ordered, he opted not to post them here.) Apparently in some parts of the world it’s “cool” to manhandle someone behaving themselves and abiding by the rules. It definitely put the nail in the coffin for me that this show, which while enjoyable, really had nothing to do with a good time.
-- Tom Murphy
Personal Bias: As mentioned above, the tour/stage manager grabbed me by the arm in which I just got a tetanus shot and that resulting soreness definitely put me in a grumpy mood for the rest of the evening. Random Detail: Ran into Charity Mudd of Seraphim Stitch at the show.