Live at New Roscoe on Sunday, 29th April 2001
Before I start I'd better point out that I like the Sisters of Mercy - have done for years, and probably always will. On the other hand I've never seen them. For one reason or another they've eluded me. For this reason, when the chance to see the band formed by ex-Generation X and Sisters of Mercy bassist Tony James, I jumped at it, and on Sunday night found myself in the strangely-located New Roscoe public-house with an Archers and lemonade in hand and a strange feeling of anticipation inside. This said, I had no illusions about the fact that I may have been there to witness the public humiliation of three forty year olds with wigs covering their bald patches and stomachs falling out of their spandex.
The support came from a band called... er... liquid-something, erm, I think it was Liquidhead. I don't really care. They were pants. If you want constructive criticism then they were pants because... Nope, they were just pants. Sorry.
By the time they'd finished the (quite substantial) crowd had moved towards the stage. Looking around I noticed a strange mix of people. The Goths. They were there. Some of them. Drunk old men. They were there too. But mostly the place appeared to be populated by the curious, interested to see what had become of a group who were the biggest in the world for 3 months in the 80's, fifteen years past their heyday. I'd done my research, found pictures, investigated their (neon, and slightly dyslexic) web site and sort of knew what to expect. A slightly wrinklier, paunchier, toned down version of a once wild art experiment gone wrong. How wrong can you be?
They emerged onto the stage looking as ridiculous as anyone could have hoped, TJ in hopelessly ill-fitting vest wearing the latest line in cyberdog trousers, pink hair extensions hanging into his face, kept out of his eyes only by a pair of enormous mirrored shades. Neil-X, still blonde after all these years, and his hair growing back after a "sensible" period as session muso and producer, clad almost head to toe in fur, with similar eye-adornment to TJ. And Degville. Well, what can you say? The guy's a fashion designer. That would explain the feathered cap, ludicrous goatee and layers of leather. You have to respect anyone wearing an "I love Elvis" T-shirt though. Ok, so we've established they still look great. So how did they sound? Well, I'm glad you asked. I suppose "bangin'" might do them some justice. A combination of slick synth-bass lines from TJ on space bass, 50's guitar licks from X and Degville's delay-enhanced howl over newly programmed industrial beats from a drum machine at the back, presided over by some girl. Very nice.
They performed with the sort of relaxed humour that can only come from having done it all so very many times before, but the smiles and crowd banter let us know they were still enjoying every minute of it. The songs were almost 50/50 new/old, with the new ones actually sounding better - instantly recognisable choruses and much better drum-programming. The highlight of the set for me came during the last song before the encore - Love Missile F1-11 (the big number 1 hit), when they segued into a Neil-X sung rendition of the Rolling Stones "sympathy for the devil", absolutely sublime. The audience were really into it by now and they came back for a quick encore and obliged the fans (these people were REALLY screaming) by playing Atari Baby despite Degville's protests of "you don't want to end on a slowy do you?". Basically they rocked. Did everything you could have wanted them to. This is why I go to gigs - to have fun. And they certainly know how to do that.