Old Religion Redefined
The Sisters of Mercy, with Hypernova
House of Blues, Las Vegas, NV
Friday, November 28, 2008
Note: After being fairly disappointed with the last Sisters Of Mercy show I saw in Atlanta in 2006, I decided to sit this year's tour out. My friend Tyge is a bigger (better?) fan than I am, and that combined with the fact that he didn't have to travel to see them meant he caught their concert in Las Vegas last week. This review is the first, and hopefully not last, of his guest blogger posts.
A few months ago I wrote a post anticipating this past Friday's Sisters of Mercy concert. It was their third time playing at Mandalay Bay's House of Blues and the fifth Sister's show I've attended. My expectations were held with caution given their history of live performances; their shows can range from brilliant to painful. Appropriately enough, the Vegas show fell on Black Friday, which as any Sisters fan knows is a good sign.
Iranian transplants Hypernova opened the show with a tight 30 minute set. It took a few minutes to realize they reminded me of a raw, energetic version of fellow New Yorkers Interpol. I liked them enough to buy their cd, which they told us to do at the end of every song. After listening to it, I can hear the Interpol influence even more. Good stuff.
With an instrumental version of "Afterhours" playing, the lights dimmed and the smoke thickened. Guitarists Ben Christo (formerly of Alkaline Trio) and Chris Catalyst took the stage as helmsman Andrew Eldritch lurked in the shadows between them. The first song was a new one, "Crash and Burn," and the audience just stood and stared, not sure how to react. Thankfully the song segued with Doktor Avalanche (the omnipotent drum machine) pulsating into "Ribbons" and the masses responded with an energy that would remain for the rest of the show.
The sound wasn't as loud and distorted like many of their past shows. Yes, Eldritch's vocals were still a bit drowned-out, which made appreciating the new songs difficult (they did at least four). In fact, with Eldritch's new take on some old songs, it was difficult to recognize even them until he started singing ("Detonation Boulevard" and yes, "This Corrosion"). You'd think with the female voices on "Boulevard" being sequenced, so would be the case with the choir introducing "Corrosion," but no. The audience caught on fast though and didn't seem to mind. I know I didn't.
The show covered the gamut of the old ("Marian," "Alice," and "Giving Ground," played consecutively) to the lesser old ("Dominion," both "Floods," and "Something Fast") with the brand new stuff peppered among them. Christo played lead guitar effortlessly; he made the painstaking repetitive lead on songs like "Alice" and "Temple of Love" look easy, and you could tell he was loving it. Catalyst didn't get to enjoy the same amount of spotlight time, although he shined particularly well on "First and Last and Always" - while Eldritch was off stage, undoubtedly taking a cigarette break (HOB is now a non-smoking venue).
I saw no signs of the recently rumored lip syncing, and really, the proof is in the blood pudding; the fact that the vocals were not up to par negates any suspicion. The show was 21 and over which hurt attendance. A quick head-count on the main floor tallied about 500, with another 100 or so scattered about the bar and in the balcony. The 2006 Sister's show was all ages and much more crowded with teenage goths, which made me feel much, much older. As usual, Eldritch only flirted with the crowd with very little interaction. Not once did he announce the debut of a new song; he left it up to the audience to figure out.
The band returned with two encores. "Vision Thing" and "Lucretia" had the audience singing and screaming, while the finale, a brief instrumental followed by an abridged version of "Temple of Love," left me wanting to hear the song in it's entirety. Come on guys, what's an extra four minutes?
Was it the best Sisters of Mercy show I've seen? No. The worst? Far from it. I, along with the rest of the crowd, left the show satiated. It was just what the Doktor ordered; a dose of industrial carnage to remind us that The Sisters are still at it, still grinding their axes against the stone, and that we have not been forsaken.
The Sisters of Mercy - "We Are The Same, Susanne" (mp3) unreleased
Tyge blogs regularly at The Neon Lounge.