Live Review: The Sisters Of Mercy at the Roundhouse, 23/09/23

The vampiric goth masters reiterate their undying appeal at London's Roundhouse

Cult bands don’t come more cult-ish than The Sisters Of Mercy. The goth rock mainstays haven’t released an album of new material in over thirty years because of Andrew Eldritch’s long-standing rancour with their record label during the early nineties, which resulted in a flat-out refusal to ever release music again on anyone’s watch but his. Despite his middle-finger to the music industry, their vampiric, gothic appeal remains undying – especially to the sold-out Roundhouse crowd who showed up in their most garish and ghoulish attire.

Though the older goths cramming in to see their teenage idols might not be sporting the same lush locks as yesteryear, Eldritch’s own hairless visage makes him all the more striking nowadays. Prowling Nosferatu-like, the singer – who was flanked by two more spritely guitarists – seldom engaged with the maniacal front-rowers, instead peering from behind the lit-up columns and piercing searchlights which illuminated the venue. 

The Sisters got die-hards onside from the starting whistle, opening up with ‘Don’t Drive On Ice’, ‘Ribbons’, and ‘I Will Call You’ – though Eldritch’s noticeably raspy vocal took a little warming up in what was the first of two residency shows at the Roundhouse. ‘First And Last And Always’ crackled, however, and incited a chant-a-long during the chorus, with Floodland’s ‘Dominion / Mother Russia’ coming next. When a band only has three studio albums to pick from – and despite Eldritch’s notoriously cantankerous reputation – you’d hope they’d cram in the classics, and they didn’t disappoint.

Fans have clamoured for the band to release new material, but Eldritch still remains mysterious about a potential release. New tunes in ‘There Is A Door’ and ‘Show Me (On The Doll)’ have been given a spin live in recent years, but here they’re left off the setlist. The Sisters Of Mercy are an anomaly – they’ve sustained a lengthy career as an exclusively touring band, but the fans are desperate to hear more. It’s often the polar opposite with legacy acts. This is cult fandom however.

Frustratingly, due to the over-reliance on drum-machine Doktor Avalanche, hard-rock-flirting thumpers like ‘More’ and ‘Temple Of Love’ were suffocated, so weren’t given the chance to simmer and boil over like they do on the records. Doktor Avalanche, the band’s long-time stand-in for an actual drummer (which even helms an advice column on the band’s website) now also takes on bass-playing duties too. But, it meant that the rhythmic goth-rock anthem ‘Lucretia, My Reflection’, spear-headed by former band mate Patricia Morrison’s lustrous bassline, lacked the requisite power and tangibly felt too synthetic.

No stranger to a bit of a drama and theatricality, Eldritch dismissed one of the guitarists as their performance came to an end – maybe he has a replacement bassist in mind already? Or he might try patching things up with Patricia?

Of course, Sisters ended on ‘This Corrosion’, the band’s outlandish opus which has helped introduce their gothic bombast to new generations of eyeline-laden, leather-donning rockers. A gloomy affair? No chance – it’s pure glee whenever or wherever The Sisters Of Mercy fans get the chance to reunite, and though he’d be loath to admit it, even Andrew Eldritch nearly cracked a smile.

The Sisters Of Mercy continue their UK tour in November. Find tickets here

Photo credit: Jim Dyson / Getty