The bowels of Hell opened up last night at the Powerstation in Auckland, NZ as The Sisters of Mercy rose up from the dead and delivered a set that was ecstatically received by their Auckland disciples.
I saw The Sisters of Mercy when they were last here in February 2012. It was their first visit to New Zealand and it was a dark and broody affair. Little lighting and what there was seemed to only detract from the show overall. So I was expecting a similar affair this time around but, thankfully, this wasn’t the case.
We arrived just as the support act The Sacrificials were getting through their last few tracks of the night. A neat mixture of metal and heavy rock was delivered quite nicely and the band saluted their influences, being Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. From Waiheke Island in Auckland and formed in 1990, they had the now packed PowerStation bubbling along with their own signature and style that resonated very well with the locals.
After a quick stage change, and as the dulcet tones of the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations faded away in the darkness, the band crept in under cover of the smoke machine and eerie lighting to start proceedings with More off Vision Thing.
For those who had not seen The Sisters of Mercy live before, they would have noticed a few things straight away as the band pounded through the opening track. The immense figure of Dylan Smith (who joined them earlier this year) on guitar, no bass player and the absence of a drummer. The latter roles were replaced by the ever affectionate drum machine called Doktor Avalanche, essentially the fourth member of the band and the only constant name in The Sisters of Mercy line up since they started back in the early 80s.
Andrew Eldritch seemed right at home in the menacing light as he set about his work going through the nineteen or so songs of the night. There was no puffery with this show. There was no “it’s great to be back in Auckland again” or chitter-chatter about how much they loved their fans. It was all about the atmosphere and music.
Going by the congregation’s reactions, that was just fine with them. This was a chance to not only hear the music but live the religion through their attire and, while it was a sea of black, many went the extra mile to show off their finery to all, adding to the spectacle of the night.
All the bangers were there and sprinkled throughout the gig, but it hit another gear when the booming bass and drum machine went into overdrive with the opening sequence to Dominion Mother Russia off Floodland. While the vocals were fuzzy, and I suspect this was intentional, the rest of the band took centre stage in the incredible foreboding light.
At times there was more smoke pouring off the stage than came from the Sky City Convention Centre, but this allowed the incredible lighting sequences to march in time exactly to the beat and stage stances of Andrew and the guitarists.
Things moved on with pace with Marian, Better Reptile, First And Last And Always, which had Andrew enticing, even teasing, them at times to wait when it was their turn to participate in the song.
A guitar instrumental followed that again just worked really well with the crowd and showed off the axe grinder capabilities of both Ben Christo and Dylan. The former being involved with The Sisters Of Mercy since 2006 and looking right at home.
Dylan then strapped on an acoustic guitar and the set was finished off with Something Fast, I Was Wrong and Flood ll. It was a great finish and made me realise that even though this band has not recorded any new songs since 1993, they have influenced many others and their sound is still as fresh as the day they were originally released.
Of course, the obligatory encore followed and it was a stunner. Unlike their last visit here, they kept the best to last and delivered Lucretia My Reflection, Vision Thing, Temple Of Love and of course the timeless This Corrosion like a hurricane, which nearly brought the walls down to their foundations.
The Sisters of Mercy delivered a night that not only woke up the dead but lifted the pulse of all the punters who attended the gig. As the army of black flew back to their crypts and tombs, they will be hoping that this won’t be the last time they get to see this band on our shores. They were simply brilliant!