The Sisters Of Mercy Turn Bayou Music Center Into A Temple Of...Love?

Uncle Andy had some harsh words for us.
Uncle Andy had some harsh words for us. Photo by Violeta Alvarez
The Sisters of Mercy
Bayou Music Center
May 26, 2023

My most enduring memory of the Sisters of Mercy (the late '80s/early '90s were kind of hazy) is listening to Floodland on cassette during a trip from Austin to Houston with my sophomore girlfriend. It was an overcast day, intermittently rainy, and suited the music perfectly.

That was near the height of their popularity. 1990's Vision Thing performed well enough, charting near the top 10 (in England) and selling several hundred thousand copies (in England and Germany). With videos for "This Corrosion" and "Dominion" in regular rotation on MTV's 120 Minutes, the pump seemed primed for the Sisters to break through on this side of the Atlantic.

And then ... nothing. Founder and sole enduring member Andrew Eldritch would continue to tour with a variety of other musicians and his trusty drum machine (Doktor Avalanche) into the 21st century. Rumors of another album would pop up here and there, including when Eldritch semi-notoriously vowed to release one if Donald Trump was elected present. Alas, Trump has come and gone (for now), and still no new Sisters album.

"Alas" to the album thing, not Trump going away. But hold that thought.
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So atmospheric.
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
The Sisters haven't toured the U.S. since 2008, and dutifully researching their current incarnation is like stepping through a wormhole into the late '90s. Their official website looks like it was built in Geocities (and probably was). The "Record News" link takes you to a snippet from a text-based RPG, and the most comprehensive section comprises emails to Doktor Avalanche.

For a band that's been a mostly touring outfit since that time, the Sisters' stage setup is relatively spartan: stage floor lights alternating the ROYGBIV spectrum, fog machines, and not much in the way of banter. Eldritch is a master of lurking upstage, then looming forward to suddenly appear, like an apparition, while growling at his audience.

His voice has lost none of its snarl, even if the vocal mix last night at Bayou Music Center was initially somewhat muddy. Joined onstage by guitarists Ben Christo and Dylan Smith and "nurse to Doktor Avalanche," Ravey Davey Creffield, Eldritch now looks more like Transmetropolitan's Spider Jerusalem than the Goth icon of that extremely wet "This Corrosion" video.

I know I'm not supposed to call them Goth. Unlike the Cure, who have embraced the label, Eldritch flatly rejects it, referring to that period as "just one of our many one-week-of-stupid-clothes benders." Last night's overwhelmingly black-clad audience might disagree, but as the one guy in hiking boots at the show, I'm not going to throw stones.

The Sisters of Mercy are the sound of doom and contempt. Even their quote-unquote uptempo numbers ("This Corrosion," "More") are thick with dread. If Eldritch has a gift, it's making the imminent collapse of civilization something you can dance to as he stalks across the stage.

For a while, I thought the only words he would say to the audience would be his perfunctory "Good evening." But then, after "But Genevieve," he said, "Hello, Texas. Let’s talk about Ted Cruz."

Eldritch went on to discuss Cruz's (and, by definition, most other Republicans') obsession with George Soros, and the thinly veiled antisemitism of the Republican party. This was mostly well-received, but there were a smattering of "Fuck off!"s and at least one person I heard complaining that they "didn't want to hear this shit."
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He wears his sunglasses at night.
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
It's endlessly fascinating to me how stunned right-wingers are to discover their favorite creatives don't align with them politically. And the same people screaming at Eldritch one second were whipping out their phones to record "Dominion" the next.

And you can bet they were also the same ones chanting "Mother Russia" the loudest.

The Sisters' set was a bit perfunctory by current standard, but they actually did that old school encore thing where they go offstage and momentarily make you wonder if they're coming back. Said encore didn't disappoint, delivering the lethal combo of "Lucretia My Reflection," "Temple of Love," and finally, "This Corrosion."

You can call Andrew Eldritch many things, but "lazy" or "complacent" isn't one of them. He may have annoyed a handful of nitwits last night, but he's someone who's consistently followed his instincts, for better or worse. Last night's show at Bayou Music Center wasn't just another bona fide for the Sisters' position in the post-punk firmament, it was a refreshing reminder of when rock had a whiff of danger.

Personal Bias: Not to offend Eldritch, but I was more "Goth-adjacent." Too hot in Austin for all black.

The Crowd: Ever wonder what happened to all of Houston's smokers? I found 'em.

Overheard In The Crowd: She said she'd smoke him!

Random Notebook Dump: "Cargo shorts and a white Eddie Bauer button-down. I see you, boo."

Don't Drive on Ice
Crash and Burn
I Will Call You
But Genevieve
Dominion/Mother Russia
Show Me
Instrumental 86
Doctor Jeep / Detonation Boulevard
Eyes of Caligula
Something Fast
On The Beach
When I'm on Fire

Lucretia My Reflection
Temple of Love
This Corrosion
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar