Review by Emily Castles
I am at the Roundhouse for the second of two consecutive sold-out nights at the iconic North London venue. The person in front of me has flown in from Croatia; the person next to me from the United States. Both have tickets for both evenings, and both boast about the number of times they have seen the groovy goths. Rumour has it that one individual is here for their 200th gig.
There is a true sense of complete and utter dedication to a band that has been going for almost 40 years and has continually refused to settle into any particular category or genre. I am in a vast circular chamber crammed with platform-booted, face-studded, black-haired, unapologetic Sisters of Mercy super-fans.
This doesn’t particularly bode well for the Belgian, Church of Ra lords of desolation, Amenra, who take to the stage first this evening. The reception is one of bewilderment rather than coldness. What is this? Is this a song? The atmospheric, cinematic style of Amenra does not lend itself to the toe-tapping, anthemic tunes of The Sisters of Mercy.
But of course, for the few of us in the crowd this evening who understand the beauty of this raw, emotionally and intellectually challenging sound – what follows is an incredible set, one which proves unsettling, sublime and utterly consuming of body and soul.
Amenra frontman Colin H. Van Eeckhout performs almost entirely with his back to the crowd, his body wriggling and contorting through the mist as his near animalistic cries of pain and hopelessness explode from his throat in moments of utter despair.
There are also phases of complete gentleness and beauty, as seen in songs such as ‘Razoreater’ – on which Van Eeckhout’s whispery vocals shine a droplet of light amongst the darkness. Black and white videos of desolate landscapes play ominously behind the band, accompanying delicate riff work and brutal eruptions of distorted sound. They end with ‘Diaken,’ the final track on their most recent album, Mass VI. It is haunting and weaves itself into your bones; to think you can ever rid yourself of it is as hopeless as the lyrics themselves.
In the blink of an eye the stage is transformed into a glittering disco extravaganza, with mirrored ceilings and nightclub lighting picking out members of the audience like a lighthouse scouting out incoming ships.
Blinding as it is, Andrew Eldritch’s trademark shades have never been so fitting. Although the luscious locks have long since departed – Eldritch stills oozes appeal and allure, ghostly white in thick black leather.
Opening with their 1990 hit ‘More,’ the crowd are thrown into a frenzy as the familiar organ intro sweeps across the floor. Their faithful followers cannot control themselves. Every individual in the room is grooving around like there’s no tomorrow. Eldritch himself is bouncy and charismatic, his unmistakably deep and dastardly voice as strong as ever.
There are a few new songs this evening. ‘Show Me’ instantly stands out; complex, delicate and emotional. But the crowd are naturally restless for more of their iconic 80s tunes. It all kicks off with the rousing ‘Alice’ (with an opening riff so groovy that it is impossible to stay still) and before we know it we’re swept along by the haunting majesty of the timeless ‘Marian’ on which Eldritch’s tones are swung so low they could almost tie his shoelaces.
Guitarist Ben Christo and Chris Catalyst bring an extra level of sass to the performance this evening; Catalyst stands right in front of me, shades sparkling and hair blowing almost comically in the face of a hidden wind machine.
It’s got an air of Motley Crue about it. They are fiery and mischievous, weaving around Eldritch who holds the centre stage. The Sisters save their most beloved tracks for an extended encore which features ‘Lucretia My Reflection’ and ‘This Corrosion’; this is what the crowd have been waiting for all night and they’re practically jumping out of their corsets.
This evening is a time-warp for the many and the few who have refused to ditch the studs and move on. Once a Goth, always a Goth.
- Doctor Jeep / Detonation Boulevard
- When You Don’t See Me
- No Time to Cry
- Show Me
- First and Last and Always
- Better Reptile
- Dominion / Mother Russia
- We Are the Same, Susanne
- Something Fast
- I was Wrong
- Flood 2
- Lucretia My Reflection
- Vision Thing
- Temple of Love
- This Corrosion