SISTERS OF MERCY, in concert with Danielle Dax; at Kingsbury Hall, the University of Utah; April 11; one show only.
Add another location to that list of Utah places showing signs of unusual atmospheric conditions Wednesday night - the University of Utah's Kingsbury Hall.Weather conditions at Kingsbury Hall, April 10, 1991: 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with fog; visibility 20 feet.
There was a good reason for those conditions, mostly caused by an overly active fog machine and crowding: an engagement with the five-piece Sisters of Mercy, Europe's foremost practitioners of gloom-rock.
Originally starting as a glam-metal band in the early '80s, the band has since trodden in the path of such doom-and-gloom originals as Bauhaus. The Sisters have risen to the tops in their field, especially since former Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy has evidently mixed pop into his repertoire and his former bandmates are now the buzzsaw-guitar band Love and Rockets.
However, the respective talents of the band may also have something to do with their ascent as royal doomsayers. Andrew Eldritch's vocals, a booming mix of Peter Murphy's baritone with the spaciness of David Bowie, are among the most haunting in post-modern rock. Add in the superbly skilled guitar works of Tim Bricheno and Andreas Bruhn, as well as Maggie Reilly's appropriately atmospheric keyboards, and you've got an unbeatable combination.
Live, the band cooks even more, especially with the addition of veteran bassist Tony James (Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik), who oddly never hogged the stage as he used to with his other bands.
Instead, the band relied heavily on the surprisingly meek-looking Eldritch's stage persona and presence to punch home its gloomy numbers.
In a set with oldies (such as the superb title track from the band's "Dominion" release) alongside newer material, the particular standout may be the title number of the band's newest release, "Vision Thing."
Amongst shrieking guitar lines, and the surprisingly effective drum tracks from Doktor Avalance - a drum synth program - Eldritch boomed out effectively pessimistic lines such as "What do we need to make our world come alive?/What does it take to make us sing while we're waiting for the next one to arrive?/One million points of light, one billion-dollar vision thing."
On the down side, though security at the show was tight, it was a bit tighter than you might prefer. For example, guards patrolled the aisles making sure no one stepped even an inch out into the rows.
On the plus side, it was nice to see a crowd give an opening act a positive reaction like the one Danielle Dax got. Though Dax, who looks like a cross between Jane Fonda in "Barbarella" and the B-52s' Kate Pierson, and her band were hampered a bit by some throat problems, they gave it their best - such as on her psychedelic cover of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows."
Much like the Sisters, Dax's set contained such shimmering poppy oldies as "Big Hollow Man" and swell newer material like the anti-drug ode "King Crack," both of which showcased the talents of guitarist David Knight and keyboardist/violinist Kat Evans.
Maybe the uncharitable older listeners at March's Neil Young show (who roundly dismissed the very experienced and talented Sonic Youth) can learn something from the younger concertgoers after all - patience and an open mind.