The Sisters of Mercy/The Virginmarys gig review Manchester Academy 21/11/2023

To say I’m excited about seeing and reviewing this gig would be an understatement. The Sisters of Mercy have been one of my favourite bands for a very long time, and it’s also my first time seeing them live since June 1997. On that gig, they were supported by Cubanate who delivered one of the best support slots I have ever seen, and who were also renowned for wild and aggressive behaviour off the stage! But back to the present eh?

The Virginmarys

Tonight is the turn of up-and-coming Macclesfield-based rockers The Virginmarys to open the proceedings. Consisting of just a guitarist/vocalist Ally Dickaty, and drummer Danny Dolan which could provide some interesting dynamics. At this point, I had only heard the latest single by these lads and was not quite sure what to expect from them, and whether they would be an ideal support to Goth royalty.

Starting a tad earlier than their 8 pm billing, it’s obvious from the start that despite it only being 2 of them, The Virginmarys are here to make some noise. The kick drum can be felt as well as heard which is always a plus point, but I’m wondering if there is a trigger to a bass guitar sample as well, as the sound is very full. This first song is a raucous energetic affair and seems to be getting a good portion of the already sizeable audience bopping around.

The second song shows a definite post-punk influence – which of course Gothic Rock was an offshoot of. Drummer Danny is twatting the fuck out of his kit alternating from a sitting position to an aggressive stood crouch. It’s like his kit (including a last orders bell!) has done him a great wrong! With it just being the two of them, he’s centre stage along with Ally so you can really feel and see the energy from both. Our third track proves you can isolate the guitar without losing any depth of sound, as Ally cranks out a searing solo. At this point, I’m now convinced 100% that the kick is also a bass sample trigger, as the sound remains full. I always was disappointed with Pantera live as even with an actual bassist, for me they lost the oomph of the riffs behind the solo, something that these two lads have not lost tonight!

Photo by Alex English

Four songs in, and unfortunately this one is coming across as more noise and volume than a song to me. I get that they’re trying to make it heavier, but they lose any subtleties that were present in the first three songs. However, the crowd are certainly enjoying things, but alas over the rest of their set, The Virginmarys are not doing it for me. I love that big bell on the drum kit though – needs more last-order bells! Another thing I’m noticing is a distinct lack of any real interaction with us, other than the occasional thanks. The track names would have been nice, as I don’t know any of them! All things must come to an end, and Ally finally does utter a few sentences thanking everyone for their quite healthy enthusiasm and that we enjoy The Sisters, before launching into the final track – which I do get the name of – “Bang Bang Bang“, though I would have preferred a cover of Sweaty Betty from Macc’s most famous sons The Macc Lads (Joy Division taking second place)! However, I’m my own minority, and they go off stage to a very fine applause.

Photo by Alex English

More photos here

The Sisters Of Mercy

As I said at the start, it’s been a long time since I last saw the ‘Sisters’. On that occasion for whatever reason, Mr Eldritch was not a particularly happy bunny, with virtually no crowd interaction other than telling someone to “Shut the fuck up” when they shouted the name of a particular song! What will he be like tonight? We shall see!

The lights go out, and a rapturous cheer erupts! Shadowy figures scuttle across the stage eliciting more cheers, before blue spotlights blaze up towards the ceiling. Then Andrew Eldritch, Ben Christo, Kai, and the returning Chris Catalyst appear to more excited applause! Kicking off with Doctor Jeep from the Vision Thing album, the band and Mr E sound in fine fettle, as the song then segues into Detonation Boulevard from the same album. A very fine start!

Andrew looks sinister with his now totally bald head, gaunt looks and of course his trademark shades, prowls the stage like a hunting Black Panther. Backed on vocals by both Ben and Kai, he keeps towards the rear of the stage, coming to either side of his guitarists for certain parts of a song that is surprisingly new to me, called Don’t Drive On Ice. A pleasing and rocky number rather than brooding gothic! As Andrew lets us know “She looked good in Ribbons” I spy our favourite Yorkshire Ghoul (if you know you know) Chris Catalyst. Back in his new role as Doktor Avalanche’s nurse, I’m a tad surprised that he hadn’t come back as guitarist! Nevertheless, he is doing a sterling job, as are the rest of the chaps!

We go proper goth next as Ben brings out his SG for Alice, and it’s strange to hear that classic old-school jangliness coming from a guitar I usually associate with far harder nastier metal! This is the stuff a lot of us have come to hear – the pre-Floodland material has its own special timelessness and we all sing along to it, particularly loud at the chorus/refrain! And hang fire – is that a smile I see on Mr E’s face?!! Surely not – must be a trick of the light – or is it?

Photo by Alex English

Our next song was a newbie when I last saw The Sisters in that gig I’ve mentioned twice now (I’ll try not to keep going back to it, but I may have to before we’re out!). Simply called Summer, it’s another hard rocker, that sees Kai and Ben swap stage sides. Obviously having a grand old time, Kai trips up and clatters the mic stand – cue stagehand quickly coming on to sort it, and a concerned look from Andrew. All is good though, and it’s soon dealt with. After that, we want MORE!!! and we get MORE! The anthemic lead single from Vision thing shows off the hard rock direction that Andrew took the band with this album. It’s a crowd favourite, and I think we are pretty much outsing the band!

Another unfamiliar one for me next. I Will Call You, sings Mr E in his trademark baritone as the stage and he, are bathed in electric blue light. Back to the old stuff next and the appearance of Marian who Andrew sings to, asking her if she will save him from the grave.. Now either I missed it, or I was automatically translating it in my head, but I don’t remember him singing the German lyrics! Ich höre dich raufen Marian!!!!

A slow and darkly moody number is up next and we are seen through the Eyes of Caligula. The stage is lit by appropriately dark violet light and with help from a few bursts from the smoke machine, adds to the atmosphere of this song. A little surprise for me next with the inclusion of a song from Andrew’s Sisterhood album “Gift” which was recorded after the bad-natured split with Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams… Giving Ground is quite a delicate song on vinyl, but here it is given a good filling out adding a punch to it that makes it a highlight so far for me. The stage lights a lurid green, heralding another one that has me scratching my head – I did say it had been a long time since I had seen them, and I’ve never heard or found any studio version! I found out afterwards that this was called “But Genevieve“. Nice!

Vision Thing material has had a good airing so far tonight, and now it is time for one of my favourites from that work. A spotlight lights up Mr E from the front, as he assures us I was Wrong and he can love his fellow man. he is adamant that he’s damned if he’ll love yours though! During the guitar solo, Ben and Kai play side by side grinning like a pair of school lads who have just found their first-ever batch of hedge porn! A haunting keyboard melody that builds up to an anthemic crescendo is Here before the stage goes dark and we are left with just Ben playing a plaintive unaccompanied guitar solo.

Eldritch and Kai trade vocals on the much faster and rocking When I’m On Fire. Remember me thinking I saw Eldritch smile earlier? Well here he most definitely is, and both look to be having a grand time up there despite the dark tone of the song itself! We are still waiting for the big hitters to come and I’m sure they will, but first, time to bounce along to the rather jaunty On The Beach. The rammed Academy is moving as one, in anticipation of what is to come.

And bang! The Temple Of Love is here, and of course, everyone sings along to it! Tonight it’s a shortened version though, and the band disappear off the stage. This of course elicits the completely expected rapture from an audience wanting to hear more! Will This Corrosion rust us up? Will there be a Dominion? And will Lucretia appear?!!

To surprise us all, it’s not Lucretia who appears, but Duncan Kilburn formerly of The Psychedelic Furs with the sax solo of Sandstorm (One of the Dominion B sides). Interestingly the original was all composed of samples so this is a bit special tonight! Of course, this can only lead us into Dominion/Mother Russia, one of my absolute favourites, and I sing along most heartily to it.

Photo by Alex English

Now that musical gothic goddess makes her appearance, as a rousing and heavy rendition of Lucretia My Reflection smashes out of the speakers upping the excitement and volume of singing. I think we all know what’s coming next. Unfortunately there has to be a finale, and I’m pretty sure you could guess what that was! Of course, that famous intro starts, and we go full-on gothic club night to This Corrosion! I’m singing along like I wrote the song, and I’m sounding good and in tune! Well, I think so…. I don’t think anyone else notices though, as all voices are raised as one for the ultimate goth anthem!

And that’s our lot! But what’s this? Mr Eldritch is standing arms around his two guitarists with a real smile of happiness and satisfaction on his face! He has a great set of musicians around him now, and tonight showed it. I’m elated, The Academy is elated, and we all head for the exits with similar smiles on our faces. And perhaps hope that we will get a new album at some point soon… PLEASE!!!


Doctor Jeep/Detonation Boulevard

Don’t Drive On Ice





I Will Call You


Eyes Of Caligula

Giving Ground

But Genevieve

I Was Wrong


When I’m On Fire

On The Beach

Temple Of Love


Sandstorm (Duncan Kilburn saxophone solo)

Dominion/Mother Russia

Lucretia My Reflection

This Corrosion

More photos here –

About Steve Tottle

Lover of all things metal - the more extreme the better! Metal head since 1982. Also been a Gary Numan fan since 1979. I also love good food - cooking and eating it. Real ale, St Helens RLFC, Aircraft, Classic cars and diesel locomotives,and most of all, great friends!