Monday, 2 January 2012

Sisters for free - part deux

Having seen the Sisters of Mercy for free during my first few days in Leeds in October '82, I managed to see them at another free gig on Sat 25th June '83 at a time when The Reptile House was being portentously announced as the "next big thing" and the Girls still also had the Alice 12" riding high in the indie charts. At that time, British university Students' Union Ents (Entertainments) Committees were busy balancing their books for the end of the academic year, and Sheffield Uni had obviously underspent their budget, and decided to blow the remainder on a multi-band free gig to celebrate the end of term.
The misguided soul responsible for booking the bands decided that British soul legend Ruby Turner, up-and-coming pop puppet Matt Fretton and the Sisters would make a good mix, but the poor guy whose job it was to compere the evening probably had a premonition things weren't going to go well when he first stepped on stage that evening. (The republic of) South Yorkshire's enlightened policy of virtually free public transport meant that hundreds of Sisters fans had made the trip from West Yorkshire and outnumbered local students many times over, and it was a leather jacketed crowd that snaked into the venue, down the stairs where a chain-smoking Von with his Home Counties inflection was holding court (and holding up the queue) and into the venue where the blazing sun shone in through the thin, flowery curtains. The nervous compere introduced the hapless Fretton as the first act, and the latest New Romantic clothes horse jerked his way through a small number of songs over a backing track, culminating in his then current minor hit, a synthpop reworking of the old standard  The Wall ("too high, can't get over it" etc etc). Already heavily heckled by a jeering Sisters crowd, he wisely beat a hasty retreat, and eventually the compere returned to introduce the Sisters. At the top of their game, the classic five-piece line-up (Von, Dok, Marx, Adams and Gunn) ripped through a blistering set, which included another early outing for Hot Chocolate's Emma alongside the usual Gimme Shelter and Jolene. As soon as the houselights were up after a storming performance, the vast majority of the crowd headed for the exits (and ultimately the Leadmill), leaving the haunted features of a desperate compere announcing to a few bemused students and the backs of hundreds of departing leather jackets "That's not the end of the show - we've still got headliner Ruby Turner to come ..." In the local vernacular, a Top Night Out !

1 comment:

  1. The headline act on the bill that night was Time UK, the new band for former drummer with The Jam, Rick Buckler.