One of the strange things about The Sisters of Mercy’s first European jaunt in 1983 (Trans Europe Excess) is that although there seems to be plenty of memorabilia and evidence from one country (Germany, with audio from three of the four gigs – including video for one - plus photos), there seems to be much less available for the Dutch leg of the mini tour. Naturally, for the Amsterdam Paradiso gig, the last gig of the four, there is plenty to be found, including superb audio recordings and the following review which was published in West Yorkshire fanzine Whippings and Apologies.
But for the others, very little evidence remains. In fact, no tickets, photo or audio have surfaced for the gig at the Effenaar in Eindhoven on Friday August 26th 1983, although a copy of the legendary poster (with the band’s name on the back of a leather jacket) was sold on Ebay some years ago for a mind-boggling price, whilst for the following evening’s show at the Rotterdam Arena, only a poster advertising gigs that month (listing the Sisters as “pop uit Engeland”) under a much larger advert for Jo Lemaire (who was to support the band in Genk two short years later) has materialised.
The first gig of the tour, and the first indoor Sisters gig in Europe, is much better documented, partly because the venue, the Vera in the northern university city of Groningen, is still very much thriving today, and on its website can be found the results of their annual poll of gig-goers nominating their favourite concert of each year. As can be seen below, the fledgling band came in a very respectable fifth place, well ahead of Sonic Youth, Killing Joke and The March Violets (down in 29thplace), and indeed one place higher than their gig at the same venue the following year managed in the 1984 poll.
Whilst a recording of the 1984 concert has been in circulation for many years (including the infamous soundcheck which included the likes of Heartbreak Hotel and, many years before Von would finally have the courage to sing it ‘live’, Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around), unfortunately there was no audio recording of the ’83 gig, although one collector has unearthed the original poster for the gig.
The Vera itself is something of an institution in Groningen, with its distinctive fish carving above the door, and was founded as a debating club in 1899 according to Dutch Wikipedia, and was an acronym of the Latin for “true and sincere friends”, becoming a more left-wing youth centre in the 60s and 70s. TSOM returned to Groningen on their thirtieth anniversary tour in 2011, playing at the much larger and more modern Oosterpoort.