Whilst most of the recent posts on this blog have sought to confirm that gigs listed on The Sisters of Mercy gigographies sadly did not in fact actually take place, it is pleasing to be able to report further confirmation of one of the less well-known dates from the band’s inaugural US tour in September 1983.
Initially, it was believed that only date had been played at New York’s legendary Danceteria venue, the show on Thursday 15th September that year, as this was widely advertised at the time and flyers confirming the date have been known about for many years. Indeed, one was found in one of the boxes of artefacts which belonged to one of the twentieth century’s most iconic figures, Andy Warhol. The artist had a long-standing interest in music, and the Danceteria flyer for that September week, which lists TSOM’s Thursday show prominently (but makes no mention of any gig on the Saturday), was mentioned in this blog post about the contents of one the many boxes in the Warhol archive. This has led to speculation that he may have attended the show, although no evidence of this has yet emerged.
However, a radio interview recorded with Eldritch that month suggested that the band had in fact played two nights at the Danceteria, the second on the Saturday night, two days after the first - “Thursday was better than the Saturday”as Eldritch told interviewer Ann Clark from Music View on WNYU radio the following April. Sadly, no other evidence surrounding this gig had ever emerged, but contemporary confirmation from the horse’s mouth, as it were, was sufficient to concretise the gig’s firm place in gigographies.
Further potential information about this show came from Russ Tolman, lead singer of True West, who supported the Sisters at their San Francisco show the following month. When I contacted Russ about that date, he confirmed that his band had indeed played the I-Beam show in San Francisco, and that the Leeds band had in turn supported them at the Danceteria, as Eldritch had suggested in his on-stage comments in San Francisco. This additional Danceteria show must therefore have been a last-minute arrangement, presumably referring to the Saturday 17th September show, occasioned by the band’s continued presence in New York and the wholly positive response to the Thursday night show.
The fact that the late Ruth Polsky was responsible for booking the bands in Danceteria at that time, and that the Sisters were being heavily touted by the equally influential Howard Thompson, a key figure on the A and R scene, would also have made this last-minute addition a smooth and natural process. As Eldritch himself told a Canadian interviewer about the band's success in the US, “We have a few very good friends with a little bit of clout over there.” But over the last thirty- five years, no further corroboration had emerged, whether in terms of audio, photos or reviews. However, Howard Thompson recently discovered a tape of the show, his own recording, and shared pictures of the artefact with well-known TSOM archivist Phil Verne, founder of the popular and dynamic The Sisters of Mercy 1980-1985 Facebook group. and gave Phil permission to share this knowledge more widely (hence this blog post). The text used for the tape cover was from a review of the Sisters’ gig at London's ULU (with Laughing Clowns supporting) earlier that year (6th May 1983), a very favourable review described by renowned TSOM journalist Mark Andrews as “five of the best paragraphs the band have ever had written about them.”
There would have been a veritable galaxy of stars at the Danceteria that Saturday night, as Russ Tolman of True West recalls that Tom Verlaine, punk icon and lead singer of the band Television, had come along to their Danceteria show in order to see if he would like to follow up on his initial interest in producing the band’s next album (which did not in fact ultimately happen),whilst also at the show with Howard Thompson was one of Eldritch and Marx’s heroes who had inspired them to form a band in the first place, Alan Vega of Suicide, who would go on to work with Eldritch on Gift. Sadly Thompson’s recording of the show contains lengthy passages of conversation between himself and Vega, which is why the audio recording has naturally not be shared. Howard Thompson also revealed that the enthusiastic Vega is audibly singing along to some of the Sisters’ songs!
However, Thompson very kindly listened through the cassette and provided the following setlist for the show: Burn (Instrumental), Valentine, Burn, Anaconda, Heartland, Alice, Emma, Temple of Love, Floorshow, Adrenochrome and Gimme Shelter. Although technical problems were the norm rather than unknown with opening tracks at many 1983 gigs, this was the only time that Burn got two airings at a TSOM gig, although there was a second occurrence at Nottingham Rock City in October of the following year. The Saturday show is also lacking the final encore from two days previously, with Body Electric not played this time, but otherwise the setlist is the same as for the widely-known Thursday evening show. Thompson also commented that the recording itself is of poor quality, being recorded in mono on a portable Sony cassette device.
Howard has no recollection of True West playing the show (but Tolman does state that they didn't come on stage until 3 a.m.!!), nor does he recall seeing Tom Verlaine at the gig, but it may be that he and Vega were only there to see the Sisters and left before the headliners took to the stage. Vega certainly showed up backstage to meet the band, as Gary Marx told The Quietus’ Mark Andrews : “He was wildly funny and could quickly take over a room, but he was drawn to Andrew rather than to the band.”
The gig was reviewed in a New York City based fanzine, All The Madmen, a snippet unearthed by top TSOM collector Trevor R, and it gives a real insight into the impact which the band had had on their first sojourn Stateside. The author writes, “Last time I saw him [Andrew Eldritch] was at Danceteria, the final night of the Sisters’ first tour of the US. The band was vicious, oh lord. Temple of Love was the new number and I remember thinking this band could take over the world with bone crushers like that. And attitude like that. At Danceteria they murdered the crowd, which was exploding after word got out about their electric performance in the same room the night before [sic]. Every death rocker, gutter punk and biker from the five boroughs made the pilgrimage to hear the Sisters, and we’ve all be living in Andy Eldritch’s world since then, (im)patiently awaiting the Sisters’ final ascent into rock and roll heaven.” A further review, in East Village Eye also referenced the shows : “Their riveting performances at Danceteria were highlighted by a haunting rendition of the old Hot Chocolate tune, Emma, and a straightforward cover of Gimme Shelter,” more evidence of the impact of the pair of Danceteria shows on that first East Coast jaunt.
Any further info about this gig – photos, flyers etc would be very gratefully received, but for now massive thanks are due to Howard Thompson for sharing the images and setlist of this landmark New York gig, and Trevor R for searching his extensive archive for some great finds!