Suite Sister Mary

Welcome to the morning after where hindsight is a fantastic thing! Last night I ended up in Manchester for my second show of the year at what could’ve been a third or fourth.

Friday night should’ve seen me seeing Stoke punks and UK-82 stalwarts Discharge play the Rebellion Club. Unfortunately I woke up ill at 1:30am on Friday morning and by the time I got home from work 14 hours later with very little sleep, I was shattered and went for a power nap. When I eventually rose from my slumber I’d missed the train to get me there in decent time.

Yesterday could’ve seen me catch snippets of bands in three different locations. There was an all day event going on with a more DIY punk and hardcore ethic going on and I fancied popping in to catch the 30 minute set by French hardcore band Youth Avoiders. In the end I didn’t see the value in money in seeing 1,800 seconds of a band for a tenner.

Performing at the Ruby Lounge was a Judas Priest tribute (Priest Unleashed) with support from the W.A.S.P. tribute band Electric Circus who I really like. When the stage times were released by the venue they left the stage at the exact same time as Geoff Tate began his rendition of one of my favourite albums in a venue nearly a mile away. In the end I opted for a slightly later train and one that’d get me to Rebellion in time for Till Death Do Us Part.

I was there in plenty of time to see them as the venue or promoter had crowded four bands on to the bill where all other shows I knew about only had a pair of bands, I’m thinking Till Death Do Us Part were late additions and they didn’t want to let down the other two? But they still insisted on opening the doors at 7pm with an 11pm curfew. Inevitably things would run behind.

The dark alt rock band looked the part and front woman Emily had the mainly male crowd captivated, but their sound engineer really messed up and cranked up the volume to 12 as if they were performing in an ginormous arena rather than a small club. The sound was ridiculously distorted and the vocals struggled to make an impact. Definitely a band for me to check out via Spotify at a later date.

Now for the “in hindsight” choices for the night! I had the choice of three Operation: Mindcrime shows within an hours drive (traffic allowing) from home. I plumped in Manchester as it was a Saturday and with the 11pm curfew I knew I had to miss a song or two to make the train but I’d have seen 90% of the show.

Instead of hitting the stage at 9:30 to play an album just shy of an hour by 46 seconds, Tate eventually came out of the dressing room just after 10pm and I know this as the fedora clad frontman brushed past me on the way to the stage. In the end I got about 45 minutes of Operation: Mindcrime the album and the band but had to bolt out of the door pretty much as soon as Suite Sister Mary finished. It’s the centre piece of the album, and my favourite song, so it wasn’t too much if a hardship (well so I’m still telling myself).

If I had known I’d miss almost 50% of his performance I’d have opted for Bilston earlier in the week or Buckley tonight. For someone who spends more than a full day of each week behind a steering wheel and this venue being a pain in the derrière to navigate to through the cities multitude of road works, driving there was never an option for me. As the Youth Avoiders set was dismissed as no value for money the Geoff Tate performance was ultimately even worse value. When a venue or promoter indicates a curfew time, and usually prefaces it with the statement “strict” you’d expect it to be close to that time and people can make arrangements based on the information supplied. I’m sure quite a few others had to cut their evening of entertainment short for similar reasons.

Reflecting on the show itself the sound eventually cleared up and Tate and his band did the material justice. I saw him with his former paymasters perform the album in full a decade ago so it’s not as if tonight was something unique and never done before, which in a bittersweet way didn’t make leaving too much if a hardship. Emily Tate from the previous band (yes, it’s Geoff’s daughter) donned a blonde wig to to reprise Pamela Moore’s iconic persona of Sister Mary. She gave it a good go and yet again suffered from a low vocal mix through the PA, but the power of the original vocal track just wasn’t there.

Taken from one of my favourite live releases that originally surfaced in 1991 in a long box with a CD and a VHS tape, Operation: Livecrime was a superb document of one metal’s finest concept albums. Tate’s vocal delivery 26 years after this release is still pretty decent, but the video below really does bring home just how majestic he was.


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