Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Jesus And Mary Chain

Thursday 19th Feb - Corn Exchange, Edinburgh

The Jesus And Mary Chain

The gig begins with Jesus and Mary Chain singer Jim Reid, polite and quite softly spoken, telling the tightly packed crowd exactly how the gig will proceed. It’s the fourth night of the UK leg of a 2015 tour marking the 30-year anniversary of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s blistering debut album of 1985, Psychocandy.

If they just play Psychocandy it will be a very short gig indeed – 38 minutes 55 seconds. They don’t want to be presumptuous, announces the Scot, diffidently. But they assume we’ll want an encore. So the Mary Chain – as infamous 30 years ago for the violence of their gigs as they were for the wall of noise that cloaked their heartbroken pop – play the encore first. 
It’s uncharacteristically obliging of them.
Jim and William

Black-clad, back-lit by strobe lights and swathed in billows of "dry ice", this pre-encore version of the Jesus and Mary Chain reveals that time only moves forwards. 
Jim’s hairline and William’s waistline are not what they were, but the songs all remain marvels of passive aggression, with the melody and feedback in constant flux. Other than the Reid brothers – Jim, and his elder brother William on guitar – there are no survivors onstage of the Psychocandy lineup. Longtime JAMC associate Phil King (ex-Lush) is on guitar, Mark Crozer plays bass and Brian Young plays drums. 

These “pre-encore” renditions of later Mary Chain songs remind me exactly why I've always liked the band – April Skies, from JAMC’s second album Darklands, the majestically sulky Reverence from 1992, and Some Candy Talking, a Psychocandy-era song left off the original album.

"Hand in hand in a violent life
Making love on the edge of a knife
And the world comes tumbling down
And it's hard for me to say"

Deliberate ambiguity regarding desires for love versus the frisson of drugs wasn't an original move even in 1984, but tonight, the wasted-sounding Some Candy Talking is pure romance. “Hearts are the easiest thing you can break,” murmurs Jim, a part-time wounded romantic. “Talk,” he concludes bluntly, just like back in the day, and William Reid’s pealing guitar solo does just that. 

The same love/drug ambiguity is present in Up Too High, an obscure demo.

The pre-encore section ended with Upside Down, their first single,  and provided us all with a taste of the feedback potential that would haunt us long after the gig was over.

The band depart leaving us for a short break, during which they screened a old cine film about the Reids’ native East Kilbride, until the celluloid is melted.

The backdrop changes to the Psychocandy album cover and they're back!

No one expects any band to be able to reproduce their creative infancy to a tee, but tonight’s run-through of Psychocandy is punishingly faithful – ramshackle and alternately beautiful, then ear-splitting. 

There had been an excited element in the crowd right from the start, just about centre stage, bouncing and surging forward to crush the poor unfortunates against the crowd barrier. With the more up-tempo numbers from Psychocandy this escalated into relatively good natured man-handling of volunteers over the heads of the audience and dropping them over the crowd-control barrier. The security guys seemed nonplussed for a few moments and several people made it unscathed - one girl even made it onto the stage. The G4S security guys then got their act together and everyone was apprehended and ejected. The mixed age unruly section of the crowd continued to pogo and surge.

Formerly as quarrelsome as the Gallaghers, the Reid brothers seem to be getting on tonight. Throughout, there is the warm, enveloping whine of amplification being used as instrumentation. 

On Cut Dead, Jim Reid is “your messed-up boy” accompanied by a simple, melodic jangle that dates all the way back to the Byrds.
You Trip Me Up
Listening now, this landmark album seems self-evidently derivative – as well as Spector, the Velvet Underground could have sued - but Psychocandy does, I think, stand the test of time with gems such as Just Like Honey, The Hardest Walk, Never Understand and Cut Dead. 

Even on the feral likes of The Living End, or In a Hole or Never Understand where William Reid unleashes the kind of feedback that brings the gig home with you for a few days afterwards, there's an endearing degree of deliberate challenge. 

Enjoyable gig - still prefer the Darklands album though :-)

April Skies 
Head On 
Some Candy Talking 
Up Too High 
Upside Down 
Just Like Honey 
The Living End 
Taste the Floor 
The Hardest Walk 
Cut Dead 
In a Hole 
Taste of Cindy 
Never Understand 
Inside Me 
Sowing Seeds 
My Little Underground 
You Trip Me Up 
Something's Wrong 
It's So Hard 

The support was:

Pete Macleod

I'd not heard of Pete before this gig, but did a little YouTube and internet research and found that he'd signed with Alan McGee and Creation Management (Jesus & Mary Chain and Wilko Johnson) last June (2014). Hence the support slot.

Pete Macleod
His set was relatively short, but quite impressive, given the singer-songwriter nature of his songs and the JAMC nature of the audience.

He performed "Rolling Stone", "God Speed" and "Let It Shine" but I failed to recognise the others. Strong vocals and some good acoustic guitar marked a confident opening performance. I will investigate further.