Wednesday, May 06, 2015

A Psychodandy Resurrection: My Jesus and Mary Chain Reaction is Awash in Glorious Feedback -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

The Jesus and Mary Chain
w/ opening act The Black Ryder
Riviera Theatre, Chicago 
May 5, 2015

Anytime I attend a concert I obviously hope--and even expect--to enjoy it.

But some shows are accompanied by less anticipation than others, particularly those I may attend as much out of curiosity as rabid fandom.

Though I've owned a couple of their albums for years, The Jesus and Mary Chain are a band I would say I've more liked than loved.

I had never seen them live and--oblivious to some recent tours that brought them to Chicago's Riot Fest in 2012--I wasn't aware of them playing anywhere since the Lollapalooza tour of 1992.

Centered around brothers Jim and Willam Reid, JMC hasn't released a new album since 1998's Munki, and with their current shows featuring a full playthrough of their 1985 debut, Psychocandy, I must admit to never having embraced that album anywhere near the level of its routinely-acclaimed-as-seminal renown.

At the Riv, the Reids and three bandmates spent most of the show shrouded in darkness and fog. Other than a few cursory words from singer Jim, there was no interaction with the audience.

As they have at every other show of this tour, they began by playing seven songs from the rest of their oeuvre, then performed Psychocandy in full.

There was nothing that seemingly would have made the Chicago show different than recent nights in Detroit and Toronto, there were no obvious deviations from the recorded versions of any of the songs and there was no encore.

Devoid of the touches that often make concerts most special for me, the show lasted a rather brief 82 minutes.

And yet I found it to be terrific.

If nothing else, the Jesus and Mary Chain did their job, as today--literally--I like and appreciate Psychocandy more than I ever have before.

With Jim Reid sounding as good as ever vocally, the band's noted feedback-drenched attack--led by William Reid's guitars--powerfully filling the Riv and drummer Brian Young punctuating the fuzz thunderously enough for me to look up his name (and learn that he's in Fountains of Wayne), the band did more than replicate Psychocandy and other songs live onstage.

They sounded simply phenomenal in doing so.

Taking the stage with "April Skies" from the Psychocandy follow-up, Darklands, JMC demonstrated a sonic potency that belied their general lack of showmanship. But with most of the attendance seemingly enthralled merely by the music--some rather demonstrably--the band sounded great on quasi-hits "Head On" and "Reverence" (see video below) before ending their potpourri set with early single, "Upside Down." (See Tuesday's setlist here, though actually posted from the Detroit show.)

Though the early portion included some blinding strobe lighting--and included Psychocandy bonus track "Some Candy Talking"--the 14-song album section of the show added a video barrage to the acoustical bombardment.

On the first track, "Just Like Honey," Jim Reid was accompanied on vocals by Aimee Nash from The Black Ryder, the Australian opening act that clearly seemed influenced by the Scottish headliners.

In fact, throughout the show, my friend Paolo and I kept interjecting artists that seemingly derived stylistically from the Jesus and Mary Chain and the seminal sounds of Psychocandy, itself owing a debt to the Beach Boys, Shangri-Las, Velvet Underground, Stooges and Phil Spector, as well as contemporaries like The Cure, New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen.

"Sonic Youth!"

"The Pixies!"


"Dinosaur Jr.!"

"My Bloody Valentine!"

"The Stone Roses!"

"The Smashing Pumpkins!"

"Nine Inch Nails!"


The list could probably go on and on, and yet Jesus and Mary Chain truly sounded like no one else I've ever seen. While many of the aforementioned artists employ feedback washes in certain songs, with JMC the buzz is constant. 

Yet while "The Living End" sounded awesome in its driving force--accompanied by motorcycle imagery to match the lyrics--Psychocandy's softer 5th song, "Cut Dead" showcased a nice shift in tonality. 

Devoid of any spontaneity, the tail end of the album playthrough became a bit too much of a similar thing, but the consecutive "In a Hole," "Taste of Cindy," "Never Understand," "Inside Me" and "Sowing Seeds" were all uber-amplified standouts I made a point of noting. 

As mentioned above, I am now much fonder of Psychocandy than ever before.

And the Jesus and Mary Chain. 

Whatever interactive niceties and other accoutrements they opt to leave out, including any new material, the Reid brothers seemingly sound better than ever in their 50s--and greater than I ever knew. 

Thus their trailblazing past made for a surprisingly rewarding--and largely remarkable--present.

Here's a clip I shot of "Reverence" at the Riv: 

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