The Jesus & Mary Chain, a feral force at the height of their mid-1980s infamy, now mean business in their middle age and have invested in a towering stack of speakers, all the better to deafen patrons with the distorted brilliance of their classic debut album Psychocandy, which was revisited in full and in order at this almost-anniversary show.
The Jesus & Mary Chain - Barrowland, Glasgow
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The veteran noisemongers, still fronted by brothers Jim and William Reid, limbered up with some taster tracks – contemporary singles such as Some Candy Talking and April Skies and the renegade pop thrill of their 1984 debut Upside Down – which flaunted their sonic signature: bittersweet 1960s-influenced melodies all but swamped by the exhilarating, excruciating screech of feedback.
The main event was wryly introduced by a grainy clip from Town Of Tomorrow, an archive promotional film extolling the virtues of the Mary Chain’s native East Kilbride, then the Ronettes-referencing Just Like Honey thundered through those imposing speakers and the pace and volume was set, as the band slammed through the superbly narcissistic likes of Never Understand and The Living End, the rueful Hardest Walk, frenetic In A Hole and the baleful You Trip Me Up with barely a breath between tracks.
How Jim Reid could even hear himself think in the midst of this controlled cacophony was a wonder, but his insouciant baritone drawl was spot-on in tone, pitch and attitude, even if he remains a diffident performer.
Wild-haired William was intractable as ever, determined to lurk around his amp, expertly marshalling that trademark feedback rather than play the guitar hero he actually is to many.
Inevitably, the anarchy of their early gigs – infamous for 15 minutes – has long gone. A band who made their name by snubbing their audience are now courting their fans with a drilled professionalism which does ample justice to these precious songs.
Sadly, the same could not be said for their special guest, erstwhile Strawberry Switchblade frontwoman Rose McDowall, whose support set was decidedly shrill and shaky. McDowall has kept the gothic pop faith to a degree, with atmospheric backing from her band on the doomy likes of Deep Water but, despite the country catch in her voice, she can no longer sing in the key of 1983. The high notes on Trees and Flowers and Since Yesterday were almost as ear-piercing as the Mary Chain’s feedback.
Seen on 21.11.14