The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


LIVE REPORT: Jesus And Mary Chain
Jeremy Allen , November 20th, 2014 15:05

Jeremy Allen witnesses Jesus And Mary Chain for the first time at La Cigale in Paris

The support acts for the Jesus And Mary Chain tonight are a decent cross section of successful new British bands that definitely didn't get the call from Sir Bob to record Band Aid 30. Stevenage's energetic speed punk heirs Bad Breeding are on punishingly early, Leeds' stateside-straddling Eagulls too, but most people are in their seats by the time Brighton's Royal Blood take to the stage, and the latter are definitely the biggest and most generic of the bunch. If the mainstream is littered with million selling charisma bypasses like Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and Rita Ora, then Royal Blood are the new doyens of alternative rock most likely to be greeted with the word "really?" when mentioned.

At times they sound like Muse with all the effeminacy and the weird alien sex and conspiracies (i.e. the good bits) taken out, and you would have thought the lifeblood for a band like this would be the necessity to be super tight, but to my ears they sound surprisingly loose and occasionally sloppy. They're like tomato ketchup, the nefarious kind you got at school; cheap, odiously vinegary with a runny consistency, yet everyone around you seems to like it, or at least they don't complain about it. There was a time not so long ago when the two person guitar/drum combo popularised by the White Stripes was a novelty, whereas now thanks to record company cost restrictions it has become the default setup for new bands. As a consequence there are very few surprises, though Royal Blood can at least boast a comradery in personnel that is but a bygone memory for the Jesus And Mary Chain.

Psychocandy is an eye watering 30 years old now. When the East Kilbride brothers emerged in 1984, the pop landscape was very different and they certainly weren't two a penny, they were unique. It's a point that's been made several times since but repeating it makes it no less astonishing; when the Mary Chain arrived and somehow found themselves on the cover of Smash Hits, there were no other bands out there influenced by the melodic noise pop of the Velvet Underground or the big production and echoey, hypnotic drum sounds of Phil Spector. They were out of time and out on a limb, and therefore meant a great deal to a lot of people, and most importantly they were really, very good indeed.

Tonight they're in fine fettle thanks in no small part to Jim Reid's vocals, which are rich and beautifully in tune. He cuts the dash of a trim and healthy teetotaller (which he is these days) and his brother William doesn't. In juxtaposition, William of Orange stacks and Sideshow Bob hair, acts as a cautionary tale of the consequences if the wild years roll on, and yet some of the noise emanating from his Gibson and the wonderful control he has over the feedback makes such trifling observations churlish. The band are in the business of sounding remarkable and they achieve that despite any long standing sibling antipathy.

The first set consists of seven songs - a kind of inverted encore, which makes sense, as by the time they reach the conclusion they're fully warmed up for the main event. Highlights include set opener 'April Skies' and the song the late Mike Smith tried to ban, 'Some Candy Talking'. If you've not seen the Mary Chain before - which I hadn't - then the thrill of witnessing them together head to toe in black radiating such an elegantly overdriven roar is quite overwhelming; for a long time it didn't look like it would happen again and you never know that it might not again.

After 20 minutes Jim says "goodnight" and the band leave the stage, and for a split second one wonders if that really is it, like the good old days, and maybe a riot might just kick off (the French don't normally need an excuse). They return quickly, this time enveloped by a projection of the Psychocandy cover and break into the familiar refrains of 'Just Like Honey', and from there on in it's a pitch perfect rendition of a much cherished album right through to 'It's So Hard'. If the Jesus And Mary Chain have been accused of going through the motions a little bit live, then what beautiful motions they are, and what songs that from this juncture sound timeless and unassailable. They do it justice, which is more than one could have hoped for.