published: 12 /
At a concert at the Albert Hall in Manchester featuring classics from their brooding 1987 second album, ‘Darklands',’ Denzil Watson finds The Jesus and Mary Chain rendering a refreshingly subtle and dynamic range.
It’s many months and several cancellations since the original date was scheduled to go ahead, but finally the Jesus and Mary Chain get a chance to play their second album, 1987’s dark, brooding and melancholic classic ‘Darklands,’ in full. Manchester’s beautiful Albert Hall provides a cozy setting without being full, as a mix of fans, old and new, eagerly await the show.
The band shuffle on-stage and, predictably, open with a note-perfect version of the gentle and melodic title track, ‘Darklands.’ Back in the day, the album provided a shock for fans with its big departure from the feedback-drenched aggression of their debut album, ‘Psychocandy.’ Reflective and gentle, it sound-tracked thousands of indie-kid bedsits, as it brought-to-mind The Velvet Underground’s third eponymous album.
The ten-song opening set plays out with a predictability that goes hand-in-hand with these albums-played-in-full shows. But what’s lost in terms of surprise is more than made up for by the time and space afforded to appreciate just what an all-killer-and-no-filler affair the album is. Thus, after the drifting beauty of ‘Deep One Perfect Morning” has subsided, it’s time for the anthemic single, “Happy When It Rains,” demonstrating the Reid’s keen ear for a classic pop song.
Although the band are now down to just the brothers, Jim, on vocals and William, stage right, on lead guitar, in terms of the original line-up, JAMC 2021 is a well-oiled and finely-honed machine. Land-time collaborator, Mark Crozier, on bass has now clocked up 14 years in the band, drummer Brian Young has been in the fold since 2012, leaving second guitarist Scott Von Ryper, who joined in 2015 as the relative newcomer.
They breeze through the album with relative ease with the band in a line towards the back of the stage. Jim Reid is very much on his own at the front. He’s always been an enigmatic frontman. In-between songs, it’s hard to make-out what he’s saying in his East-Kilbride accent. He’s never been the flamboyant front-man type, more the shy, but quietly confident and understated loner. He’s clearly enjoying himself, though, and grateful for the warm reception the band receives from the appreciative audience.
It’s probably the least loud Mary Chain show I’ve witnessed, but without the ear--splitting feedback, we can enjoy the catchy melodies of the likes of ‘April Skies.’ The more abrasive ‘Fall’ threatens to take us back to their first album momentarily, before the first set concludes in gentle fashion with the trio of ‘Cherry Came Too,’ ‘On the Wall’ and ‘About You.’
After a brief interval, the band return for a second set of lesser-known Mary Chain classics. Opener ‘Happy Place,’ a ‘Darklands' era B-side, demonstrates just how strong is the song-writing prowess of the Reid Brothers.
Other highlights of the second set include two nuggets for the band’s underrated ‘Munki’ album, with ‘I Love Rock’ n’ Roll’ and ‘Mo Tucker’ being far from the poor relations of the better-known songs by the band. The acoustic dreaminess of ‘Drop’ gives way to set closer ‘Kill Surf City,’ another ‘Darklands’-era B-side, as the band shift upwards through their sonic gears.
They shuffle off for a second time, before being cheered back for a final three-song salvo. The classic strum of ‘Just Like Honey’ subsides into the anthemic drive of ‘Something I Can’t Have.’
And there’s still time to turn the dial back up for an ear-splitting rendition of the song, from which, it all started, ‘Never Understand.’ And with that final act, the band leave the stage for a final time, leaving fans, young and old, in a very happy place.
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