published: 31 /
Noise rock pioneers The Jesus and Mary Chain turn in an excellent career-spanning set at the O2 Academy, Liverpool in support of recent LP ‘Damage and Joy’. Richard Lewis reviews.
Warming the stage for venerable indie rock royalty The Jesus and Mary Chain, much-touted Liverpool quartet Sugarmen are nearer to punk and new wave than the noise rock and proto-shoegazing textures tonight’s headliners pioneered.
Making a virtue out of nervy, jittery velocity, the hurriedness of their delivery works in the quartet’s favour, lending an additional edge to the alt. rock missives that feature on imminent debut LP ‘Local Freaks’, peaking with impressive new single ‘Push Button Age’.
‘The best fucking rock n’ roll band in the world!’ a voice from the stage front barrier bellows, greeting the Mary Chain’s arrival onstage. ‘Maybe’ vocalist Jim Reid shrugs in response with the suggestion of a grin. Busted down from the opulent Olympia to the sticky-floored surroundings of the Academy, why the venue isn’t busier is a mystery, given the warm reception for the outfit’s recent comeback LP ‘Damage and Joy’, and their now immovable place as one of the most influential bands of their era.
The alphabetti spaghetti LP cover backdrop has been dispensed with, replaced with a barrage of lights that blaze into life at the top of the set which commences with a scalpel-sharp run through of ‘Amputation’. ‘Happy When It Rains’, which it's safe to say may have influenced Garbage's ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ follows, which in turn is succeeded by a fantastic version of ‘Head On’ lent muscle by a thunderous rhythm section.
An LP that reveals its strength over repeated listens, ‘Damage and Joy’ makes its presence felt, with half a dozen tracks from the set aired, adding to a small but excellent stockpile of LPs by recently revived indie rock big wheels like Ride and Slowdive. While some groups are mindful of not ‘damaging’ their legacy by issuing new albums (a relief in the case of The Stone Roses, given how rank their singles were), the Reid brothers' recent efforts slot into the set seamlessly. Amongst the 2017 intake, the ‘ba-ba-ba’ chorus of ‘Black and Blues’ pays homage to the Mary Chain’s strongest influence, The Velvet Underground, while ‘War On Peace’ showcases where a fair proportion of the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s medicated trudge comes from. That said, it chafes slightly that one of the album’s highlights, Isobel Campbell-assisted duet ‘The Two Of Us’, hasn’t become a live staple.
The gnarly romanticism that runs throughout the band’s catalogue is glimpsed in ‘Always Sad’, while the guttural bass guitar-led sleaze-out of ‘Teenage Lust’ provides the complete opposite. Warning that the next song is tough for him to sing ‘Since I’ve had a cold since 1985’, Jim turns in an impressive rendition of ‘Cherry Came Too’, the sound of a starry-eyed 1960s teen romance meeting a scuzzy indie rock undertow.
Stationed by his formidable amp stack throughout the set, ‘All Things Pass’ showcases William Reid’s mastery of simple but ridiculously effective guitar riffs that works just as well in the present age as it did on 1986 landmark ‘Some Candy Talking’. The granite-hard death disco pulse of ‘Reverence’ is aired with an extended instrumental intro before an airing of ‘Darklands’ closes the main set.
A cheer erupts at the thudding Phil Spector drum intro of ‘Just Like Honey’, which is followed by one of the band’s most unhinged moments, the white noise scree of ‘In A Hole’.
A return for an excellent second encore wrongfoots a dozen or so people who have already headed to the exit as ‘April Skies’, the single that got them onto ‘Top of the Pops’, is played along with overlooked late 1990s gem ‘I Hate Rock ‘n’ Roll’, the latter provoking a stage-front mosh pit. As the hushed tones of Ringo-sung ‘White Album’ lullaby ‘Good Night’ floats from the PA, ushering the crowd outside, the title of the setlist’s last track could never be true for the present group. The best fucking rock n’ roll band in the world? Maybe.
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