Image by Gary Chaytor
The Jesus & Mary Chain were once known for putting on gigs that erupted into violence, even attracting a “New Sex Pistols” tag for their notoriety. Fast-forward some thirty years and it’s hard to believe, as the band amble on stage with barely a mumble from band or audience. Maybe it’s because their audience has grown with them. A packed Riverside audience tonight is shorter on the hair and a bit thicker round the sides, though still the black leather pervades.
Still high on no thrills, it’s the music that does the band’s talking for them. New song Always Sad from the band’s first record in twenty years opens but sits nicely in with more classic material like April Skies and Halfway To Crazy; sweeping pop songs with distorted guitar and drenched in feedback. Jim Reid’s hair may be shorn; his skinny blazered figure shrouded in darkness except for the odd blinding flash of light, but his Scots mix of snarl and sugar is unmistakeable. Brother William’s hair remains, but he hogs the corner of the stage, far from the spotlight. There’s little interaction from either, but the songs that are so ingrained within the conscious, and indeed sub and unconscious, of any 80’s British indie music fan continue to follow, sounding as good today as they did way back when.
With the new album, Damage And Joy, out the day after this show, it’s a brave move to not just rely on the hits, but when the new material is as strong as the seedy Amputation, then it’s clear that the band have no cause for self-doubt. And besides, as Jim responds to a song request whilst pointing to his ear piece, “I can’t hear a word you’re saying…”
Encoring with one of the best pop songs of any decade, the luscious Just Like Honey, the track kicks off a four song salvo of tunes from debut album Psychocandy that is cruelly brought to an end by new one, War On Peace, itself inevitably ending in a wall of shredded guitars and feedback. Not quite a riot then, but no less captivating and still, utterly compelling.