After all these years, the Jesus and Mary Chain still hate rock and roll as much as ever.
Touring behind their new album, Damage and Joy, Jim and William Reid came to town an older, wiser songwriting and performing duo, but no less furious and spiky.
The opening band, the Cobbs, clearly paid attention to JAMC while growing up. This thundering quintet rode waves of swirling noise and also displayed a slinky mastery of dynamics. Their short set put the crowd on notice: Noise on noise was to be the order of the evening.
JAMC strode on stage in front of a huge graphic of the (sort of horrible) Damage and Joy album cover and amplifiers all adored with “JESUS.” Without a word, it was on. “Amputation,” the lead-off track from the new album, set the tone with the opening lyrics “Tryin’ to win your interest back/ But you ain’t having none of that” and a chorus of “I’m a rock and roll amputation.” This is a band that never shied away from talking directly to their fans about their chosen lifestyle, and in 2017 they’re still doing it.
The Darklands songs were a departure for JAMC in 1987 – less noisy and more open than what fans were used to at the time. That album’s “April Sky” sounded amazing last night, like the theme song to the most fucked up western imaginable.
1989’s “Head On” was a chugging time machine for the audience. A good chunk of us were introduced to the band through this song, and the reaction to it was immediate. Heads were shaking like Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club.
The stage hit maximum smoke density by about the fourth song, 1992’s “Far Gone and Out.” No one in the band was lit directly for long – it was all shadow, backlighting, and smoke, smoke, smoke, which should come as no surprise to anyone with an even passing knowledge of JAMC.
“Blues from a Gun” was twice as menacing as the version on Automatic, a low-end threat that rumbled roughshod over your brain. Yet through it all, guitarist William Reid pierced the buzzing noise with his trebly lead sound.
The Reid brothers are not particularly talkative in concert. William didn’t say a word. He stayed hunched over his guitar, shaggy hair obscuring his face the whole evening. Between-song banter typically falls to the vocalist, anyway, but Jim uttered “Thanks” a few times, and that’s about it. (Again, if you know anything about this band….)
JAMC bounced around every stage of their recorded output. New track “All Things Pass” was a definite standout, already sounding classic, like it belonged on Darklands. It was tight, tight, tight, and it rocked in all the right ways.
When it came time to preach “Reverence” off of 1992’s Honey’s Dead, the brake lines had broken, and the bus was heading downhill to the school yard. The extended intro was a combative, speaker-blowing spectacle, and by the time Jim Reid was howling, “I wanna diiiie! I wanna diiiie!” the stage, uh, malfunctioned? The fire curtain dropped, obscuring the band
Behind the curtain, JAMC left the stage to the screeching of their instruments as the fire alarm strobe lights came on in the theater. Audience members looked at each other, no one knowing if this was part of the show or not. After about 10 minutes of confusion, the Palace announced that the band would be back shortly.
JAMC came back out, picked right up again with “Reverence,” and ... the curtain started coming down again. Jim Reid looked up, and it stopped. There were a few head fakes from the curtain, but in the end the Palace stage let the band finish the song.
After a brooding “Nine Million Rainy Days” off of Darklands, it was back in the K-hole of 1985’s Psychocandy for a number of songs including JAMC’s most-recognized song, “Just Like Honey.”
The band encored with the aggressively violent “I Hate Rock and Roll,” the last track on the last album before JAMC went away from the public for years in 1998, and its spiteful lyrics mades perfect sense.
“I hate rock and roll. I hate it ‘cause it fucks with my soul… Rock and roll hates me. I hate you, rock and roll… Rock and roll hates me.”
Far Gone and Out
Blues from a Gun
Cherry Came Too
The Hardest Walk
All Things Pass
Some Candy Talking
Halfway to Crazy
Nine Million Rainy Days
Just Like Honey
You Trip Me Up
The Living End
Taste of Cindy
War on Peace
I Hate Rock and Roll
The Crowd: Lots of black clothing, some gothed out a bit, but most probably have babysitters on the clock.
Overheard in the Crowd: "They talk too much between songs," someone joked.
Random Notebook Dump: In 1989 I bought JAMC’s Automatic on cassette from a self-service vending machine in the IDS Center’s Crystal Court. The future was bright!