Written by John Robb
The Jesus And Mary Chain played a tight set at the Fox Theater, Oakland on May 22nd.
Starting off with their new single "Amputation" the band rocked and buzzed through many of their singles like "April Skies."
The modern Mary Chain, who still make a glorious pop/noise, have something of the style and wisdom about their music as they tour their new album "Damage & Joy" where the new songs sit perfectly at ease in the set with their noisier standards.
Jim Reid stands stock still, intoning the perfect melodies and those deceptively simple, yet complex slash slogan lyrics of self loathing and love over the impenetrable wall of sound. The Mary Chain are still honing down that artful dislocation between beauty and violence that has always been the core to their enveloping spectral sound.
It’s this artful tension that creates the molten core to their music that exists beyond time and sounds as perfect now as when they emerged in 1985.
Their glacial and powerful set tonight projects something beautiful and spectral. Time has enhanced these songs – as the years roll by they are sugarcoated with the classic and if the modern Mary Chain play for well over an hour, then that’s a good thing. This is a pop music that is both classic but still full of the noise and fury of their inception but can switch to the honey dripping glistening beauty of "Just Like Honey" like a switchblade.
They still make everything feel so effortless, those glorious chord changes, those dark emotions, that inner turmoil, that claustrophobia and frustration contrasted with the sheer romance and beauty of three chord rock 'n roll or the heart break ballad strewn with tantalising noise and an avalanche of guitars like on the still astonishing "You Trip Me Up."
Jim still has a gorgeous voice – velvet and maybe Velvets smooth that slips around the melodies whilst William with his shock of silver curls like a sonic wizard cooking up layers of great sounding guitar. For a band that deal in the deceptively simple there is so much going on here. The guitars sound crystalline perfect – post Cramps fuzz with William combining Poison Ivy’s genius of simplicity and the late Bryan Gregory’s one fingered perfect feedback drones. There is surf violence, chiming post rock melancholia, spectral atmosphere or filthy sex. The Mary Chain still sound guitar-urgent and still find new places to take the six string.
The set list slips from classic to modern, the new album gets an outing as they open with "Amputation," a track that may have been around for a few years but has been vamped up for the album with producer Youth’s mystical magic touch. "Head On" still leers danger whilst "Blues From A Gun" is still a huge grinding anthem – a track that should have been huge and perhaps one the greatest goth anthems it feels even more fitting with its dark lustre being played.
Tonight the Mary Chain still feel urgent and powerful. Their live sound is quite astonishing. They sound far from tired and jaded – someone has kept their fire burning and their new album proves that they are still on a creative high. Their songs are still full of cascading melody and the band still sounds Pistols heavy. There is noise, beauty and confusion and there is the thrill of danger on the set ending Reverence with its ‘I wanna die like…’ refrain. It’s like being planted into the middle of Metal Box or the last Pistols gig in San Francisco but through the suffocating Glasgow outlying towns of the late seventies when the Reids grew up and when they briefly went to school with Ian Astbury.
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
War on Peace
Taste of Cindy
I Hate Rock 'n' Roll