The Jesus & Mary Chain Live: Noise, Sweat & Inch-Perfect Songs

In a dirty New York bar The Jesus & Mary Chain roared their way through 17 classic tracks, making me realise just how beautiful music can really be...
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You either like them or you don’t. No one ever says, ‘Yeah The Jesus And Mary Chain are alright.’ For the record, I’ve been a believer since I first heard Upside Down in ‘85.  If I could only listen to one band for the rest of my life it would be The Jesus And Mary Chain.

This tour is pure nostalgia, there’s no new album to promote and if it’s just a money grab I really don’t give a fuck. Nobody in their forties should be under any illusions that they’re cool. Once you realize that, it’s very liberating. Coming on stage to a Dire Straits song seems to be taking it to extremes a bit though. Jim Reid (vocals), who spoke with the audience more tonight than he has at every J&MC gig I’ve ever been to before combined, apologized for this  musical faux pas, blaming the DJ and encouraging the audience to kill him.

Bathed in hues of green and blue and black, it’s like they’ve never been away.  Kicking off with Snakedriver and Head On it turns out to be a crowd pleasing best of trip through their career (you clicked on the set list right?). Inevitably, they’re more musically proficient these days but they still reside in the dirty part of town and, let’s face facts, that’s always been the best place to hang out when the sun goes down.

For all the noise there’s always a perfectly crafted pop song in there if you get right down to it

William still churns out feedback though it’s more controlled than at any time than possibly the Stoned and Dethroned tour. Jim still sings in that American accent that only Scottish singers seem capable of and they still seem to me to be the quintessential New York band despite the fact that they’re from East Kilbride. There’s a rumour that Emily Blunt guested on Just Like Honey the night before. That’s great. I have no clue who Emily Blunt is. If it’s not going to be Scarlett Johanson I don’t care if they get Susan Boyle up there. In the end it barely matters, it’s a female in the dark up there and the tune, as ever sounds beautiful.

And that’s the thing with The J&MC; for all the noise there’s always a perfectly crafted pop song in there if you get right down to it. They have impeccable taste. They’ve begged, borrowed and stolen some of the greatest riffs, beats and bass lines married them with their own twisted, dark lyrics drenched them in noise and created something quite beautiful. From The Beach Boys to the Wall Of Sound Girl Groups to the Velvets, Jonathan Richman and The Ramones, they’ve lifted freely from them all.

In the end they played 17 songs 17 of which were highlights for me. Don’t ask me to choose, I can’t. I like the loud ones. I like the fast ones. I like the slow ones. I like the quiet ones. Pushed I’d say the aforementioned Just Like Honey because, when I think about it, that’s when I really realized just how beautiful music really can be, that beauty comes in many guises. It’s not a super model of a song but it’s sexy as hell.

Later in a bar in the West Village, I’ll close out the night/morning in conversation with a young American woman who wants to talk about Jesus and astronauts and her friend who studied briefly in Leeds (my hometown) but, when pressed on pubs and clubs can only remember the name of one bar. Creation. How fucking weird is that?


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