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Tuesday 26 March 2024

I Guess That's Why I've Always Got The Blues

The Jesus And Mary Chain came to town last weekend, two nights at the Albert Hall in Manchester (one sold out and the other close to) with a well received new album to promote- Glasgow Eyes. I went on Friday night in a late addition to my gig calendar. The band appeared on stage at 9pm on the dot, William an explosion of frizzy grey hair and semi- acoustic guitar, Jim centre stage all in black. There's no concessions to showbusiness, no projections, no chatter between songs other than the occasional 'thanks' from Jim, just darkness, lights and dry ice- and seventy minutes of Mary Chain magnificence. There's a slightly shaky start, Jim's microphone not switched on until first song jamcod (from Glasgow Eyes) is halfway through and the bass and drums are very loud in the mix, right up with William's guitar sonically. 

They aren't as loud as they've sometimes been- back in 2016 when they played Psychocandy they were earsplitting. Tonight, maybe due to playing in an old venue where lumps of building could come loose, they're at a less extreme volume but even so they're handing out earplugs behind the bar. After jamcod they launch into their songbook, playing songs from all parts of their forty year back catalogue- Happy When It Rains and Head On get tossed out early on, the sweet rush of Honey's Dead's Far Gone And Out from Honey's Dead follows and then a thumping, full on All Things Pass (the song that saw the warring Reids back together in 2008).

Jim looks little different from the younger version of himself from the 80s, bending over the mic as he sings/ speaks his vocals. There are no false starts or wrong notes, everyone is on it, an audible sense of momentum building as each song passes- new song The Eagles And The Beatles, an electrifying Cracking Up, a lovely Some Candy Talking, the grime and scuzz of Taste Of Cindy and In A Hole and a gnarly, throbbing, swaggering Sidewalking, one after the other. Blues From A Gun lifts things higher, William's guitar lines bouncing round the old chapel as Jim sings of stone dead trippers, the state of his hair and always having the blues. It's exhilarating stuff, four decades of Mary Chain songs hitting home, a guitar driven distillation of 20th century pop culture. 

The last three are from three different slices of their history- Venal Joy from the new album, I Love Rock 'n' Roll from 1998 and then Just Like Honey, one of their many mid- 80s indie classics. The encore does a similar job with the slow burn of Darklands and new song Girl71, finishing, aptly and amusingly, with the William Reid's destructive late 90s blast of snotty noise I Hate Rock 'n' Roll. 

It's easy to forget how brilliant Sidewalking is, a 1988 single that cut and welded feedback and Bo Diddley to a hip hop drum sample (Roxanne Shante's Roxanne's Revenge), extended on the 12" to nearly eight minutes as Jim makes missing the last bus and having to walk home sound like the ultimate in rock 'n' roll outsider depravity. 

Sidewalking (Extended Version)


Anonymous said...

When I saw the Pixies a couple of weeks ago, I thought it was very quiet to at Albert Hall
I wonder if its a policy

Swiss Adam said...

Seems like it could be doesn't it