Rollercoaster Ride
The Jesus and Mary Chain

The Jesus & Mary Chain

Troxy, London - 24th November 2014
After the last couple of years, we've given up being surprised. Sitting on a train to London, heading for the Troxy in the East End to see The Jesus & Mary Chain playing Psychocandy seems to be the most normal thing in the world. Little more than a few months ago the very thought would have blown our minds but today everybody is back doing everything and though it keeps us on our toes, the shock value has somewhat abated. The Troxy is not the easiest venue to get to, but The Mary Chain never made anything easy and, in truth, we wouldn't have it any other way. It is, however, a magnificent deco building, far larger inside than you would have thought, and completely rammed to the rafters with eager punters. We note it is twenty-two years since we last saw the fabulously fractious Reid Brothers playing live and we are curious to see how this reunion is going to go. There is certainly the potential for it to be a disaster, as the Reids and chaos are constant companions, but the burning desire is for the night to be glorious and the fact the brothers recently signed a management deal with Alan McGee's new Creation Management shows there is serious intent for this to be an enduring project.

Jim opens the proceedings with an explanation. The band don't want to do an encore so they are going to play Psychocandy last. As the album is less than forty minutes long, the band will start with a few extra songs to fill the time. This is all well and good, though we wouldn't have complained if they had burst on to the stage, played the album and left without a word. But this is not the 1980s and though many of the old legends are back in our midst, we truly live in gentler times. There are five musicians on stage. Jim in the centre with William marginally behind and to his left. Former Lush bassist Phil King is back in the fold, having played with the band in 1997 and 1998, and guitarist Mark Crozer continues the stint that began with the band's first reformation in 2007. Drums are taken by new boy Brian Young. Neither of the three do much but stand (or sit) and play; appendages rather than the main act, though to be fair Jim and William are not exactly known for their electrifying stage presence. The night opens with single 'April Skies' and it sounds so uninspired and laboured it is difficult not to feel a creeping sense of dread. Was the long trip worthwhile? William's guitar is too loud; it stays that way throughout and though it doesn't really affect the faster numbers, when we get to the slower songs there really is little point in Jim singing as he is completely drowned out. As are the bass and drums for that matter. It's a strange state of affairs as the levels have obviously been set that way intentionally.

The band chug through some well known non-Pyschocandy moments and it all seems a little bland and laboured. Until, that is, they play out the opening bars to 'Reverence' and suddenly the sky falls in. It sounds monstrous and huge and nasty and all of a sudden the band we wanted to see are there on stage. It's a magical transformation and if there were any doubts the Mary Chain could still cut it, they are blown away in an instant. "I wanna die," implores Jim as William does his best to fulfil his wish with an assault of pure guitar terrorism. It gets better as the song leads into debut single 'Upside Down' and we are genuinely surprised, not only to hear it being played, but to be able to drink in all of its original power. God, this is why this band blew the musical world apart, this is why this band is so important – they turned the world on its head. And they do it again before our eyes. It genuinely is one of the most powerful and moving live music experiences we have ever known. The pulse is racing and the senses welcome a five minute break which is taken before the Mary Chain return to the stage to unleash Psychocandy, played through in the correct order and thus opening with the gentle 'Just Like Honey'.

Once more, it is the wilder moments that hit with the most force. 'Never Understand' is a creeping mass of terror, and the band's greatest moment 'You Trip Me Up' a screaming riot; the contrast between the ferocious music and clever lyrics a vital part of the song's undoubted brilliance. The screens behind the band begin to display images which actually tie in with the music and enhance the visual experience. It's a contrast to the opening of the show where each band member is backed by a blinding white light which makes it difficult to look directly at the stage. Now it's the music that is uncomfortable and not the view, which is how it should have been from the beginning. 'The Living End' tears along gloriously, 'Taste the Floor' pounds at your brain, 'In A Hole' steams, and we are singing along to every word to 'The Hardest Walk' though we can't hear a syllable of Jim's vocal. All too soon we are into the epic 'Something's Wrong' (four minutes) and a crash through 'It's So Hard' and the band are gone. Psychocandy in all its glory; the most extreme record ever made. We would never have asked for an encore.

It's been a night of contrasts. It took the band a while to get going and the sound balance could have been vastly improved, but when the Mary Chain hit the spot they hit it hard, reminding us why they are such an important band in the history of music. You don't go to see them for their entertaining stage antics or their witty banter, you go to see them tear the world apart in a salvo of howling noise without apparently putting in much effort. It's not an easy thing to do, but it is pleasing that Jesus and The Mary Chain (as the Troxy has been billing them) still have the knack. The tour continues into 2015, the thirtieth anniversary of the album, so get to see them before they fall out again, or kill each other. It's going to happen one day.

The Jesus and Mary Chain
Words: Adam Hammond
Latest Reviews
At The Edge Of The Sea
Southsea Fest 2014
John Peel Night 2014
Inca Babies live at The Hope
Facebook Link
Isolation Home