The Jesus and Mary Chain
21 September 2012: House of Blues, Cleveland, Ohio
I approach the possibility of seeing alternative acts from the ’80s cautiously. I initially get excited about concert announcements, then often have to do a bit of research on the touring band to see how much of the lineup is original and how much is hired guns. With a band like the Jesus and Mary Chain, though, so long as Jim and William Reid are present, I suppose that’s all that matters.
Jeff and I have had some highs and lows in our retro-concert-going experiences over the years, but with the Jesus and Mary Chain we got exactly what we expected. I was a little nervous when lead singer Jim opened the show with an advanced apology for his sore throat. That’s a move that leads to one of two outcomes: Either the band rises above it and exceeds expectations, or the band uses it as an excuse to mail it in and shit on the fans. Overcoming my feeling of dread, the band delivered, but that’s not to say there wasn’t some of the expected clichéd sourness from the brothers.
Much like the Ryan Adams show I saw at the beginning of this year, there was an edginess to the proceedings that bordered on chaos. The Reid brothers have a reputation for being a bit cantankerous, and it bled through everything they did on stage. The boys bitched about amps and some “technical differences,” and lead singer Jim abused the mic stand so much that it fell apart at one point. But it all seemed to be part of the show, part of the image that has accompanied these tetchy brothers since the ’80s.
The setlist was pretty much everything you’d want from a JAMC show – in fact, the only song missing that both Jeff and I would have liked to have heard was “Her Way of Praying” off of Automatic. But the boys opened with “Snakedriver” and burned through “Head On”, “Blues from a Gun”, “Sidewalking”, “Some Candy Talking”, “Happy When It Rains”, and “Halfway to Crazy” among others before winding down with a seemingly abbreviated version of “Just Like Honey”. But their Wall of Sound reverb wailed on the main set closing “Reverence”. The three-song encore was respectable, but didn’t stand up to the cuts off of Automatic, which sounded surprisingly good live almost a quarter century later.
I don’t actually remember a lot about the first time I saw the Jesus and Mary Chain perform live. On August 22, 1992, I worked 24+ hours straight at the Disney Inn Resort (now called Shades of Green and owned by the US military) where I was an assistant front desk manager on disaster recovery duty as Hurricane Andrew blew through the state. The next day, on no sleep, my girlfriend and I went to the Orange County Fairgrounds to see the JAMC headline the second Lollapalozza tour alongside the Chili Peppers, Ministry, Ice Cube, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam. Sleep depravation during the show and 20 years of life gone by have left me with only snippets of memories from that festival, so the opportunity to see the JAMC again was extremely appealing.
With the hindsight of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s guitar distortion-filled, neo-psychedelic, shoe-gazing influence on bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, my appreciation for the feisty brothers’ work is deeper than it has ever been. And it was good to have an excuse to hang out with Jeff and cross another band off our list.
(All photos by Adam Besenyodi.)