After sell out shows in London and Glasgow last year The Jesus And Mary Chain are currently on the road in the UK with their ‘Psychocandy 2015’ tour. We were lucky enough to join them and witness the mayhem in Liverpool and Leeds … and once again, we had our mind and ears well and truly blown.
You can read our review of last year’s show here, but before we address the swaggering power and soul shredding beauty of ‘Psychocandy’ as a live experience a word on the support bands. After original opener Eagulls were forced to pull out ‘due to other commitments’, the Mary Chain offered local bands the chance to open for them on each of the nine dates.
In Liverpool, it was Bathymetry who were picked to kick off proceedings, a choice that may have surprised many, but the young trio of Ariel Bath, Emily All, and Dave Annis quickly dispelled any doubts as to their merit, winning the audience over with their natural charm whilst producing a hugely engaging set. At times sonically, there’s an air of the Delta Five about them with scratchy guitars and strident vocals, but they also have the ability to rather dizzyingly change pace ala Throwing Muses whilst at other times the harmonies and languid gliding bass lines conjure up a rather more down to earth, folksier Warpaint. And despite some of the pun-tastic track titles such as ‘Goblin Fruit’ and ‘Jarmalade’ there’s certainly a sly subtlety and artful deftness to their off the wall sound, which under a veneer of ear pleasing pop masks rather darker predilections. This of course makes them a very interesting proposition indeed.
In Leeds support band The Black Delta Movement who hail from Hull, energised the audience with a powerful, visceral show that sits at the heavier, bluesier spectrum of the neo psychedelic revival. Thundering riffs, blues tinged whiskey cracked vocals, all delivered with supreme confidence from a band who clearly know how to put on a show. The crowd certainly showed their appreciation and The Black Delta Movement’s live sound is perhaps even more impressive than their recorded work so far. Certainly tonight, it was a case of catching lightning in a bottle.
And so to the main event – The Mary Chain. We’ve made no secret of our admiration for the song writing ability of the Reid brothers and we’ve now seen their ‘Psychocandy’ gigs four times, (which isn’t really quite enough we feel) and every time there’s something different to appreciate, some new nuance be it a uniquely demented riff from William Reid’s guitar, or a new passion in Jim’s vocal delivery. These gigs are not the sound of a band simply reheating their past and doing the “classic album by numbers” circuit, there’s been a huge amount of attention to detail in getting the tone right, from the backdrops and video footage, to perfecting the live sound. It must be a challenging job for the sound engineers to get the mix right, balancing power and noise and juxtaposing clarity with distortion. In Liverpool, with it being the first night of the tour there were the occasional glitches, but slickness and polish are an anathema to the Mary Chain and their gloriously ragged set was all about power, melody, soul tearing guitar riffs and bleak tender beauty.
After opening with a mini set of greatest hits gleaned from the ‘Psychocandy’ era including their still astonishing ear cleaving debut ‘Upside Down’ , ‘Head On’, an aborted ‘Some Candy Talking’ and a mind altering version of ‘Reverence’ the band leave the stage briefly before returning to launch into ‘Psychocandy’ from start to finish. As ever with the Mary Chain there is the odd hiccup, and the occasional exchange between the brothers, one particular highlight being when Jim stops ‘My Little Underground’ and turns to William to ask ‘so are we doing the fucking jazz version tonight then?’ but it’s done more in the spirit of exasperated humour rather than provocation or hostility.. Maybe they really have mellowed?
The following night at Leeds Academy the sound was perfect, and it must be said (reluctantly) that the crowd on the other side of the Pennines seemed far more animated and ‘up for it’ than the previous night in Liverpool. Which is no more than the band deserve as Psychocandy 2015 sounds louder, bigger bolder and is still the ultimate statement in guitar music, fusing noise, melody and beauty in a way that has often been copied but never bettered.
As for ‘Psychocandy’ as a spectacle, well you won’t get a lot of animation on stage with William preferring to lurk in the shadows, his hair, which apparently has its own weather system barely discernible behind the dry ice, whilst Jim often clings onto the mic stand for dear life, telling us after the show that he still gets nervous and tries not to look at the audience, but pick a midpoint above their heads. So the chances of the Mary Chain suddenly breaking into choreographed dance moves, is thankfully not on the horizon anytime soon. Because the spectacle is the music, that’s where the band put all their personality, all their creativity and it’s a tangible force of nature, which fills every inch of the venue. Be in no doubt they are the real deal, there’s no contrived ‘Brit School’ facsimile of rock n’ roll cool here, you can’t teach this – the Mary Chain don’t need to fake anything, they’ve paid their dues, and have proved they’ve got rock n roll in their very souls. And with the current lineup which includes Phil King, Brian Young and Mark Cozer they have never sounded better or more relevant.
With a new album being discussed we’d certainly recommend you caught them now while you have the chance, before they hit the USA and beyond because you may not ever get the chance to see the album performed in full again. And you’d be missing out on something very special indeed!
Plus full set and additional pictures HERE
Remaining tour dates
Norwich, U.E.A. (21)
Nottingham, Rock City (22)
Brighton, Brighton Dome (23)
Birmingham, The Institute (25)
Bristol, O2 Academy (26)
Cardiff, Cardiff University (The Great Hall) (27)