The Jesus & Mary Chain in Vicar Street on 31st July 2014
If The Jesus & Mary Chain make it to the end of the upcoming ‘Psychocandy’ tour in November without disintegrating into an acrimonious heap it will be a wonder. Tonight’s Vicar Street show is a self-styled low key warm-up of sorts for the imminent UK tour, and judging by tonight’s ramshackle performance, the brothers Reid and Co. may need to retire to the rehearsal room to iron out a few cues and reclaim mastery over their electronics.
It’s a J&MC miscellany tonight, with a sprinkling from the band’s entire catalogue and a heavier leaning towards the ‘80s material. As they open with Snakedriver and Head On, it seems as if the majority of Vicar Street is in hog heaven, with William Reid’s guitar ringing out over a sea of nostalgic heads.
Onstage though, there is an air of hesitancy. Between them Jim and William stop and restart numerous songs with the wave of a hand or bark of an instruction. At times it’s down to an amplifier, or a guitar pedal, and roadies scuttle around the lead guitarist in efforts to solve the sonic issues.
At others, it’s an out of tune bass or an effect gone awry, as on Just Like Honey’s opening, wavering chord. Despite the many glitches – and this really was one of the most held-together-by-threads gigs we’ve witnessed – tonight’s set still manages to succeed in being one of the more enjoyable of the year thus far.
To some extent it’s down to the goodwill in the room, and the delight of all to be hearing the band in such a venue, but it’s also down to the fact that in between the fuck-ups and the daggers being thrown onstage, there’s a great fucking rock’n’roll band at work. It’s the tension that seems to bind the set together, and when Jim Reid announces one hour in that “This is the last song”, his demeanour, body language and tone of voice suggest that he’s not kidding around.
They return though, for five more songs; a guest female vocalist joins on the aforementioned Just Like Honey, lost somewhat in the mix, while Never Understand sees things out. It was barely a fortnight from the initial gig announcement to the night itself – just enough time, maybe, to whip up some excitement, and not enough time to build expectations to dizzying heights. Maybe that was their saving grace.
It seems that it’s a chore for the band at certain points, as if things aren’t coming off as they’d planned, and Jim Reid would rather take his whiskey into the wings and call it a night. But then, maybe the reaction from the crowd speaks volumes to the players onstage. It was shambolic, it was rough around the edges, it was a group soldiering on through those mistakes that plague every band, and it was fucking great.