The Jesus & Mary Chain at The Empire, Middlesbrough – 24th September 2017
Words & Pix – Mel Butler
When your favourite band rocks up into town, it’s kind of a big deal. Well for me, it is. For the first time ever in the 33 year history of The Jesus And Mary Chain, the band were finally going to play on my home turf of Middlesbrough, at The Empire venue. I was not going to miss this momentous occasion. I even delayed my vacation by 48 hours for this.
I have to say I am a bit of a fan girl, ever since the Summer of 1985 when I saw the video for their 3rd single ‘You Trip Me Up’ on an obscure CH4 programme called ‘Max Headroom’. During my teenage years in the late 1980’s, I waited in hope they would pay a visit to either the local Polytechnic (where most bands came to play back then) or the Town Hall Crypt. Sadly not, although I did see former band member John Moore and his Expressway supported Pop Will Eat Itself at the Coatham Bowl, Redcar in 1989.
I have to confess, it’s not the first time I have seen them. In fact this was gig no.9 for me this year alone on their current Damage & Joy tour. This tour started in back in March to coincide with their 7th studio album of the same name.
Having gone through several line-up changes over the years, The Reid brothers – Mr Some Candy Talking frontman Jim and master of distortion William on guitar – have remained the heart and soul of the band. Along with Scott Von Ryper from The Black Ryder, on guitar, Mark Crozer on bass and former Fountains of Wayne drummer Brian Young, The Mary Chain deliver a mixed bag of 20 classic noise-pop delights and new tracks alike.
Opening the set with guitar-growling ‘Amputation’ from the new album, this was seamlessly followed by the 1987 chart-hit ‘Happy When It Rains’ and the popular, more upbeat ‘Head On’ and ‘Between Planets’ from the 1989 ‘Automatic’ album.
The Mary Chain perfectly delivered three in a row from their current album – ‘Always Sad’, ‘Black & Blues’ and the serenely hypnotic ‘Mood Rider’.
It was an absolute pleasure to hear the sleazy, slinky sound of ‘Snakedriver’ being re-introduced to the current set, along with the melodic yet melancholic ‘Darklands’, sung tonight by Jim, rather than William, though the latter had sung on the original 1987 recording.
The chaotic noise of ‘Reverence’ unleashed the infamous buzz-saw guitar feedback from William complete with tongue-in-cheek Stooges ‘I Wanna Be You Dog’ style riffs as Jim howls ‘I wanna die like Jesus Christ’. Quite appropriate for a Sabbath in front of a rather sullen Teesside audience. Maybe Boro FC had lost that weekend, hence a subdued crowd?
The encore was well recieved with THAT song. There was a case of eye-leakage from myself as the opening beats to the dreamy haze of ‘Just Like Honey’ echoed around the venue. That song just gets me every. single. time. Just as Jim is lulling me into a false sense of security, whispering sweet nothings into my ear, brother William interrupts the beautiful moment with the loud, distinctive Duane Eddy-style guitar riff to ‘Cracking Up’.
The Mary Chain boys end the set with the dark and brooding ‘War On Peace’, walking off-stage to the ear-splitting hum of feedback reverberating around the venue as well as my chest cavity.
This band just leaves you wanting more. And they know that.