Pure Joy

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.

The Mary Chain perfectly delivered three in a row from their current album – ‘Always Sad’, ‘Black & Blues’ and the serenely hypnotic ‘Mood Rider’.

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?JAMCboro

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.

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 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.

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The Jesus and Mary Chain Setlist The Empire, Middlesbrough, England 2017, Damage and Joy

 

Noise Pop’s Not Dead

The Jesus And Mary Chain: Ottakringer Brauerei gig, Vienna in Austria, 14th October 2017. Words & Photos: Sabrina G

It’s 7:45 p.m. and quite a large group of fans gather at the entrance of the Ottakringer Brewery. One or two have spiked-up hair, some have chains attached to their trousers, others wear Nirvana T-shirts but everybody is dressed in black (I think I am the only one with a white Tee). You can easily imagine that many of them know the band from the Psychocandy times; the youngest, from Munki. There are also some young teenagers accompanied by their parents. Are they all Mary Chain fans? Most probably.

Once inside the Brewery, we wait patiently until support act, Cold Cave begin their set. Their Darkwave and Synthpop sounds catches the attention of the crowd, getting them into the mood for the big distort explosion of the Mary Chain. Cold Cave makes us dance but after a couple of songs, we start craving for something more. It will soon arrive.

In the meantime, I head off to the bar for another beer until I could hear the T-Rex song ‘Planet Queen’ telling me the wait is nearly over. Taking a look to the right of the stage and there they are: Scott, Brian, Mark, William and Jim.

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The show starts as usual on this tour with their first single ‘Amputation’. Jim looks cool in his ‘Damage and Joy Boy’  tee, black jeans and suede creepers. There are some problems with the mic but not enough to interrupt the show, already reaching high in temperatures. Luckily, there is William to manage it all. His guitar delivery of delightful fuzz takes us far with ‘Happy When It Rains’. Everybody seems to enjoy this moment of bliss. But now Jim struggles with the mic stand. He will end up throwing it down to the technician, who gives it back to him immediately.

The more they play, the more the audience seems to rage. It seems as if we have been waiting them for years. Is it nostalgia or ennui? And what if it was just nostalgia? Aren’t we living in an era obsessed with the past? However, newer tracks like ‘Mood Rider’ comfortably sit between older tracks like ‘Cracking up’ and ‘Head On’. And that may surprise you, just like when Jim sings “I wanna die, I wanna die”, it doesn’t seem over-acted. It is very likely that the Mary Chain are still freaks in some way. But in any case, their live act has something special that lots of people are now enjoying: Jim twisting his body and twirling the mic’s cable while the others members of the band try to drown his voice in a sonic distortion. Take it or leave it.

Someone in the audience starts shouting “Fuck you” rather insistently and with Jim’s answer it didn’t last long: “Why can’t you just stop saying Fuck you? You’re not going to fuck me!”, he says in a pause between two songs, before carrying on with ‘Snakedriver’. By this time everybody’s sweating. The heat is suffocating but some of us can’t stop pogoing. We can even see the sweat drops falling from Jim’s arms. The show reaches its peak with ‘Some Candy Talking’ and ‘Reverence’.

The unpleasant words could have upset Jim and the band, but they come back for a first encore. The Mary Chain want to please; they are no longer in a confrontational mode, even though one should better not provoke Jim too much. They start the second set with the anthemic ‘Just Like Honey’ and the crowd fulfils the role of absent vocalist Bernadette Denning, who had up until now accompanied them in almost all of the Damage and Joy tour dates. The raw and gritty ‘In A Hole’ reminds us of the inextinguishable energy of William’s guitar and Jim’s nonchalant attitude. We are having a great time listening to such an eclectic repertoire. Which band can blend in such an astonishing way pop melodies to punk attitude? Dark lyrics to guitar distortion? Always going from one side to the other, the joy that emerges from their songs is usually the result of contrasting elements.

After their second encore, ‘Sidewalking’ and ‘I Hate Rock n Roll’, all we know for certain is that The Jesus and Mary Chain are better than ever. Their shows are an awesome display of the music style they have created and their undiscussed talent keeps us hanging on hoping that more new material will be soon coming.

God save the Mary Chain.

TrendKill

These guys are an absolute pleasure to photograph. So full of raw energy when performing live and are great to photograph. Based in Teesside, these guys are going places after winning the M2TM at Trillians in Newcastle and will be playing the Jagermeister Stage at Bloodstock 2017. Check them out https://www.facebook.com/trendkilluk/

Damage & Joy Tour 2017

Myself and my cameras hit the road for The Jesus And Mary Chain’s Damage & Joy Tour 2017. Photographs taken at: Newcastle Riverside, Manchester Academy, Leeds Church, Leicester O2 Academy, Birmingham O2 Institude, Dublin Academy, Sub 89 Club Reading, The Welly Club in Hull, Middlesbrough and Looe Music Festival in Cornwall.