When you set about the task of marking a musically milestone 30 years in the making, you plan carefully and try to execute to make the event a living embodiment of that landmark.
The Jesus and Mary Chain did exactly that as it hit the stage of the Marquee Theatre Friday night to show why its debut album, Psychocandy, was a pioneering release that inspired legions of alternative bands to crop up all over the world.
The Scottish brothers Jim and William Reid were notorious in their initial touring years of the mid-’80s for creating chaos on stage, often playing with their backs turned to the audience and performing abbreviated sets.
Friday was about the music and no stage antics. No frills or exotic stage set. JAMC has always been about less is more, subdued, and so they lured you in instead of beating you over the head with the anthemic album.
This night was about sticking to the well-rehearsed set list with no fancy stage presence. This was as much planned as it was also due to what Reid would later tell me this was a band dealing with serious jet lag from the band’s recent trans-Atlantic flight after a recent UK leg of the tour.
The magic of this live show is how the brothers Reid and ensemble cast a narcosis-like spell over the crowd of young and old alike, with at times heavy guitar feedback underpinning whispering, dream-like vocals. It was pleasure through pain, distortion through the din, where old fans felt young again, In short, The Jesus and Mary Chain delivered the sonic goods.
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On this night, gone were the staged antic and incendiary riots of the past, and present were stage anthems that were red-hot and righteous. The brothers Reid, who had created chaos between themselves in the past, were as one on this night along with a trio of supporting players as they worked their way through two sets of 75-minute precision. The Reid supporting players on this tour were veterans in former Lush bass player Phil King, former Fountains of Wayne drummer Brian Young and guitarist Mark Crozer.
And while this night was about the sweet surrender to its anti-pop Psychocandy opus, JMAC included seven other songs from its catalog as well.
As its longtime fan base has grown up, so have the Reids, and so it was fitting that the band wasted little time in between numbers and blazed through the opening set which began with “April Skies” from the band’s second album Darklands.
Reid, who has never been a brash stage leader, has always been shy, and the lights throughout the entire evening were dimmed so you could only see his wiry silhouette rocking on his heels as he delivered his pitch perfect deep raspy vocals just like the recordings.
Reid led his entourage from one number into the next in rapid-fire succession. William’s jingle-jangle guitar punctuated Young’s drum-machine like metronome on the second number, “Head On” from Automatic, which went into the not oft-heard, near heavy metal-ish “Blues From a Gun," also from Automatic.
Right before winding down the opening set, JAMC slowed things down with “Some Candy Talking,” (from the 1986 EP of the same name) just long enough to build them back up with the irreverent “Reverence” from Honey’s Dead, which got the audience dancing and head bopping.
Reid wound up the controversial lyrics and spit them out as he yearned devilishly, "I wanna die like JFK, I want die like Jesus Christ" in the number which satires fame and the sick fascination with death of popular culture. The opening set ended with a rousing rendition of JAMC’s poppy debut single “Upside Down.”
After a mere five-minute break, the band ripped into the song-by-song set of Psychocandy, again in machine-gun style. The only surprise of the night was the guest female vocals on the Psychocandy opener and crowd favorite, “Just Like Honey.”
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Opening act Black Ryder’s lead singer Aimee Nash filled in more than sufficiently, as her voice meshed on the chorus with Jim Reid’s perfectly. The next 13 followed in order from “The Living End” to "It's So Hard.”
Friday Night: Jesus and Mary Chain at Marquee Theatre in Tempe
Crowd: It was a typical mixed crowd of young and old, which was to be expected as many of the Jesus and Mary Chain original fans, like the band members, are in their 50s. There were a handful of parents with kids hoping to share with them Psychocandy 101. There was a smaller assortment of shoe-gazers dressing the part than I expected. It was a crowd content to head bop and toe tap the night away and watch in awe the powerful buzz of JAMC.