The Warfield, San Francisco
May 16, 2015
This run of special shows celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Jesus And Mary Chain's seminal debut album was limited to 10 shows in 9 North American cities.. with 2 of those shows in San Francisco that included tonight's opening night sell out. However, since this show was originally announced in January it kind of snuck up on me these 4 months later. Part of me had second thoughts about why I wanted to attend since the last time I saw JAMC 8 years ago the show had left me underwhelmed (mainly because Jim Reid left his voice at home that night). However, The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways and tonight ended up being one of my favorite shows of the year so far.
For better or worse, I completely ignored the opening set by The Black Ryders due to lobby socializing... This despite the fact that the wife of Ian Astbury of The Cult is in the band.. and evidently he was in attendance. Oh well... Anyway, after being around 30 minutes late, the Jesus And Mary Chain walked onto a dark stage... Jim Reid mumbled something in Scottish... and the band slid into a mesmerizing half hour, 7-song opening set of hits and other songs not on the Psychocandy album. This portion of the evening featured the band on a minimalist stage with literally only white lights and white strobes to punctuate the songs.
The opening blast of 'April Skies' into 'Head On' got the crowd into the show and behind the band perfectly and immediately. I was hard pressed to remember the last time a band opened a show with a pair of their most well-known songs like that. Other bands should take note and for the record 'Reverence' was the highlight of the set for me ("I wanna die just like Jesus Christ.. I wanna die on a bed of spikes.."). It was fookin' gleat! Then it was time for the main attraction of the evening.
After the opening set the band left the stage briefly.. and then returned accompanied by a blast of onstage color via a video screen backdrop that had not been used during the graphite themed opening set. The unexpected blast of color was jarring as it flashed the iconic Psychocandy album cover and then thematic archival film footage and images for the second half of the show. The video presentation fit perfectly as the band launched into the debut album from start to finish.
Tonight was far and away the best JAMC show I've seen in years and completely different than the last time I saw them at that bad 2007 Fillmore show. It was compelling how strong and booming Jim's voice was tonight and I was reminded that William's dirty guitar fuzz tone is one of my favorites this side of Tony Iommi. Whatever the Reid brothers have done to recapture their magic onstage left me almost teary-eyed because I've loved their songs so much over the years.. decades... lifetimes.
As the album's 14 songs unfolded onstage I remembered how cutting edge Psychocandy was when it was released... which seems weird now. When I first heard the album in 1986 not long after its release it was so abrasive and non-traditional. Like the Velvet Underground being put into a blender while the blender was being crushed by a hydraulic press. Fast forward to the 21st Century and it's amazing how obvious JAMC's influence has been on the generation(s) of bands who followed them.
Long story short: In the mid-80's, as most others were just getting their denim vests dirty with Thrash Metal, Umlaut basically dropped out of the Metal Scene. Metal was getting more popular, people who had previously dismissed me for being a Metalhead were suddenly showing up at Metal shows. I grew disillusioned with Metal and I sought out other music to engage me that was still underground. It was then that JAMC became one of my all-time favorite bands. They managed to melt and form a sound that was based on so many bands I came to love after I dropped out of the Metal Scene... Music by the likes of Phil Spector, the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, and the MC5. There was, and is, life outside of Metal. Thank dog.
Other "80's bands" trot out a vintage album live and play it track for track but sound dated and the performance coming off like a desperate attempt to show relevancy here in the 21st Century. Watching JAMC perform Psychocandy was the complete opposite of that. Not everything that is old is irrelevant. When the Reid Brothers have their shit together they're still a force.
If you bought one of every JAMC merch item I think you would have paid around $200. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. It's not often an old favorite band from another life proves why they're still great to me. Just like honey.