The Forum – March 11th 2016
As soon as you come into the Forum, your eyes are drawn to a foreboding poster of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s spectacularly depraved 1985 debut Psychocandy hanging behind the stage. Its positioning is significant: an astonishing accomplishment, it loomed over every album William and Jim Reid made thereafter, all of which were doomed to be compared unfavourably and unfairly to their towering masterpiece. Thankfully, Psychocandy doesn’t dominate tonight, instead allowing the Mary Chain’s diverse oeuvre to flash its plumage and remind everyone how much they’ve contributed to rock and roll.
Palpable excitement courses through The Forum in anticipation for the band’s arrival. Smoke curls around instruments, chatter mingles playfully with alcohol and a sense of liberation propels everyone to the weekend’s gates. Speculation surrounding the set-list generates smile upon chuckle as fond memories elicit warm laughter. Then Jim and William, the men everyone wants to see, skulk on, to delirious approval. As soon as everyone assumes their positions, the revelry begins in earnest.
They nonchalantly stride into a trio of top tunes, ‘April Skies’, ‘Head on’ and ‘Far Gone and Out’, all of which send this writer into spasms of socially unacceptable ecstasy. “Hand in hand in a violent life, / making love on the edge of a knife, / and the world comes tumbling down” is still the greatest lyric John Donne never wrote. It’s cool, menacing, sexy and violent; the four core components of the Mary Chain’s oft-copied mantra.
‘Blues from a Gun’, the most underrated member of the cannon, brawls its way out of William Reid’s amps, ready to fight doubters and critics. Hit follows tune as the crowd relive their privileged youth. Somebody bellows ‘go on Bobby Gillespie!’ and everyone grins good-naturedly. ‘Happy When it Rains’ retains its beautiful sadness, ‘Teenage Lust’ oozes sexual catastrophe and ‘Reverence’, with its cheerful chorus of ‘I wanna die’, conjures mass euphoria. ‘I wouldn’t sell my soul but I’d haggle it’ gets a silver medal in the packed race for dirtiest lyric.
After a brief interval, a torrent of squall envelopes us as the band embark on a litany of Psychocandy numbers. Although the crowd made the Forum shake with joy at the Mary Chain’s later work, it’s their debut material that gets arms flinging. That’s not to denigrate what’s come before, but it would be dishonest to suggest otherwise, despite the band’s rightful attempt to promote their wealth of other material. Our caustic voyage through Psychocandy does not start as auspiciously as one would hope, however. ‘Just Like Honey’ feels like a shrug, and even though it gets minds swooning with thoughts of that ending in Sofia Coppola’s cult classic Lost in Translation, it’s disappointingly underwhelming. Things are swiftly remedied with ‘Never Understand’ and ‘The Living End’ is youthful rebellion in a leather jacket and slick haircut, packaged into two blistering minutes. A pulsating, oscillating ‘It’s So Hard’ rounds off matters dazzlingly.
The Jesus and May Chain’s place in rock and roll legend was sealed a long time ago. They have earned the right to tour their material and recruit a new generation of fanatics. There’s been talk of a new album, which would be eagerly lapped up, but even if it never comes we can enjoy the marvellous collection of singles and b-sides they’ve created. Devotion came easy for the Mary Chain tonight, and with good reason.