It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I approached the Barrowland to see the Jesus And Mary Chain performing their seminal debut album Psychocandy. The band was one of my favourites during the Eighties and their discography still sounds as fresh as it did back then. The band split in 1999 after dwindling sales of their last album Munki, only to partially reform in 2007 for dates in the USA and again in 2012 for further American and Chinese shows. This year it was announced that the band would play their debut album in full for the first time. Two of the dates took the band back to Glasgow for the first time since 1991.
The show is a sell out and the atmosphere is building nicely as the band emerge. In a change to normal gig etiquette, Jim Reid announced that they would e playing their encore set first before launching into the Psychocandy songs. with no further ado the band launch into a blistering and very loud version of ‘April Skies’. Immediately it is a wall of noise with only William Reid’s guitar solo piercing through.
We are then quickly on to a run through of some of the Mary Chain’s best tunes with ‘Head On’, ‘Some Candy Talking’ and ‘Psychocandy’. The set was then finished off with the superb ‘Reverence’ and the debut single ‘Upside Down’. What a tune to end the first half. When it came out back in 1984 it was a raw and bold statement of intent. The intervening years have not diminished its potency.
During the short interval we are treated to public information film on the benefits of the new town of East Kilbride, the home town of the Reid brothers. Tellingly the film blisters and burns up in a non verbal statement of what they think about the place.
With little fanfare the five piece band return to the stage and launch into the first track from the album. The song highlights the brothers love of sixties pop as the drum beat from The Ronettes hit ‘Be My Baby’ belts out followed by a rather subdued (by Mary Chain standards) guitar sound. It was a bold choice to open an album as it goes against conventional album programming of the time where the hit single is the lead off track. It makes for a different kind of opening to the second half of the show and the audience are a little quiet.
With barely no breaks the band run through the thirteen further tracks from the album. Each song is greeted with warmth by the audience as the more adventurous jump about down at the front while the rest of us just bob our heads in time with the music. Personal highlights from the second half were the superb ‘Taste The Floor’,’In a Hole’ and ‘You Trip Me Up.
The visuals deserves a special mention. The band is not the most charismatic of performers. Jim Reid is the only animate presence on stage and the most he does is slam the mike stand on the ground from time to time. The stage was backed with five panels onto which various films and images were projected. They were well-chosen for the songs they accompanied and reminded me of the films of Paul Morrissey and Andy Warhol. The images were complemented by a great light show that would have anyone with a problem with strobe lighting rushing for the exit.
What the live experience highlighted is that although some of the songs are not complicated in terms of song structure they are all finely crafted and powerful pieces of music that make full use of melody and the still strong vocal performance from Jim Reid. There were a few times that his vocal got a bit lost in the mix but with the guitars dominating the sound that was to be expected. It all lent to the experience.
The band finished off the set with ‘It’s So Hard’ and true to their word that was it. With ringing ears and a big grin the satisfied crowd departed the venue. It was good to have them back. It appears it will not be the last we see of them either with further UK dates announced for 2015 and postings on their website with new material on the way.