Live Review: The Immaculate Jesus and Mary Chain

Announcement after announcement of anniversary tours from 80s and 90s alt-rock icons have had long time shoegazers frothing at the mouth. Groundbreaking acts like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Teenage Fanclub, Primal Scream, and Ride have drawn their now middle-aged indie disciples and grungy millennial successors flocking to reunion shows like moths to a flame.

Yet these revival tours don’t roll by without a stream of skepticism. It’s hard to shake an underlying fear that avant-rock heroes of past might reappear on stage as muted, washed up, even bitter, versions of their former glorious selves. These worries were unfounded at The Jesus and Mary Chain‘s Wednesday night show at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver. The Scottish outfit floored their loyal followers with their signature fuzzy, lo-fi anthems – a sound that defined and pushed the bounds of noise rock as we know it.

The band emerged on stage through a cloud of smoke and after waiting a good minute for the crowd to calm their excited screams and whistles, co-founding member and lead singer Jim Reid gave the packed house a rundown of how the night would unfold. They would start off with a short set of hits that spans their career then play Psychocandy in its entirety. Without any opposition from the audience, they leapt into the melodic “April Skies” from J&MC’s sophomore record Darklands followed by the equally catchy “Head On.” All seemed peachy and nostalgic and it looked like the crowd was in for a casual night of head bopping until they launched into the explosive and sinister “Reverence.” Reid belted “I wanna die just like Jesus Christ” over gut-punching drumming and spiralling guitars and we were immediately reminded of the necessary disruption, subversion and intensity that Jesus and Mary Chain delivered to their generation.

PsychocandyAfter a short intermission, the band returned to the unmistakable drum intro of “Just Like Honey”, performing every track from Psychocandy in its original album order. J&MC remained loyal to their recordings for the more mellow tracks including the LP’s opener, but nothing could prepare fans for the incredible energy on the more tempestuous numbers like “In a Hole” and “Never Understand.”

The partnership of brothers Jim and William Reid remains to be the driving force of the band – the group formed in 1983 just outside of Glasgow capturing the disgruntled youth with their quick and turbulent live performances and discordant symphonies of human and industrial noises. Their out-of-control coifs, inflammatory lyrics, insanely loud performances combatted the pervasive swell of saccharine electropop on the radio. Three decades later, frontman Jim now sports a more tamed ‘do and their shows unfold in a more regimented fashion, but the air of rebellion still rings through in every note of the singer’s pinched wails and guitarist William’s virtuoso solos.

– Ria Nevada

Photo from Sub Pop Records