As their hugely-hyped Liverpool leg rolled into the Guild, Getintothis’ Patrick Clarke was front and centre to see if The Jesus and Mary Chain have still got it. And boy, have they still got it.
Amidst an almost capacity crowd of middle-aged old-timers, ebullient youth and a surprising swathe of Asian students, there is one thing in common as The Jesus and Mary Chain gear up for their long-awaited Liverpool return – a tangible, shimmering aura of lofty expectations just lingering to be met.
It’s a gig that, for those not present at the alt-rock leviathans recent outing at the other end of the M62, has been preceded by tales told of a tempestuous recent run, a band in their 50s recapturing the mythical form of their heyday with aplomb. Anticipation, it’s fair to say, is high.
Yet before we’re to see if their met, a support act with their own share of build-up behind them are to take to the stage – transatlantic trio Bathymetry, who’ve ‘won’ their slot after a call for local talent from the headliners.
The reaction when the threesome garnered the slot was largely a resounding ‘who?’ accross the city, and there’s a more judgmental tone than usual for their brief half-hour, especially given the swathe of impeccable local acts with more of a following who’d have jumped at the offer.
Though not incredible, they’re a more than adequate pre-amble, actually achieving the kind of Warpaint cool that many can only aspire too, appearing every ounce up for the occasion.
As they hit a poppier stride towards the end of the set they hit an impressive level, and aesthetically they’re impeccable. The problem is that for the most part it’s just a little bit too collected, and a nagging sensation remains that perhaps there was a better choice out there.
Yet that feeling would probably be there regardless, and the set is an entirely positive one, and a worthy set-up. But as Jim Reid and co amble onstage all musings on them quickly dissipate amid the plumes of smoke that accompany them as their horde are immediately enraptured.
A two-set affair, they begin a blistering drive through the best of their non-Psychocandy material with a storming April Skies. The state of affairs is apparent from the off, William Reid’s guitars bursting through the fug with the same transcendent, furious beauty on record.
It’s a live set-up nothing short of rhapsodic, powerful minimalist drums and a bludgeoning cacophony of distorted melodics from guitar and bass, all except, that is, Jim’s vocal.
It’s a minor tragedy that amidst the euphoria of his backing the sound on his mic feels muffled, his tenor audibly impeccable as ever but just that little bit too quiet.
As they career through Head On, Upside Down and Up Too High however it’s clear that his band can more than carry the set. So impeccable poised, so blissfully noisy are The Jesus and Mary Chain to this day that every heartstring is as bludgeoned as ever.
A ‘break’ before the main event, their seminal 1985 debut in its entirety, is much shorter than presumed, and as a mid-piss mass exodus swarms back toward the throng the leviathan lurch of Just Like Honey begins to take shape.
It’s no understatement to say that, minor aborations from the soundman aside, each tune feels every ounce as fully formed as on record, and it’s only a false start on Sowing Seeds that briefly interrupts their magesterial flow.
The set swirls and attacks, ebbs and flows with the brimming, hot-blooded fervour that everyone’s there to expect. Some of the crowd contort with euphoria, others simply gaze in adulation – all are entirely enraptured.
Finally, then, as the Reids and co. caterwaul through a concluding It’s So Hard the room is left suitably reeling, and for all their minor difficulties it’s a glorious evening regardless.
And anyway, as Jim told this writer ten days ago, “I always find it weird when people say ‘yeah, slick Mary Chain show’ because no such thing has ever existed and never will.” Slick? Not even a little. A knockout: most definitely.
Photos by Getintothis’ Keith Ainsworth