Jesus and Mary Chain at Riot Fest 2012 | Photos and live music review
When the folks at Riot Fest first released the 2012 lineup, my eyes went straight to the Jesus and Mary Chain. The band reunited in 2007, but I had never considered the idea of witnessing them live. As the godfathers of shoegaze, a genre with considerable influence on our current, stony musical climate, the Jesus and Mary Chain has only existed in a mythical sense to me. On Sunday afternoon, the group finally humanized themselves, while keeping a cold enough onstage persona to retain some divinity in my eyes.
The Jesus and Mary Chain is a band that seems just as aloof onstage as they do on their records, and fortunately for the quintet, the sonic blast of Orange amps and searing feedback brought enough energy on its own to Humboldt Park. Also fortunate, or perhaps more astute, was the band’s choice to play almost exclusively mid-tempo rockers, borrowing more from the pop end of their catalogue than the aesthetic that granted them legend status. Unlike many modern bands infatuated by the magic of effects pedals, the Jesus and Mary Chain recognize the importance of a backbeat today. And unlike most bands, Jesus and Mary Chain sounds better when they’re biting New Order. Psychocandy is great, but you can’t beat the dancier tunes. “Happy When It Rains” was an absolute banger for those who could accept a dance number with more feedback and sustain than low end, and dirges like “Reverence” and “Blues from a Gun” sounded more like sleazy sex jams than sinister sludge.
Singer Jim Reid, now guitarless, appeared confused and disinterested enough to shrug a lot during songs, almost as if to say, “What? You paid for it.” He didn’t have much in the way of wisecracks, mostly just apologizing for tuning breaks and thanking the audience after every song. The worst thing about this set (aside from no “Just Like Honey,” which was an unavoidable tragedy due to set time contingencies and let’s not talk about it), was the feeling that Jesus and Mary were just going through the motions. While William Reid, looking a lot like a t-shirted Steve Brule, was more than adequate in his guitar work, the band simply looked bored. Granted, this band has always been about murdering its audience while looking bored to tears. But there’s a fine line between stoic and disinterested, and these guys seemed to be drowning in the latter. Even Dinosaur Jr., another loud-as-fuck guitar band known for infighting, seems to be having some fun onstage these days. But the Chain played the tunes well; you’d have to be a real stick in the mud to complain about this one. Aside from the lack of “Honey.” Sigh. At least we got “Some Candy Talking.”