THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN + CHAIN OF FLOWERS | LIVE REVIEW
Y Plas, Cardiff University Students Union, Tue 3 Oct
An unexpected bonus: my first glimpse of Cardiff’s Chain Of Flowers [below], handpicked by The Jesus And Mary Chain [above] to support in Bath last night as well as at tonight’s hometown gig. Taking their name from a Cure track and clearly familiar with the works of Joy Division, Chain Of Flowers also recall less ‘cool’ groups (The Cult and Sisters Of Mercy), songs like Old Human Material blending goth gloom and post-punk into a potent Eagulls-esque brew. Frontman Joshua Smith appears on stage with a leather jacket slung over one shoulder and proceeds to give an astonishing performance as a rubberised Ian Curtis, waging war on thin air with punches, karate kicks and mic stand.
The headliners are certainly no strangers to scrapping, whether with their audience or among themselves. Times have changed, though. We might be in a students’ union this evening, but there’s no danger of it descending into an all-out riot like their infamous North London Poly show of March 1985. The band no longer make sport of deliberately provoking the crowd, who noticeably include a number of fathers and sons and are here to pay respects rather than lob bottles.
Similarly, the old antagonism between the Reid brothers that tore the band apart in 1999 has faded away sufficiently for them to share not only a tour bus but also a studio. Both are wearing T-shirts bearing the title of their new LP Damage And Joy – perhaps because they recognise the importance of brands and advertising, more likely because it’s the last date of their UK tour and they’re out of clean clothes. William Reid’s hair is now grey and he pauses between songs to towel the sweat off his glasses; Jim Reid chugs mineral water and says little, merely raising his arm aloft each time the fuzz and feedback dissipate. Better that than using the stage as a platform from which to voice conspiracy theories about vote-rigging in the UKIP leadership contest and endorse far-right candidates, though, eh?
Of the most iconic 80s UK indie outfits, Morrissey’s mob The Smiths and My Bloody Valentine might be more regularly feted, but, for my money, neither can hold a candle to The Jesus And Mary Chain. Essentially, they managed to encapsulate the entire history of great popular (and not-so-popular) music in a single album, Psychocandy, and sometimes even a single song: the blues, Bo Diddley, Link Wray, rock‘n’roll, Motown, Phil Spector, The Shangri-Las, bubblegum pop, 60s garage rock, the Beach Boys, The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, The Ramones, goth, shoegaze, noiserock.
Tonight serves as a reminder that they’re the only band you’ll ever really need; there’s simply no point in listening to anyone else. Three songs genuinely bring me to the verge of tears of joy: Happy When It Rains, second in the set; the strobe frenzy climax of post-Psychocandy single Some Candy Talking, arguably their finest three minutes; and the elongated, ferociously noisy rendition of Honey’s Dead classic Reverence that concludes the main set. The new material, a little anaemic on record, might be expected to suffer in such esteemed company, but Amputation and All Things Pass fit seamlessly into place – even if it’s at the expense of Never Understand and April Skies.
The first encore, featuring the eternally gorgeous Just Like Honey, lasts longer than some of their original shows; the second ends with the track which, until this year, had looked like being their recorded swansong. I Hate Rock ‘N’ Roll? Quite the contrary – I’ve fallen in love with it all over again.
words BEN WOOLHEAD photos SIMON AYRE