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  • Writer's pictureDanny C

Jesus and Mary Chain, Usher Hall, Edinburgh 27-03-24

It really did feel like all of Edinburgh was out for this show at the fantastic Usher Hall and with a capacity of nearly 3000, it was the busiest I’ve seen the place for a very long time. And loads of meetups. I arranged to go to the gig with the PeniGoths - some of the old Penicuik goth crowd - and Mrs & Mrs Mystery (who have their own great JAMC stories, having spent time with them in Asia when putting their shows on there), bumped into; some of the regular Edinburgh Gigeratti; two or three different groups of Penicuik gig pals; past workmates; old indie pals not seen since the early 90’s; as well as not managing to catch up with other folk who were going. To say this was well attended is an understatement.

After the double Bunnymen gigs last week, it was a happy coincidence to be seeing the Jesus and Mary Chain next, and with plenty parallels; both breaking through and establishing themselves as major musical forces in the 80’s, turbulent-at-times relationships between core members, regular resurgences over the past few decades, but most importantly for us, still touring and producing great new material. I was reminded of just how long they’ve been on the go last time I saw them at the Leith Theatre in 2018 when we went for a bite to eat before that gig and the waitress asked where we were going. When I said we were off to see the Jesus and Mary Chain, she asked if that was a show (well, she was in her twenties and it was during the same time as the Edinburgh Festival, but still!). Six years on they’re still going strong and sounding even better than ever.

In the run up to the show I’d been listening in anticipation for the support band Aircooled (a bit of an indie supergroup of members with links to Elastica, Wedding Present, Suede, Viv Albertine, Neotropic, Miki Berenyi Trio and more), but unfortunately didn’t get there in time to catch them. Luckily Gigeratti Grant did see them and afterwards enthusiastically confirmed that they are as good as were hoped for. So, since they’re playing Glasgow in November a ticket has already been bought for that.

Jim, William and the band took the stage to a roar from the crowd and started with jamcod, from their magnificent new album Glasgow Eyes, then followed up quickly with a couple of pacey well-known classics Happy When It Rains and Head On. We’d already lost PeniGoth Chris before the start as we took a spot about halfway back from the stage and it was only half a song before I was abandoned by PeniGoth Mark, who headed straight down the front too (it was only about 4 or 5 songs in before I was down there too).

After the first few songs played, Jim ask of the audience; “We’re gonna play a lot off the new album if that’s okay with you” got a roar of approval and the pattern of a few new tunes, then a few anthems continued for most of the show, working really well weaving the familiar in with less familiar new material. While they did switch back and forward, the one constant was that these were all excellent songs from start to finish (22 in all) and sounded immaculate. The Mary Chain’s (historical) reputation of sometimes chaotic past gig track-record and featuring feedback too heavily at times, could not be further from how this set played out. The sound was razor-sharp, pacey and crisp but not too polished, just absolutely perfect balance of a raw fuzzy and a forceful wall of sound. Dare I say it came across as a more chilled approach to the songs – no less energy to them, but I think a more reserved style to the whole thing. I did also notice large parts of the crowd were made up of fans 'of a certain vintage’ and looking round from near the front at one point during Never Understand, all I saw was a sea of balding heads bobbing in time to the music rather than the frenzied leaping of years gone by.

The band mixed it up a few times with some duets (as is on the new album). First with Rachel Conte for Girl 71 and then Fay Fife, famously of The Rezillos and also increasingly more so for her current set-up, The Countess Of Fife (ticket for her Edinburgh June gig also already purchased!). Fay, who joined the stage for Venal Joy and then again for Just like Honey was an absolute joy to hear and almost felt like they wrote Just Like Honey especially for her to sing. So much so, she could've done the whole set and give Jim Reid a run for his money as lead vocalist of the band.

A four-song encore, including fan favourites Darklands, Taste of Cindy and Never Understand, with Reverence rounding off nearly two hours of Mary Chain magic made this feel more like a weekend gig than a cold Wednesday night.

Having arranged to meet up with one bunch of pals in a pub that had closed earlier than the gig finished, we headed back to the pre-gig meeting point pub, across the street for a few beers and ‘gig decompression’ as well as comparing notes on future gigs we’re all going to. Some daft laughs followed when we started talking about how you can change one letter of a song title to give it a completely new meaning; Lucky Man by The Verve, Ducky, Boris and Dart by Grandaddy, to name a couple. You don’t need use too much imagination to figure them out, or to figure out that the conversation started to go downhill at that point! (Credit to OAW Pete for the idea).

I read in a recent interview that the Reid brothers think the new album might not be what people were expecting. Referencing the stronger electronic influence, they’re probably right but another batch of cracking Mary Chain songs I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s more than happy with that.

One of the best shows of the year for me and can’t wait to put these Edinburgh eyes on them again soon.

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