The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Black Tambourines at UEA Nick Rayns LCR. Cave-In at Jurnets Bar, Norwich 21 February 2015
I was actually present at that gig in the UEA LCR when the Jesus and Mary Chain were at that time the most controversial band in the land, with a their surly backs-to-the-audience 20 minute sets and pre-Primal Scream Bobby Gillespie on drums. My memory of that 1985 gig though were of a tremendously exciting band who without outwardly demonstrating it gave me the impression at the time of rather enjoying the gig what with playing for a whole 40 minutes or so, a real privilege at that time. There was noise, tension, attitude and a musically on the edge feel. It was exciting.
I’ve always loved their Beach Boys-esque melodies set against the screeching wall of white noise (white heat) Velvets feedback, gloriously and sonically terrifying with lots of tension. They looked great too, surly with vertical messy hair and dressed all in black. Psychocandy itself is of course rightly recognised as a classic – I remember raving to friends about it at college, saying I had just heard the album of the year, possibly decade. I’m not sure I’d go quite that far now but it’s still treasured and it’s hard to imagine something similar today being such a widely heard, owned and loved album.
With a very un-rock and roll start time of about 7:30pm and the gig stated to be finished by 10pm it felt oddly early to be heading gigwards for my first time back to the LCR in about five or six years. It evidently hasn’t done anything to endear itself to me in that time but the Black Tambourines did their level best to inject some soul into all this concrete box and did so very successfully too. Very loud, powerful and a fantastic energy, very power-pop-punk, buzzsaw guitar and lots of movement. Their half hour set flew by. The crowd loved them.
I still cannot quite believe that my head chose today, of all days, to curse me with a migraine, albeit a mild one it’s not a good bedfellow with a JAMC gig but I simply was not going to miss this.
Never a band to be formulaic they started off with an “encore”, a set of 25 minutes or so of singles and all the things we’d beg for. Jim Reid explaining they’d play a mini set before coming back after a very brief interval to play Psychocandy in its entirety. Jim asked if he’d correctly heard someone in the front ask him to “Cheer up” which was the first laugh of the evening, indeed I think the first laugh I’ve ever known in relation to JAMC! This mini set was brilliant with an superb light show, we had the hits April Skies, Some Candy Talking etc and it warmed everyone up, band and audience nicely. It was loud though, and I heard one or two only slightly jokey comments along the lines of “My ears are bleeding!!”
After just a couple of minutes the band were back on stage and we were into Psychocandy. Jim still prowls with the mic stand in much the same way, his voice hasn’t changed whilst the audience were absolutely transfixed. Mostly shrouded in clouds of dry ice, a few steps away from the front of the stage with the rest of the band even further back. William still has his trademark bird’s nest hair, although mainly white now and their power and volume certainly has not diminished. I swear it got louder as it went on and I seriously worried for my hearing at one point. I did have a wry smile though as Jim almost apologised for dropping the mic due to a peculiarly wobbly mic stand. I seem to recall a time when both would have been hurled across the stage but that’s not to say that would have been appropriate 30 years on. It was a fascinating gig in many ways, Jim remains inscrutable and he can certainly still deliver, as can William and the rest of the band. Up there with one of the loudest gigs I’ve experienced, possibly louder than their first visit. It was never going to have the menace and danger that made those early gigs so exciting, nobody expected or wanted that from musicians of this age but they recreated the album live brilliantly and most certainly did not feel like they were going through the motions, playing this sort of music that would show straight away. It came across that the band love the Psychocandy album as much as everyone in the audience does and so something truly special was shared. Stand out memories for me were You Trip Me Up, Taste of Cindy, Just Like Honey, Never Understand, and from earlier, April Skies and Reverence.
The audience were an interesting mix, there was certainly a good representation from the 40 and 50-somethings but I’d say almost half were under 25.
The gig did indeed finish at ten and as we all knew there would be no encore everyone filed out. After seeing some friends and comparing hearing damage I then decided to head across the city to Jurnets for the splendid Cave In, as my headache had inexplicably eased. I love these Cave In nights, the venue, the music and the lovely people dancing. Great music of psychedelia, soul and beat with stunningly beautiful and trippy lighting, some oil projections on the ceiling and further lovely lights creating the perfect ambiance. I am well and truly hooked!
On my way back home through the city I had a lovely nightcap at Bedfords with the very friendly people there. Beautiful venue and relaxed vibe.
Many thanks to Johnny Hopkins, JAMC, Cave-In, Jurnets Bar, and Bedfords Bar
photos and video (c) all rights reserved Shashamane, 2015