The Jesus & Mary Chain Massey Hall, Toronto ON, May 12
Published May 13, 2017In the ten-year span it took Scottish alt-rock legends the Jesus & Mary Chain to release a new album, they completed a full-on reunion tour as well as one that saw them play their seminal debut, Psychocandy, in its entirety. For their third trip back to Toronto since reconciling, they brought selections from the better-than-it-needed-to-be seventh album, Damage and Joy.
Never big on conversation, the Reid brothers and their band (the Black Ryder's Scott Von Ryper on guitar, ex-Fountains of Wayne drummer Brian Young and longtime touring member Mark Crozer on guitar) jumped right into the new stuff, beginning with single "Amputation." They then proceeded to take a trip down memory lane with a five-pack ("April Skies," "Head On," "Far Gone and Out," "Between Planets" and "Blues From A Gun") that satiated the crowd of longtime fans.
Standing in front of a giant backdrop featuring the Damage and Joy soup bowl, Jim Reid took a quick breather to admire the historic building they were standing in: "What a beautiful place!" And they definitely made the most of their opportunity to test Massey's exquisite sound, cranking out their melancholy, buzz-sawn anthems at maximum, ear-bleeding volume that sounded better than they ever have in this city.
Jim then brought out William's girlfriend Bernadette Denning to join him, acknowledging her Southern accent with an unexpected impersonation of "How's it goin' out there?" They traded vocals for the Spector-ish "Always Sad," then followed that with another new one, the sludgy "Mood Rider."
It was a night dedicated to mixing JAMC's greatest hits with a smattering of their latest. Somehow they upped the sleaze factor of Honey's Dead standout "Teenage Lust" with a massive wall of fuzz. Jim prefaced "Cherry Came Too" with an apology for his usual "struggle to sing it"; either the struggle wasn't real or he had his band's impenetrable noise to thank for masking it, because it wasn't very noticeable. William, on the other hand, seemed to indulge in the riff opportunities, wailing away on "All Things Pass," which still sounds fresh after sitting on shelf for a decade.
They had to restart Psychocandy's "Some Candy Talking" after William's guitar couldn't find its way back in tune. But they found their stride again, and when it came to the zenith, William let it rip. This was an obvious sign that there is harmony between the two brothers, because 20 years ago they'd have literally been at each other's throats.
Announcing it was their last song, the crowd showed its disappointment, to which Jim laughed and said, "We are very easily persuaded to keep doing more though." They blasted a cacophonous version of the once-banned "Reverence" that extended into a free jam of Jim's ad-libs and William's feedback driven squalls.
When they predictably came back out, it was to play a couple of slow-burners: "Nine Million Rainy Days" and a hastier run through of the iconic "Just Like Honey," which featured Bernadette filling in on the female backing vocals. "You Trip Me Up," "A Taste of Cindy" and "The Living End" picked up the pace, especially the latter's manic tempo, and instilled a sense of witnessing classic Mary Chain at its best.
"It really is the last song. I hope you enjoyed it. It's been a pleasure for us," Jim said before ending the encore with dour newbie "War On Peace," which really killed the joyous throwback buzz that filled the room. Thankfully he was full of shit. A feedback-sodden moment later, they came back out and finished with "Never Understand" and the lone Munki track "I Hate Rock 'n' Roll," which, in tandem with the set opener, acted as a nice bookend.
In this second life of theirs, the Jesus & Mary Chain haven't quite been the same must-see live sensation they were 30 years ago. However, there was something special about this night, and it's hard to say they were anything but that this time around.