By some strange cosmic coincidence the first concert I ever went to was the Jesus and Mary Chain's last show in Miami. On the site where the Pérez Art Museum now stands, the Scottish shoegazers performed as a side act for Lollapalooza a couple days before Hurricane Andrew hit. At the time I was more interested in the grunge of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, the gangster rap of Ice Cube, and the naked antics of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Even if Ice Cube didn't now star in family films and the Red Hot Chili Peppers didn't lip synch at Super Bowl halftime shows, I'd still argue that the Jesus and Mary Chain's fuzzy guitars and lyrics of longing and ecstasy aged more gracefully than any of their 1992 tourmates.
Friday night at Olympia Theater there was a room full of people that would agree with that thought.
At 10:00 p.m. the beautiful theater's lights were dimmed to dive bar level — that particular shade where you can't tell whether the person you're flirting with is pretty or hideous — and the quintet walked on stage. Wearing a striped t-shirt and jeans, singer Jim Reid explained in his thick Trainspotting accent that they would play a set of their hits and then go into the band's 1985 debut album Psychocandy front to back. It's what the band has been doing all tour.
They opened with "April Skies" and beyond the applause and cheers the crowd didn't know how to react. This is an awkward issue fans have encountered since the Olympia Theater started booking hipper acts.
When Neutral Milk Hotel came to Olympia in May, the crowd remained seated. Even when Kraftwerk graced Olympia's stage last week in all their robotic glory, the crowd remained seated. There's something about the Olympia Theater that makes you feel obligated to remain glued to your cushion. And as the Jesus and Mary Chain launched into its set, few dared to stand. Sure we were all older and the seat cushions were so comfortable, but it felt wrong to be sitting. But when the opening riff of "Head On" started, that course was corrected. Like dominos in reverse, one row stood up and then another until it reached the point where concertgoers were being told by tuxedoed ushers with flashlights not to dance in the aisle.
It was the last night of the band's tour and the group sounded tight standing in front of a giant banner that paid tribute to the cover art of Psychocandy. Guitarist William Reid had hair that would make Phil Spector proud and his brother Jim caressed the microphone as he sang about how he wanted to die just like Jesus Christ. After a half hour they walked off stage leaving the distortion pedal ringing. The crowd spoke amongst themselves as the lights stayed low, figuring we were at an intermission, but before we could relax, the unmistakable drum beat of "Just Like Honey" kicked in and the band was back on stage, armed with bottled water as they prepared to play their debut album in its entirety.
It was an hour of nostalgia that undoubtedly reminded some in the crowd of better days, filled with sex, drugs, and a special kind of rock 'n' roll.
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"We are in our 50s now," lead singer Jim Reid told us in an interview last week. "It's not up to me anymore to go out there and shake things up. That's for the younger generation to do. What we do is, we go out there, and as much as we can, we enjoy it. It may not look like we're enjoying it, but we are."
But as they finished the last song from the band's 30 year old album and walked off the stage a second and final time, leaving a roadie to turn off the distortion pedal as the house lights came back on, there was no reason to think that the Jesus and Mary Chain couldn't recapture the zeitgeist from their glory days in a recording studio today.
- "April Skies"
- "Head On"
- "Blues From a Gun"
- "Some Candy Talking"
- "Nine Million Rainy Days"
- "Upside Down"
- "Just Like Honey"
- "The Living End"
- "Taste the Floor"
- "The Hardest Walk"
- "Cut Dead"
- "In a Hole"
- "Taste of Cindy"
- "Never Understand"
- "Inside Me"
- "Sowing Seeds"
- "My Little Underground"
- "You Trip Me Up"
- "Something's Wrong"
- "It's So Hard"