They never got along. They were always sketchy and aloof as a live band. And they’ve spent most of the past 14 years not playing together at all. Why I and other in-the-know fans ever thought the Jesus and Mary Chain could possibly rise above all those shortcomings and blow our collective socks off at First Avenue on Tuesday night, I’ll rank that right up there with my decision to buy September games at the start of this Twins season.
Playing their first Minneapolis show since 1998 – the same year I saw them play a dreadful set in Texas right after guitarist William Reid had quit the tour/band (my personal expectations were extra low Tuesday, in other words) – the Scottish fuzz-rockers weren’t completely a letdown. At least once they were able to manage a halfway decent version of a song after having to stop and restart it: “Far Gone and Out” had a heavy pulse in the end, part of a relatively solid beginning to the show that also included rewarding if somewhat sluggish versions of the 1989 alterna-hits “Head On” and “Blues From a Gun.”
By the end of the 80-minute set, though, the Reid brothers and their four bandmates required five do-overs total with four different songs. They restarted “Happy When It Rains” twice mid-show, and still didn’t get it right. Two of the three tracks in the near-disastrous encore also succumbed to false starts, by which time it sounded like the lads were just coasting on fumes desperately trying to make it to end.
That they couldn’t get in simple rhythmic sync to start a song right was hardly the only problem. The sound mix was erratic throughout the show. Random squeaks of (unintentional) feedback marred several songs, including the one song that would’ve made fans happy had they at least played that one right, “Just Like Honey.” Most troublesome of all – even though it was to be expected – the band appeared to be bankrupt in the investment department, showing as much spark as a firecracker at the bottom of the Irish Sea. The lone exception was drummer Brian Young (from Fountains of Wayne and the Posies), who did his best to keep things moving and hammering. Maybe if Young lowered his effort, that might help get the band get in sync.
Ironically, Jim Reid apologized about suffering from a sore throat before “Some Candy Talking,” saying, “This song sort of requires a real singer, but you’ll have to make do with me.” Jim’s voice actually sounded fine, though. The singer was even somewhat congenial, too, thanking the crowd for their mild cheers so often that at one point he muttered, “I don’t want to just keep saying, ‘Thank you,’ but … thank you.”
About the only thing I’m thankful for after Tuesday’s show is a firm knowlege to forever avoid getting sucked into another JAMC concert. If that’s even ever an option.
Here's the set list:
Snakedriver / Head On / Far Gone and Out / Between Planets / Blues From a Gun / Teenage Lust / Sidewalking / Cracking Up / All Things Must Pass / Some Candy Talking / Happy When It Rains / Halfway to Crazy / Just Like Honey / Reverence ENCORE: Hardest Walk / Taste of Cindy / Never Understand