The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Royal Festival Hall, London
Tom Hughes, The Guardian
Jarvis Cocker managed a couple of pretty impressive coups in putting together this year's Meltdown festival - Roky Erikson and Devo performances count as rare treats indeed - but there's something particularly seductive in the promise of seeing the Jesus and Mary Chain back on the UK stage. It may only be a relatively meagre 10 years since the band's ugly implosion, but the legendary animus between brothers Jim and William Reid seemed so bad by then as to make this a minor miracle of reconciliation.
And so, through the inevitable scrolls of dry ice, the band appears, a now-sober Jim Reid looking healthy and calm, guitarist William maintaining a touch of that shades-on, rock'n'roll streetwalker cool. They return straight away to their exalted 1985 debut album, Psychocandy, and play Never Understand. It's a perfect example of their heady, then-pioneering trick of melding sheets of squalling feedback to sweet, simple pop melodies - a scorched, malign mutation of Phil Spector's wall of sound. Jim's voice retains all the impassive melancholy it should, and William's guitar is mixed up almost as if it were another lead vocal, spraying a frosty scree across the auditorium.
A wishlist-ticking, cross-career selection follows, and there's even one brand new song. There are, too, little hints of the old days' chaos and trouble. When Jim Reid stops Snakedriver a few bars in and saunters over for a word in his brother's ear, the whole audience draws breath, half-expecting a set-to. There isn't one, but it happens again - twice - at the start of Just Like Honey. Guest singer Leila Moss looks faintly terrified; until Jim Reid suddenly cracks a grin and sighs of relief let fly. Could they be having us on, even just a tiny bit? Either way, a cuddly moment like this would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.
What a difference a decade makes.
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