Live Review: The Jesus And Mary Chain [Royal Albert Hall, Manchester] November 18, 2021

By November 25, 2021 Live, Reviews

Affecting, melancholy, gorgeously polished, The Jesus and Mary Chain’s delivery was well worth the twenty months wait. After several reschedules, the Scottish alt rock band finally took the stage at Albert Hall in Manchester to transport the audience back to the late 80s with the deliciously moody songs that define their second album Darklands.

But first, support band and fellow Glaswegians, Rev Magnetics’ seductive shoegazy set sweeps through the stage, startling us all into stunned submission. Bathed in swirling, smoky blue light, the band appears to be serenading us from the shadows of deep water. Frontman Luke Sutherland (and occasional member of Mogwai), perches on a chair, guitar in hand. He reveals he snapped his Achille’s tendon in Glasgow while jumping during a performance, yet any pain inflicted by his injury is untraceable in his controlled and confident vocals. It’s no surprise why the rock giants would take on smaller band Rev Magnetic as their support when they begin to play. Dousing us in dreamy soundscapes, the band’s songs combine the surrealness of Bon Iver’s last few electronic albums with the poignancy of Beach House’s greatest hits. Paired with bassist’s Audrey Bizouerne’s delicate voice, the harmonies created by the two vocalists of Rev Magnetic are…well, magnetic. When they begin to play It Shouda Been You, Sutherland swaps his electric guitar for a violin, and plays a goosebump inducing solo that elevates the track to a whole other level. Somehow, Rev Magnetic have captured the feeling of swimming underwater as a child, as beams of sunlight sever the surface, through a vulnerable cacophony of music.

After a short break, headliners The Jesus and Mary Chain storm the stage, William Reid’s unmistakable mop of crazy scientist hair in the shadows while brother Tim Reid take centre stage. Launching into titular track Darklands, there is electrified shift my fellow audience members as they recognise that iconic beginning riff. Though Reid’s locals are pristine and almost identical to the studio album, the energy of the band is lower than expected. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a moving and mellow performance that was enjoyable to listen to. But there was a certain fire lacking behind the bittersweet anger of Happy When It Rains’s lyrics. Finishing the first half strongly with my personal favourite About You, The Jesus and Mary Chain, leave us in a state of both euphoria and anticipation of what is expected to be a much more unruly half.

Unruly doesn’t cover it.

Explosive, revitalised, violent: the less critically acclaimed and obscure tracks of their second half inject an energy into the players that the audience has been waiting for. The momentum of Reid’s vocals pummels through us, whipping many in a moshpit frenzy. Several tracks of their 1998 album Monki fill Albert Hall with distortion, as bodies slam into those clinging on for dear life at the barriers. Red spotlights orbit the architecture of stunning venue, the high stained-glass windows seemed to vibrate with sound, smoke billowed between the diamond borders of light beams…the setting and the sound fused to create a dreamland from dark lyrics.

When Just Like Honey plays, we’re transported into the movie magic of Lost In Translation. Looking across at the people around me, I spot swaying bodies and eyes closed to soak up every second. For many of us, it seems, The Jesus and Mary Chain transports us to someplace better, whether that’s back to our youth like the fifty-year-old woman at the barriers, or to chilly school bus journeys in the winter soundtracked by Reid’s soft voice, there will always be something ethereal and nostalgic about the East Kilbride band.

Words: Jemima Mitra

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