The Jesus and Mary Chain @ Barrowland, Glasgow, 23 November

Live Review by Chris McCall | 25 Nov 2014
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain

Sibling rivalry has powered many great bands, but few have matched the intensity of the Reids. Prowling front man Jim, with the piercing stare of Robert Patrick, and older brother William, playing electrifying guitar while shyly hiding under a mop of curls, seemed to genuinely despise each other. While sharing a bedroom in East Kilbride, they formed a band out of boredom and seemingly by accident released a debut album, Psychocandy, that’s been raved about ever since. Nearly thirty years on, and the brothers have settled their differences, temporarily at least, to play two sold out Barrowland shows to mark the anniversary of its release.

Some felt their 2007 reunion gigs lacked the edge that first made them famous; there will be no such doubts tonight. The group begin with a short set of later material, including a particularly fearsome rendition of Reverence, and deafening take on Upside Down, the single that first announced them to the world.

After a short break, that Ronettes beat kicks in and a hush falls on the ballroom. Just Like Honey sounds perfect – William’s guitar shimmers over his brother’s deadpan vocal. But as opening songs go, it completely fails to prepare the crowd for what’s coming. Psychocandy famously took basic three chord pop songs and shredded them with feedback. Debate has raged over whose idea it was – or whether it was just a lucky accident – but regardless, the one-two punch of The Living End and Taste the Floor leave the Barras breathless. The latter is almost savage in its delivery, with William occasionally looking up from his guitar, as if to gauge whether Jim is paying attention. His brother responds, more than once, with a glare that could shatter glass.

A key part of the Mary Chain’s crossover appeal is that they never outstay their welcome; the Shangri-Las-like beauty of Taste of Cindy lasts all of 100 seconds, while You Trip Me Up doesn’t bother the three minute mark. Standing in the middle of this cauldron of noise, you begin to understand why so many guitarists, such as My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, claim to have been mesmerised the first time they saw William play. The influence of Psychocandy is easy to overlook three decades on; in the years that followed, a wave of feedback-drenched guitar bands appeared, creating the impression it was ever thus. But tonight, the JAMC deliver a performance of starling intensity. A reminder they're still capable of leaving their imitators in the shade. [Chris McCall]