Live Review: The Jesus And Mary Chain – Albert Hall, Manchester 18.11.2021

I’m not sure who first came up with the concept of the “Classic Album Tour”, whereby an artist plays the whole LP, track by track in the running order, in which it was originally released. It has become the preserve of bands who don’t have any new product to tour but fancy making a few quid, possibly with a tax bill to pay!!

We’ve had The Manics tour The Holy Bible, The Breeders with Last Splash, various anniversary tours by The Wedding Present, who by coincidence are also in town tonight, playing Sea Monsters and many others. Tonight, it is the turn of Jesus & The Mary Chain, with their 2nd release, Darklands, to date their highest charting long player, albeit less critically acclaimed than debut Psychocandy.

The concept is not without challenges though. Normally a band would choose something rousing to start a show, slowing things down after the initial 2 or 3 songs, to get the punters warmed up and onside. The running order of most albums doesn’t The Jesus And Mary Chain – Albert Hall, Manchester 18th Nov 2021naturally follow this blueprint and there are often tracks that never get played live, that have to be trotted out in these shows. Title track, Darklands is a beautiful way to start to start the set. Jim Reid seems to be scared of the rest of the band as he’s centre stage and they’re lining up 4 at the back, like the most defensive 5-aside football team you’ve ever seen. There’s 10 feet behind him, like a total exclusion zone. I feel sorry for the one photographer that has been allowed into the pit tonight. The high stage at the Albert Hall means he’s struggling to get the band in view.

Tonight, they are set up to play 2 sets; Darklands first, before a short break returning to play a very mixed set from the archives.

Deep One Perfect Morning, another slow tempo, with the trademark “boom-boom” drums, only ever played live 3 times before this tour, subsides and we get the first gear change as Happy When It Rains hoves into view. Heads nod and shoulders shrug as the crowd come alive. Jim can only just be heard over the crowd sing-a-long, because strangely this isn’t a loud sonic attack on the ear drums. Down On Me keeps up the pace and William gets the chance to cut loose on the guitar, albeit from a safe distance. The weather seems to have influenced the creative process when they were writing Darklands as we’re into Nine Million Rainy Days before the LPs other stand out track, April Skies fills this iconic venue and the Indie Karaoke takes over again. Cherry Came Too, is the nearest they’ve ever come to sounding like The Beach Boys

It’s normally at this point at these shows, you start to realise that there’s not a lot more to come. Jim is frugal with between song banter and so the rest of the album speeds by quickly, with the last two tracks, On The Wall and About You, each only ever having been played live twice before this tour. This is definitely a night for the diehard JAMC fans. As the last track ends, Jim explains that they’re going off for a quick cuppa before returning to play a second set. 

Barely more than 5 minutes and they’re back and off again. As it turns out this too is a set for the diehards. No massive tracks like Some Candy Talkin’You Trip Me UpSidewalking or Blues From A Gun. Instead, it’s a blast through the darkest recesses of their back catalogue, including 3 songs, Cant’ Stop The RockGod Help Me and Drop, all live virgins before this tour. The lack of familiarity seems to affect William too, as at one point he hits a bum chord. He and the Bobby Gillespie lookalike drummer, Brian Young (ex-Fountains Of Wayne & The Posies), exchange wry smiles before moving on. We get I Love Rock N RollMoe Tucker and Up Too High before ending this second half with one of my personal faves, from the Barbed Wire Kisses (B-Sides & More) Compilation, Kill Surf City.

A three-song encore sees ex-Belle & Sebastian singer, Isobel Campbell, join them on stage for Just Like Honey, for me the standout track of the night, before another rarely played song Something I Can’t Have (missing in action since 1993). The evening is brought to a shuddering halt with Never Understand and I’m transported back to March 1985 at North London Polytechnic, the night of the infamous riot, when they played for less than 20 minutes. Now 75 minutes isn’t enough but back then 20 was plenty! Could have done with it being a bit louder though!!!

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