The Jesus and Mary Chain at The Phoenix Concert Theatre

Photographs by Sarah Rix.

Jim Reid and William Reid go together like peanut butter and jelly. Rich vocals and explosive guitar lines have pushed The Jesus and Mary Chain to the top of many “best of the 80’s” lists. Their magnum opus Psychocandy was a loud razor bladed pop album lodged within both that era and in shoegaze/alternative rock. To be able to hear the album in full live seemed like wishful thinking; Why revisit the past?

Well, this year marks the 30th anniversary of said album, and to kick off both their celebratory tour and Canadian Music Week, the band started their party at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto. They played a mini set to warm us up. The songs were groovier and more melodic  (as their sound shifted during their career). The stage lighting was quite modern and what youd expect at any show now. It was a good time, but it was also a well executed decision.

The band left the stage after six or seven songs and we were left with a clip from an old news piece. Suddenly, the album art for Psychocandy was plastered on the backdrop. The band came back and played with just retrospective images projected behind (and onto) them. Psychocandy was viciously loud (as expected). The contrasting first set made the playthrough of Psychocandy all the more effective. We were transported to the 80’s.

Oddly enough the crowd reacted the same way. The Jesus and Mary Chain were known for their violent shoes back in the day, and the audience reacted accordingly. As soon as the album started with the dreamy Just Like Honey, a fight nearly broke out virtually right beside me. People were loaded with alcohol or have been waiting for this opportunity for a lifetime, and it showed with the amount of aggression. The fans either grabbed your shoulder and sang with you or they swore at you to protect their spot in the crowd (both happened to me a few times).

To start both an album and a set off with Just Like Honey is magical. It’s like Woody Allen’s views of kissing at the start of a date (as shown in Annie Hall), where the most emotional moment is over with and nothing to wait and fear in anticipation. The see through golden drumkit and the amber stagelights had the stage looking at times just like that sweet delicacy their most famous song is named after. The rest of the set was explosive in sound and composed in stage presence. With a few quiet words to end sets and say thanks, the songs were what spoke the loudest; It was a time to celebrate their music after all. 

The band is older and wiser, but with the bombastic crowd and a time where a song was even restarted, The Jesus and Mary Chain still had a show that felt as dangerous of termination as they most likely did back in the 80’s. To leave such an honorable show and see security tend to people throwing up and beaten up outside was a testament. Psychocandy brought out the most raw energy out of people, and it still does. You feel everything, even in extreme excess. To witness a classic in full live was special. I feel as nonplussed as Bill Murray at the end of Lost in Translation (where the song Just Like Honey was played and its success was reborn). I felt a part of something truly different but I felt right at home and loved.

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