When The Jesus and Mary Chain released their landmark debut album Psychocandy back in 1985, brothers Jim and William Reid made it clear that fuzzy guitars and distorted feedback belonged in a new wave of alternative rock.
They pioneered a sound that embraced the “I don’t give a fuck” attitude of earlier punk bands like the Sex Pistols but added a charming juxtaposition of power-pop hooks and sad bastard lyrics.
And although the brothers have mainly remained just shy of mainstream popularity, The JAMC are one of the most influential bands of the ’80s post-punk and shoegaze era, paving the way for bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and The Raveonettes.
Concertgoers in the band’s early days would have expected the unexpected at a JAMC show, many times witnessing drunken misbehavior, instrument smashing and anger-induced mic-tossing moments on stage, and at times audiences would have been lucky if the sets lasted longer than about 20 minutes. And after 37 years, the Reid brothers, notorious for their ongoing feud with one another, still give a middle finger to any expectation placed on them.
These days, perhaps simply because of age, the live performance antics have dramatically dulled. But at Tuesday night’s show at the Granada Theater, the Chain didn’t need to be over the top or do anything other than simply play the songs fans have loved for decades to receive a roaring, Texas-sized welcome.
One of only four stops on their U.S. tour, the Dallas show kicked off with “Amputation” from the band’s 2017 album Damage and Joy. The song starts with the lyrics “Tryna win your interest back/But you ain't having none of that,” which is reportedly a response to the band’s perceived lack of interest from the press over the years. But interest from the audience was in no short supply, with many in attendance ranging in age from gray-haired, longtime Gen X fans to doe-eyed, budding punks seemingly at their first real rock concert.
And the Mary Chain, despite both brothers just entering their 60s and spending 19 years between their last two albums, still sound like angry teens, coming of age in a world that doesn’t understand them. And maybe that’s why they’ve continued to appeal to a younger audience. It’s as if no time really passed since the ’80s, and listeners unaware of Damage and Joy could be forgiven for assuming the album’s tracks were part of some previously unreleased record from the band’s heyday.
One part of the band’s performance that was not unlike their earlier days was the almost total lack of communication with the audience. Frontman Jim shared only a few brief “thank yous” with the crowd between songs, and there was no introduction of the band members. The lack of banter certainly allowed time for the impressive 19-song setlist. And while Jim, William and their touring band’s stage presence was fairly mild-mannered, Jim’s vocals were just as raspy and weighty as ever, embodying the unique angst that makes the band so compelling. And once the fourth song, "April Skies," off the album Darklands, started, the crowd was completely overcome with excitement.
The theater was packed with fans gently nodding along to the music, and just as many pumping their fists and moving their whole bodies. But nobody seemed to have a better time than one woman in the middle of the crowd, dancing on one of the venue’s table-top railings, seemingly revisiting her own angsty youth.