There's something extra special about playing in the heart of New York City's Broadway Theater district with your name sharing those same bright lights.
Both bands were coming to the end of a week long run together that culminated with this big time NYC show on Friday November 17th.
Bright Lights - Big City
Hitting the stage at the promised 9:30 pm starting time, The Jesus and Mary Chain launched into their trusted show opener “Amputation” off of their latest album “Damage and Joy.” It comes on at a quicker pace, but those introductory “Ooooooh’s” are still there to set the mood. Jim leans in to the mic and begins: “Try to win your interest back, but you ain’t havin’ none of that. We’re just like a ship in a bottle, kissed today but fucked tomorrow - I don’t know, I guess that we are through. Fucked up girls like drugged up guys, but that won’t keep them warm at night. It’s just like a grape in a bottle, its wine today but piss tomorrow – I don’t know, I guess that we’re all through." The instrumental breaks are big and bold and the chord progression oh-so-MaryChain. As the chorus hook “I’m a rock and roll amputation” repeats like a mantra, Lou Reed’s lyric “despite all the amputation, you could dance to a rock 'n' roll station” comes to mind.
Launching immediately into one of their most recognizable songs, “April Skies” was the first single released from second album “Darklands” in 1987. Reaching No. 8 established it as their highest charting single in the UK. No secret to its success being a perfect pop song combining instantly catchy melodies with sing-along lyrics depicting universal relationship-gone-wrong appeal.
Going with another one of their biggest radio (and MTV at the time) hits, "Head On" was released as a single in November 1989 off of their third (full studio) album “Automatic.” Along with heavy MTV rotation at the time, it reached as high as #2 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart in the US. While the album version echoed the late 80’s-early 90’s fascination with synth bass and drum machines, this 2017 live version is a throttling force of electric guitars, bass and real acoustic drums.
Moving back to their current album, Bernadette Denning made the first of two appearances on this evening, reprising her duet role with Jim on “Always Sad.” A chunky chord mid-tempo rocker, Denning’s voice fits in well with the Reid’s already established pattern of using guest female vocalists. With a chorus delivering dual sung lines “think I’m always sad – think I’m always gonna be sad,” the resolution “cause you’re the best I’ve ever had” completes its musical progression.
Opting for another deeper track off the latest record, Jim now sings "Black and Blues" solo what was another duet on the album. It works just as well this way, with Jim putting his all into the lyrics “but my mind and heart breaks – yeah it’s just a bitch” –emphatic downbeat stroke in-between – “yeah it’s just a bitch.” “We could leave this world forever. We could live this world behind” Jim sings. A final round of “yeah it’s just a bitch,” “Ah, ah, ah’s” and “Bah, bah, bah’s” take you home in sing-along style.
“Mood Rider” comes infused with an unmistakably William guitar hook melody as Jim embraces his brothers lyrics and delivers them like they’re his own. “I bet I’m gonna be fine. I got enough stored food and wine. I think I'm gonna be fine - happy all the time.” Chugging into a slithering chorus that goes “Mooood Rider – hey mood driver – alone.” The guitars here are particularly lively sounding with that classic William semi-hollowbody electric distorting in on itself. The lyrics that go “I think I’m turning to dust. Love is turning to luuuust. I think I’m turning to dust – only as I must” serve as some of the most concise commentary on human mortality out there.
Dipping in to fourth studio album “Honey’s Dead” and the second single they released from it in March 1992, “Far Gone And Out” kicked the show up to the next level. It’s huge, head-bopping moments on the bass-heavy, fuzzed-out three-chord stomp after Jim sings “It’s like a heart attack!” Lines like “well I’m television sick and I’m television crazy” underscore the enduring quality of this bands appeal. “Ah hey hey HEY! She’s the meanest mean. Ah hey hey HEY! She’s the sickest sick. Ah hey hey HEY! She’s the blackest black. Ah hey hey HEY! I gotta get her back.”
Another “Automatic” track included in their live show lately is the deeper (non-single, but fan fave) “Between Planets.” Charging along like a hyper-fuzzed Beach Boys anthem, memorable lyrics “Suicide standing sucking in her cheeks - too much lips and too much eyes - hasn't slept for weeks” and “Jackie T said she saw death - she's done it fifty ways - but she's been off that medicine - for almost fifteen days” pays homage to their unending fascination with Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. However, it’s the double-time beat behind the lyrics “Come on now you gave it away and all the friends you had got paid - come on now you were never that shy and that's no way for you to say bye bye” – and the subsequent William Reid guitar melody line that provide the songs most memorable hooks. That and the closing sing-along line “baby – you drive me crazy – don’t come around here no more.”
A welcome return to the set that they hadn't played in these parts for a while is the lyrically brilliant, slithering groove of "Snakedriver." While they had been playing it off and on since their initial reunion 10 years ago, it wasn’t included in recent performances (although they opened their 2012 shows with it). So it was great to hear Jim deliver those seared-in-memory lyrics “I've got syphilitic hetro friends in every part of town. I don't hate them but I know them I don't want them hanging around. I won't roll my bones for every little girl who gets on down. I got space and space got me I should be selling it by the pound. Ever since I heard the voice I thought I had no choice but then I kissed her.” It’s just a monstrous chugging stomper that of course includes “Hey hey hey’s.” William cuts loose with a barrage of single note riffs that you know have to be the most fun moments of every song for him. Favorite lyric: “If I wake up dead I'll wake up just like any other day.” If that means something to you – then you get this band. You’re an “insider.”
An even more down and dirty, slinky crawl groove comes by way of “Honey’s Dead” second track “Teenage Lust.” William guitar is now in full on buzz fuzz mode as he “answers” every Jim line with a skronking melody line of his own. Mark and Scott more than capably handle the necessary “whoooo hooooo’s” while Jim does his “Ah, hah, hah, hah, hah, hah’s.”
Stepping back to the “Darklands” period, “Cherry Came Too” accentuates how the band would run Rolling Stones and Beach Boys influences through their own twisted filter – creating a pop gem in the process. The song where the words “barbed wire kisses” comes from, you can always hear the audience singing along with it. Best lyrics: “And I'll give you my head - and all the things it said. And I'll give you my thoughts - if those things weren't lost. And I'll give you my soul - to beat it with your pole!”
Back to the current album, “All Things Pass” has benefited greatly from the band playing it nightly at every show. Despite the fact that they feel it still needs an electronic drum machine into (Brian soon obliterates any audible remnant of that once his powerful tub throttling begins), it’s William’s prominent guitar riff that seems more confident than ever. The chorus is bigger than ever now too with a higher pitched harmony vocal paired to Jim (it has to be Scott) where they go “Hey! Look out here it comes. All things must pass -but not too fast.”
There’s a special place in JAMC fans hearts for the gap EP between Psychocandy and Darklands featuring the glorious “Some Candy Talking.” A mainstay in the live show since they first reunited in 2007, the balance between quiet build-up and explosive release seems more defined now than ever. When Jim sings “and I talk to the filth, and I walk through the door - I'm knee deep in myself, but I want to get more of that stuff - Of that stuff” you know what’s coming next. William’s guitar bursts over the top in an electrified squall while the rhythm section pounds down with four on the floor.
Inspired by the brilliant light show and overall spectacle from various vantage points within the arena, the time seemed right to capture a video for posterity. Here’s how “Halfway To Crazy” looked and sounded at this particular show.
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The addition of “Darklands” served as a swap-out from previous tour holdover "Nine Million Rainy Days" as an equally deep and moody classic from that second album.
Reaching the 16th song in the set, Jim announced to the audience that this would be the “last song.” However, he added – “if you make any noise at all – we’ll come back on.” With that they launched into the now much-anticipated extended jam rave-up that is “Reverence.”
After what has to be considered a brief by encore-wait standards (two minutes tops) applause break, the band came back on with Bernadette in tow and launched into "Just Like Honey."
That was followed by a welcome return to the set with a hyper-amped version of the Bo Diddley inspired “Cracking Up.” Where being a “freak” gives you “the view of a rat king's son.” With the further declaration that “I guess I'm new and I don't know what to do. I'll judge you fine in my mind in my...”
Another swap back in to the set was Psychocandy track “In A Hole.” Linked to the title there is a killer version from when they toured the whole album two years ago. It’s still a pretty accurate representation of how the band delivers this sheering squall and intense way Jim delivers the lyrics “I step crueler - But less defined - Striped cats cooler - But so is mine - And I want to see - What I want to be - And I see me on a touching screen - And I'm dancing to a scream.” However, the seriously best-rhyme goes to “How can something crawl within - My rubber holy baked bean tin!”
The softly begun “War On Peace” is designed to allow space for Jim’s vocals, expressing a look-back on where life has led up to this point. Played live here, Brian’s bright percussive tambourine jingle-strike (mounted on top of his high-hat stand) stands out, with Mark’s bass laying down a steady pulse. The harmonies so prevalent on the album for lyrics “Love don’t live here anymore – don’t come knockin’ on my door. I just can’t get peace of mind – there’s a peace there I can’t find” are now provided by newest member Scott. He’s there with Jim on the chorus hook as well (that goes) “So why would I run? Where would I run to?” It’s this “existential dread” that provides the songs central theme. Just past the three minute mark the song suddenly quickens in pace. The percussion goes “motorik” and guitars start chugging full throttle rock. It explodes into a full on rocker as Jim’s “Ah – ah’s” make one more pass through.
Another one of those non-studio-album singles that filled the gap between 1987’s “Darklands” and 89’s “Blues From A Gun” (fitting nicely on the much beloved Barbed Wire Kisses b-sides and more compilation) – “Sidewalking” is now a noisy concert raveup. The live version has evolved into the rock its better suited for – rather than the Reid’s (at the time) attempt to mimic elements of hip-hop, allegedly sampling and looping the drumbeat from the 1984 single “Roxanne's Revenge” by Queens, NY rapper Roxanne Shante.
The 22nd and final song of the night was their now trusty show closer “I Hate Rock and Roll.” Before starting, this is the place where Jim will thank the audience for coming and give a shout out to the opening act. As Jim was trying to give a mention to this night’s opener Mark Crozer and The Rels (a full show recap follows this) William was plonking on his guitar (most-likely getting the first notes of the final song fresh in his mind) when Jim snapped at him (the only time during the entire concert Jim did so – not even one STOP! anywhere) “could you PLEASE stop with that guitar for just one moment while I speak!” It was the final song on the last night of a lengthy tour run, so one could understand the combination of fatigue and frayed nerves finally surfacing. William, to his credit just stopped noodling and waited for Jim to finish before launching into the opening chords. Of course it now thunders along with well-rehearsed precision. The big-sound rhythm section of Scott, Mark and Bryan allows William the freedom to wrench every ounce of emotion from his guitar, while Jim delivers those scathing lyrics from the experienced perspective of someone who knows exactly what the deal is.
Of course there was plenty of merch to be had.
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Including a number of items for show opener Mark Crozer and The Rels
As they had been doing for the entire leg of this East Coast tour, Mark and The Rels played a full set consisting of 12 songs. Most of the material was drawn from current album “Sunny Side Down,” while sprinkling in select deeper tracks along the way.
Kicking off with “Photographic Memory,” that angular rhythmic pattern of syncopated drumming against wiry bass line and lengthy ascending-then-descending guitar figure immediately pulled the audience into their show. “I got this picture stuck in my head of an Elephant on water skis” it offered up as proof of the mental images captured. “If you could plug into my mind then you would know what I’m saying is no lie” hints at our current technological age and the possibilities ahead. Shifting rhythm to a straight ahead chugging rocker, the chorus spells out that having “a photographic memory always comes in handy – never fails me – never lets me down.”
Immediately dipping back into the catalog, “I Need A Vaccination” first appears on The Rels 2012 debut album. A clever lyrical turn of needing a cure for “lust” gets to the hook with a catchy "Come one, come on, come on gimme a" refrain. It’s a chugging driver that fits perfectly in the live environment.
The opening lyric stating that “your words are meaningless” get right to the sentiment behind Sunny Side Down track “Plasma.” With its twangy Americana-feel melody, this ode to the colorless liquid found in blood and lymph drips with disgust at the manipulative things said in relationships. “Your lips have gone astray – like a 21st century lover. I could feed them with a kiss – but pretty soon they’ll start to whisper – garbage like ‘be my plasma’.”
Another deeper track played (which leads off the 2016 digital album called “Broken Bones”) was the poppy dream-trip scenario “Bubblegum.” The “Monkees-like” harmony hook of “Baa-ba-ba-ba – how could I be so dumb” (with exquisite background vocals from drummer Donnie Merritt and guitarist Shawn Lynch) seems tailor-made for the current Mickey Dolenz and Mike Nesmith band.
The lead track on celebrated vinyl version of Sunny Side Down, “All You Gotta Do” blends chiming strummed guitar chords with deep booming drums and an instantly hooky melody. A love song from both the pick-up line perspective and we’ve got to get out of this place attitude. “If you’re feeling tired, and kicking around – waiting for some action in this dead dog town. You need a guy like me to break you out of your shell. So come on over here night and day and ring my bell.” Which ultimately leads to a soaring chorus that concludes “we can turn this town to ash, ‘cause I think you and I are the perfect match – all you gotta do is come around.” Special props to guitarist Taylor Short and bassist Adam Roth for their killer playing on this one.
That is immediately followed by the introspective “Corners Of Your Mind” (which coincidentally is the following track on the album). “Glide like a bluebird, climbing high – searching for sunshine” are the opening lyrics set to gently strummed guitar. With the full band in motion, the call to “rise like a phoenix from the fire” as you “search for paradise” is presented. Familiar Crozer themes of “redemption” are revisited while making note that “life can take you way beyond” the limitations you put on yourself.
Another Sunny gem is A-Side featured “Toxic Town,” with its quicker stride and overall wistful atmosphere evoking first-wave British invasion classics like Chad and Jeremy’s "A Summer Song" and “I Go to Pieces” by Peter and Gordon. The universal tale is told of desiring to leave a soul-stifling town that can only offer “sad memories and shells of burnt out factories.” The chorus provides emotional uplift via beautiful chord structure and lyrical hope indicating the “light beyond” and now being “a perfect day to make a getaway.”
A slightly unsettling mood is set with within the pop confines of Sunny’s side 1 closer “Haunted Head.” Though the 1-2, 1-2 chord progression moves things along with a mid-tempo pace, a disquieting sentiment shimmers within the sound. Describing those sleepless moments that “keeps me awake with thoughts and emotions” the memorable hook high-point “oh I think it’s alive” turns apprehension into beauty.
Introducing the next song, Mark started out by saying “those of you who follow professional wrestling might recognize this one.” With that, the ominous bass notes begin and we are treated to a live rendition of "Live In Fear (Broken Out In Love)." This song is known worldwide as WWE superstar Bray Wyatt discovered and chose this song for his entrance music. Wyatt said that when he heard the song for the first time, he knew it was perfect for his character. “As soon as I heard the bass line a spark happened,” he said. “It was magic. He was able to capture a mood in a melody. The mood is very eerie.” One of the more mysterious Crozer compositions, lines like “catching flies in his mouth -tasting freedom while he dares - then crawling back to the top of the stairs” (are we talking about a frog here?) and “like a cat without a care - roaming freely through the streets - you could find him in amongst the pigeons in the square” make for delightfully curious imagery.
Following that was the obscure gem “Dig That Funky Meat,” which benefits from Taylor’s distinct guitar melodies and Donnie’s deep tom-tom drumming.
Pulling one more from the 2012 Rels debut album, “War Drum” features tandem-strummed guitar chords, a singular driving bass line and a call to “get up” and head to “the battlefield.” There's even a "whooo hoooo" moment and harmonica solo straight out of The Beatles "Love Me Do."
Final song of the night was also Sunny Side’s album closer “Say Hello.” At over five minutes in length, there’s a slow burn buildup to this one, allowing room for psychedelic guitar noodling. The overall trippy feel that slides between introspective thoughts and mescaline-in-the-desert visions that may involve seeing visitors from other planets. While waiting for those elusive space aliens to make a proper greeting, the band begins to chug harder with Shawn’s guitar and Donnie’s drums building in intensity. The final minute is a full on rave-up, as each player thunders out with all they’ve got.
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Although a band can’t play every song from one album alone – even if it’s the most recent one (opting to fill out the set with tracks from their entire catalog), it would have been nice to hear LP B-side lead-off cut “Here Comes The Storm.” When previewing this particular night’s show on The Deli Magazine, I was able to focus on that song as well.
The shared joy of a combined Jesus And Mary Chain / Mark Crozer And The Rels show
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That's me being torn at the seams - going mad in the middle of a dream
Instagram reaches around the entire globe
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This site's previous feature on The Jesus And Mary Chain can be found Here
While one on Mark Crozer And The Rels can be found Here
Visit Planting Seeds Records for additional information.
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