On Wednesday night, Scottish noise royalty the Jesus and Mary Chain made their stop in Houston in support of their recent — and their first in 18 years — album Damage and Joy. Prior to entering the venue, with tickets around $40 or so, had me thinking about the turnout. I mean, would the audience present be the same younger people that saw them at Day For Night back in 2016? Or would it be an older audience with more disposable income? It was the latter, by the way. Regardless, I was enthusiastic about seeing the band that produced an album (Psychocandy) that I consider to be pretty flawless, though I knew they would not play 15 minutes and proceed to cause a riot like they did in 1985 while touring on that one.
Around 8 pm New York City’s The Dig started the evening off. I walked in around 7:45 pm, and I was joined with the other 100-or so people in attendance. I immediately thought that the turnout was going to be lackluster. And throughout much of the Dig’s set, that remained true. While it was not a bad performance, I am going to suppose that they did not turn many heads around. I guess the problem, to me, was that it was generic. I mean, the Jesus and Mary Chain have never been generic, so why should their opener be, you know? But this didn’t trip me up; I was still pumped to see Jim and William Reid make their signature noise. Towards the end of the Dig’s set, the crowd size had significantly increased, and the night’s total probably ended up being around 400 (the second floor had been closed off, mind you). While it would have been a lot cooler to have a more intense band open for the band (perhaps A Place to Bury Strangers again), the crowd cheered, but they were ready to see the Scots.
9:10 pm came, the spotlights flashed, the band took their spots. It was time. This was my second-and-a-half time seeing them, and I was ready. Jim kept to himself as usual and limited the small-talk throughout the entire show (besides a complaint about a light being too bright). They went straight into the track “Amputation,” off Damage and Joy. I think opening with a new track — and this applies to every band that tries to branch out from their sound that got them on the map — is a good idea because it sets the tone for most of the songs that will be done that night. I think their new record is well made; it’s catchy, the production value is good, and I think of it as a matured sound, but that’s all the exact opposite of Psychocandy. Their set only contained two songs off of that album, both of which were in the six-song encore.
Following “Amputation,” the band went into Darkland’s “April Skies.” The audience at this point started to relive their teenage years, and I saw a large portion of the crowds lip-sync to this one. After this, however, the band went on to do five consecutive songs off the new album until “Far Gone Far Out” began. The setlist was heavy with new work, which was to be totally expected. However, the fact that it contained some deep cuts was also pretty cool to see.
While it has been decades since the Reid’s and Bobby Gillespie caused mayhem at a show in England with guitars way out of tune, primitive-style drumming and vocals barely loud enough to hear, the Jesus and Mary Chain have once again proved that they deserve their spot in musical importance. If it takes the band another 18 years to release a new record, fans will still be interested in hearing it, and they will see the shows (if the band is not in wheelchairs in 18 years, that is).