I walked into the bar adjoining the Edinburgh Corn Exchange eagerly anticipating my first Scottish crowd of the New Year. Scottish crowds add a little something extra to a live event for me. They make their voices heard like Roman Emperors. If you get the thumbs up you'll be a success for years, if you get the thumbs down then split the band and move to Argentina! But tonight something felt different. It wasn't the usual mad squad crowd I had come to expect from Scotland and then suddenly, I understood what music and age meant.
Tonight The Jesus and Mary Chain played 'Psycho Candy' at the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh. The bar was full of young and old. Original fans from the 80’s and 90’s and people like me, later followers of The Jesus and Mary Chain. But something didn't quite seem normal; everybody looked the same. It was a sea of leather and tight washed denim jackets, over-sized-chimney-sweep-extras-from-Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang-or-Mary-Poppins hats, but most of all; a lack of originality. An 80’s themed night that went something like this:
"Mate, are you going to the Mary Chain gig next week"?
"Aye, what are you going to wear? I've just bought my outfit".
The vintage shops must have made a killing. After some time we made our way into the venue and set camp centre stage. There was a lively buzz about the black leather and denim jackets and an excitement was growing. The stage was covered in a thick fog, the lights came on, and the Mary Chain staggered on stage. The enigmatic albeit less curly haired Jim Reid gave the crowd tonight's itinerary.
"We are going to play a mini set of 6 songs, take a short 2 minute break, and then we will play psychocandy in its entirety".
An itinerary? I never thought I'd hear such a transgression from the original shoegazers, but then I also never thought I'd see a middle-aged man with a t-shirt saying 'c**t' on it . It was bound to be a strange one.
The jaggy guitars began and a loyal following of fans sang out "hey honey what you trying to say" as the Mary Chain played their first song of the night 'April Skies'. The mini set was proving a great success and by the time they reached the final track, their first single 'Upside Down', there was a real sense of euphoria amongst the multi-aged mono-dressed crowd.
The band took 2 minutes off stage as promised and everybody flooded out to get a drink. It gave a rare mid-gig moment time to reflect upon what was a good but strange evening so far. As I scribbled notes down I began to understand the strange clothing phenomena going on tonight and I saw it in a different light. People were dressing to celebrate the music, and there was something quite sweet about that. The leather jacket clad guy kissing his girl to their favourite song, the mad older faces analysing everything in the room or the young teenagers practising a youth culture which didn't even belong to them. It was intriguing, unoriginal, but it was sweet.
As we reached the front of the queue and ordered our drinks the familiar noise of 'Just Like Honey' reached our ears and 'Psycho Candy' began. 'Psycho candy', released as the band's first album in 1985 is a genre defining record of noise and guitar fuzz. It's a monumental and potent achievement in alternative rock history, but it does take effort to listen to. Often melody is masked by a terrific wall of noise and given its conceptual album identity, you could be forgiven for thinking of it as one long 39 minute song.
This is exactly how the Mary Chain portrayed the album tonight, playing each track through in order and giving a true live album experience. There were some excellent moments throughout, too. Highlights included 'Taste of Cindy' and 'You Trip Me Up', shouts of ‘Jesus’ or ‘Candy’ and the distinctive upwards flick of Reid's intonation made for beautiful hearing. However, all too often during the second half of the gig I found myself thinking about things other than the music.
"I just want to say thanks for coming, and I hope you enjoyed it” ended Reid at the end of the night. And I did enjoy it, but something wasn’t quite right about the whole thing. Amongst the disguises of the dressed crowd and the smoke covered stage there was an identity age crisis going on here. The young wanted to be old and the old wanted to be young, and quite frankly, The Jesus and Mary Chain just wanted to sell tickets. But in the end, a mild sense of beauty did emerge from everybody tonight gathering to be the Jesus and Mary SAME.
Jesus and Mary Chain, Corn Exchange, Edinburgh, 6/10.