In the midst of our latest cold snap, upon the grounds of White Oak Music Hall, those of us in attendance were there for one and one reason only; to catch a glimpse of Scotland's The Jesus & Mary Chain. Here in support of their latest offering, this year's Damage and Joy the brothers Reid were set to give what would be the best time I'd caught the band in all of the times I'd caught them perform live.
While New York's The Dig played an admirable set as direct support for the tour, it was obvious judging how the crowd reacted that most didn't really care about the openers. The truth is, it wouldn't matter who opened this show up, as the audience was stark when I appeared 30 minutes after the doors were opened, and they didn't really start to fill the downstairs of the venue until halfway through The Dig's set. The bulk of the audience, Houstonians ranging between late thirties and late forties made their way inside and eagerly awaited for the band to walk onto the stage.
When the band did take the stage, they didn't wast time getting to it. After a brief hello, the band launched into the lead song off of their new album, "Amputation." The song sounded on point, and was a great way for the band to start the evening. This was before they turned back the clock to perform "April Skies" off of their second album Darklands. The band kept the crowd happy by performing fan favorite "Head On," which ironically sounded about as close to it would have sounded live back when the song was released in 1989. It sounds silly, but Reid's vocals sounded amazing, almost as if he'd placed them into a time machine, and then retrieved them before the band took the stage each night.
The band then brought out guest vocalist Bernadette Denning to join him on the band's upbeat single, "Always Sad," which sounded pretty close to how it does on the band's newest release. However, Sky Ferreira wasn't brought onstage for the following track, "Black And Blues" as she is on the album. Nonetheless, the song sounded fantastic and helped showcase how far the band has come since their early more melancholy days. The dark and bluesy nature of "Mood Rider" where Reid's vocals have to sound softer than usual, sounded as precise as they do on the album.
Unlike the band's set at last year's Day For Night festival, guitarist William Reid really seemed to rein things in, never really going too far off of how the songs sound on the albums. While things stayed on point during "Far Gone And Out" from Honey's Dead, as well as on "Between Planets," that doesn't mean that the band was boring. While yes, this show was a bit more tame than what you might expect from a band that's grown to be known for being loud, they sounded like they were trying to prove how professional they are as performers. If that was the plan, then it certainly paid off.
When it came to "Snakedriver," however, those guitar squeals that William has become known for started to rear their heads and things started to sound like the band's younger selves. This continued into "Teenage Lust," where it felt like the band had found their groove, sounding sonic and reverb heavy while Jim sang like he did when I caught the band in the nineties. When the band got to "Cherry Came Too," it felt like it was time to slow things down a bit. Whenever Jim addressed the crowd, the talking of those in the crowd coupled with his heavy accent made what he was saying difficult to hear. However, when he sang, it was exactly how you wanted him to sound.
Launching into newer track "All Things Pass," the joy that seemed to overcome the band in performing newer songs was definitely felt by those in attendance who've followed the band for the decades they've been around. Intensely clutching the microphone stand as if it were a life force, the singer led the band through the group's catalog with ease while sounding fresher than you might expect. This joyous nature continued on "Some Candy Talking," and into "Half Way To Crazy." Fan favorite "Darklands," and set closer "Reverence" sounded better than they ever had in the multiple times I had seen the band perform.
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When they walked off the stage after saying goodnight, very few in attendance thought the show was actually over. After a very brief moment, the group returned to perform a blistering six song encore. Beginning with "Just Like Honey," from Pschocandy, it was obvious that they were just getting going. The brash guitar tones of "Cracking Up" were fevered and louder than on Munki, while the crazed intensity of "In A Hole" sounded better than you'd have expected all of these years later. With William Reid walking further away from the amplifiers than he had all evening, the guitar sounded like it might melt the speakers of the venue.
Even the more composed sounds of new track "War On Peace" came off like the band was showing how solid they were. Gone were the days when you couldn't make out where they were in the song, and the guitar danced just like it does on the album, full of lush tone and heavy reverb. They carried that heavier sound into "Sidewalking" with ease before closing with "I Hate Rock N Roll." By closing so strong, covering plenty of favorites in the encore, it was safe to say that nowadays the band is holding on to their more raucous side for the latter parts of the evening.
This was the best time I've caught these guys live. While they did steer clear of their album Stoned And Dethroned, it didn't really matter either. They still covered the bulk of their catalog without leaving much to desire. The band sounded better than I could have hoped for, and actually surprised me with how youthful and spry they played. The end result was a stellar performance from a band that doesn't need to prove anything, while showcasing how solid they can be in a live setting.