in performance: the jesus and mary chain

the jesus and mary chain: william and jim reid.

It’s nothing for a veteran band to act (or, at least, pretend to) like it was still in its creative and commercial heyday. Last night at Buster’s, in a headlining performance for the 4th annual Boomslang festival, The Jesus and Mary Chain performed and behaved as if the post-punk days of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s were still in fashion.

The musical ambience certainly replicated the era, as evidenced by the textured, industrial tinged pop of songs like Far Gone and Out and Halfway to Crazy as well as by the very purposeful between-song guitar squalls of William Reid that became more prominent as the evening wore on.

One could also detect a few outside inspirations from contemporaries like Echo and the Bunnyman (during the stoic Between Planets) and even forefathers like The Velvet Underground (Some Candy Talking) and The Doors (the roaring set closer Reverence). Mostly, the performance embraced alternative pop as it existed two decades ago in all its detached glory. Nothing, it seems, has changed.

Unfortunately, that also went for the stage demeanor of vocalist Jim Reid (the guitarist’s brother). He was a capable enough frontman, but the trappings – the tossing about of microphone stands, the obscenity-laden between-song mumbling – seemed juvenile 20 years ago. Last night, the bratty behavior came across as a tired gimmick, a variation of perfunctory rock star posturing.

There were certainly intriguing moments, including an encore segment devoted to a trio of roaring tunes from The Jesus and Mary Chain’s1985 debut album, Psychocandy (The Hardest Walk, Taste of Cindy and Never Understand) and the bass-propelled rocker Blues from a Gun (from the underrated 1989 album Automatic)

Mostly, though, this Boomslang finale was a pure nostalgia ride, a sometimes giddy, sometimes dispiriting glimpse of an alt-pop attitude from another age.

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