Earplug manufacturers were popping the champagne last night, for The Jesus and Mary Chain are back. Long before the Gallaghers, another pair of brothers was knocking seven bells out of each other under the guidance of manager Alan McGee. But unlike Oasis, Jim and William Reid traded in the kind of brutal, impenetrable indie rock that made your parents run, not buy their albums too.
The Scottish pair’s debut album, Psychocandy, had a title that sums up the sound: William’s war zone of guitar feedback all but burying Jim’s vocal melodies. It is now almost 30 years old and sounds both older – with its nods to the sweet darkness of The Velvet Underground and two songs that nab Phil Spector’s Be My Baby drumbeat – and as fresh and daring as anything new today.
It was played in full here, a setlist structure that is becoming standard at almost every gig by an older band. But this was no cosy nostalgia trip. They did it upside down, with a seven-song “encore” played first to ensure that Psychocandy was last. The debut single Upside Down was particularly intense in that segment, with the kind of squalling backdrop that would ordinarily send roadies sprinting on to try to fix the problem.
Other songs such as The Living End and Never Understand wouldn’t win any beauty contests, but somewhere in the eye of the storm was a pop heart which was fully exposed on the calmer, exquisite Just Like Honey. It was an overwhelming battle of good and evil, but as the girl in front of me proved, it is possible to dance with your fingers in your ears.