Domino Records’ Spinning Coin were the first support in what was an epic and tight evening at Leith Theatre with Jesus and Mary Chain top billing, but those supports were not to be sniffed at. Honeyblood were more than the sum of their roaring two piece, more of them in a moment.
Do we sense years of live music frustration in Edinburgh reaching a kind of accretion that is forging these great nights? If this kind of joy continues we will no longer be the bridesmaid, (it seems like for years we’ve not even been at the wedding) but will Edinburgh handle it? Will the city fathers kill it? Young Fathers, Mogwai and Jesus and Mary Chain in the space of a few weeks… This venue was naturally sweaty and packed and there were posters in the venue celebrating Kraftwerk and ACDC from way back in the day – a heritage I didn’t fully appreciate, but please, keep this momentum up.
Anyway, Spinning Coin. Such a hard job for them to set up this night of high expectation and their material for this reviewer seemed heartfelt but didn’t always move me until a particular number with a kind of rallying chorus/refrain of Walk into The Walls! manifested. My notes say something about a ghost train. The vocals on this number were delivered with much vibrato, powered by some Apache war shriek. I wanted more of this, much more because such vocals sets this act apart – and I was willing them just to go a little further, a little wilder. It’s in there. I’m excited by what they might emit next.
Likewise and even more so, with the mighty Honeyblood. My notes say ‘try to write about them without mentioning gender’ and I really want to, because they don’t need such bulls**t, especially from a 47 year old man, but Christ, what role models for dads with daughters of which I am one. Cat Myers on drums pulled the wool over my eyes at one point because I thought a bassline was coming from some digital source of unknown origin, but no! she was drumming drums and a raspy synth line at the same time, whilst Stina on guitar and epic sized vocals served up rallying choruses of dinosaur joy as my son used to say when he was two. They were well loved and deservedly so.
Even under the genteel presentation of The Edinburgh International Festival and the brilliantly artsy Hidden Door team, The Jesus and Mary Chain demonstrated they are still the paradox of an explosive device and a packet of diazepam at the same time. Shards of alabaster were rocked from Leith Theatre’s proscenium arch and sunglasses were not always present.
The overriding feeling of the gig was that this is not a nostalgia act in the sense that, although there was definitely nostalgia, they delivered what the nostalgia was about in the first place and also did it with more recent material, which is no mean feat. Opening with Amputation from 2017’s Damage and Joy, the blistering set that followed both delivered on classic moments but also managed to be a relevant evening of big noise without acting grandiose, the trademark stance from the Reid brothers et al.
Jim Reid appeared in silhouette for most of the night, well-framed by the banks of floodlights, strobes and trademark fog, where the nihilism of Blues from a Gun never sounded so joyful. Even the more plaintive moments of Under April Skies and the anthemic part-encore of Some Candy Talking were not without incendiary sensations but for this reviewer it was a great rendition of I Hate Rock and Roll and a crowd pleasing version of Head-On that made me do a happy dance of which I did most of the evening.
I’m no JAMC scholar and I’m aware that many reading this will be – but I am usually disappointed at late-career / anniversary gigs – but what made this night special was that it wasn’t one of those. For a band that takes two decades between records, there was a sense of relevance and potency to JAMC in 2018 here in Edinburgh and it felt right that this heritage was recognised by EIF.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Buchanan.
For more on the Edinburgh International Festival’s Light On the Shore programme click here.