Concert review: The Jesus and Mary Chain unchanged

The Jesus and Mary Chain performed the first of a two-night run at Tel Aviv’s Barbie club.

The Jesus and Mary Chain 370 (photo credit: Laura Kelly)
The Jesus and Mary Chain 370
(photo credit: Laura Kelly)
The Jesus and Mary Chain performed the first of a two-night run at Tel Aviv’s Barbie club on Thursday night.
The Scottish band, whose only two consistent members are brothers Jim and William Reid, were part of the pop-punk movement of the 1980s. Their appeal stemmed from catchy melodies layered over by strong guitar and percussion, aided by disenchanted vocals, both in style and lyrics. The formula fit their image as “youth in revolt” and reflected the times.
Fast-forward 30 years, to Tel Aviv, 2012. I had my preconceptions on the way to the concert. I didn’t think 50-year-old men could connect with a sound and a style that was characterized solely by being young and disenchanted with the state of the world.
The brothers took to the stage with close-cropped hair, William a head of gray, Jim, more of a salt and pepper. Both wore worn-out sneakers, ill-fitting jeans, plain tshirts and blazers. Blazers! Were they intending to make a good impression on the rag-tag gang of hooligans in the audience? They came on stage, sans opening act, to raucous applause. They opened with “Snakedriver” and continued into one of their most popular hits, “Head On.”
The sound was great, Jim’s vocals possessing the same worldweariness it had at 20. From William’s guitar emanated the noise the band was famous for; it pounded your ears and reverberated through your skin.
While the band harkened back to their classic sound, the audience was more surreal, an eclectic mix of old and young. Middle-aged rockers stretched their limbs and cracked their backs; they stuck to the edges while a mosh pit was convened by sweaty, smelly twentysomethings.
I couldn’t resist jumping straight into the mosh-pit myself. It reminded me of going to rock concerts when I was 14 at Christian youth groups in my small Long Island town.
Occasionally during breaks in the music, Jim would try bantering with the audience. He would mumble something in his heavy Scottish brogue and a heckler in the audience would retort, “We can’t understand a word your saying!” With a careless shrug the band launched into the rest of their set. They finished out the first part with “Happy When It Rains,” “Halfway to Crazy” and finally “Reverence” before exiting the stage.
Despite the run-of-the-mill performance the entire first set had been, the encore was a special treat. Maybe at the realization that there’s only so much excitement five middle-aged musicians can muster, help was enlisted through one-raven haired Israeli beauty.
Ninet Tayeb, also known as Israel’s first reality TV pop-idol, took to the stage to accompany the band on “9 Million Rainy Days.” The addition of a beautiful young woman brought out the best in Jim Reid. Tayeb’s soulful, raspy vocals complemented Reid’s dark and ominous melancholy.
The two continued with “Just Like Honey” before Tayeb took a bow, embraced Reid, and gracefully departed from the stage.
To what end do members of a band this age still need to be playing the music they made in their twenties? As clearly seen by the dedicated fans, it doesn’t matter the time or the place, it’s the feeling and memories the music elicits that makes it worthwhile.
It remained unresolved whether the Jesus and Mary Chain were just trying to squeeze out the last bit of success they can, or they truly were happy to be back on stage,. But it was clear that everyone at the Barbie was happy to have them there.