You never knew with the Jesus and Mary Chain, right? The brooding Scottish fuzzmeisters could be sloppy and quarrelsome, or they could be cocksure and compelling. On Thursday night at the Belmont for Paste magazine’s SXSW showcase, the quintet helmed by brothers Jim and William Reid tended toward the latter.
The biggest calamity to befall JAMC — playing their first North American gig since 2008 — came when an almost-naked youth (wearing only black bikini briefs) jumped onstage midway through the hour-long performance. A stagehand summarily hurled him back into the crowd. “Who the f*ck was that guy?” Jim Reid deadpanned before the band launched into “Cracking Up.” “And how is he gonna get home?”
Jim wore a Monkees T-shirt beneath his suit coat as a nod to the late Davy Jones; William (that’s his setlist in the gallery) seemed intent on minding his business, a study in concentration while bandmates eyed him warily as if expecting a meltdown. There was rust, to be sure, but the only major hiccup came during a false start on “Sidewalking.” ‘Oh f*ck,” Jim told him, “you’d better tune.’
The capacity crowd ate it up. They got to see their heroes in a cozy courtyard space, backlit in blue and green, at earsplitting volume. Visa issues had forced the band to cancel a Wednesday evening appearance in Austin, so anticipation was high among many fans (some of whom, by the way, showed outright contempt for the preceding band, Titus Andronicus, even though the New Jersey punk band played one of the most viciously good and technically dazzling sets we’ve seen at SXSW).
Now if the Jesus and Mary Chain could see fit to unveil that album of new music that’s been on the back burner for years …