At the House of Blues last night, the Jesus and Mary Chain validated those who love them and those never cared.
Rule Number One: No band should have three sport coats onstage unless it has a horn section to wear them. It's the fall-back wardrobe choice for older bands - a jacket hides those extra pounds - but despite the guitar roar, the Jesus and Mary Chain looked more likely to deconstruct Prufrock than rock 'n' roll.
One of the surprises at the band's show at the House of Blues was that there were more people there who discovered the band through 1989's Automatic than through 1985's Psychocandy. The other was how largely seamless their sound was, so that songs from albums as different Psychocandy, Darklands and Automatic sounded of a piece. Sonically, the distortion was a little tepid at the start of the set, but by 15 minutes in, there was a pretty good roar going on, crusting basic pop songs with an inch or so of racket.
Pity singer Jim Reid (wearing one of the offending jackets over a Monkees T-shirt). Standing in the middle of all that noise clearly tested his ability to hear himself and sing on key, though he never went obviously off-key despite the challenge. He never seemed to know what to do with himself onstage, which seemed odd after more than 20 years of performing. In fact, the band remains largely detached in concert, with only William Reid moving - in a black T-shirt! - while playing guitar. The bottom line is that they don't offer the audience anything but their sound, much of which is set in similar tempos. As such, the show was only slightly longer than an hour and it didn't feel short. They could do more songs, but there wasn't much left to say.
Fortunately, what they do is powerful. Their whine and feedback doesn't need lyrics like "I want to die just like Jesus Christ" to seem dangerous and subversive. Even the most commonplace love song would sound unhealthy in their hands, partially because their sound is also a little sexy with its basic dance-rock throb. Musically, the Jesus and Mary Chain still don't sound good for you, though it's easier to notice that if you look away from the history profs onstage.