The Jesus and Mary Chain sound ‘Just Like Honey’ at Riviera Theatre


kelly Wenzel

Brothers Jim (vocals) and William (Guitar) Reid formed The Jesus and Mary Chain in 1983 and composed all of the band’s six albums, starting with 1985’s Psychocandy. 

By Arts & Culture Editor

The United Kingdom is responsible for producing several famous sibling-based rock bands throughout the last few decades, including Dave and Ray Davies of The Kinks, Jonny and Colin Greenwood of Radiohead and Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis. Debatably the most important sibling-fronted act to come out of the British Isles is distortion-backed pop group The Jesus and Mary Chain. Led by brothers Jim (vocals) and William Reid (guitar), the band played a packed show on May 5 at the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine Ave.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, originally hailing from East Kilbride, Scotland, is best known for its 1985 debut album Psychocandy, which the band has been playing in its entirety on its tour in honor of the album’s 30th anniversary. Psychocandy marked the dawn of a newer, darker brand of pop music that would encapsulate the 1980s and survive to this day, particularly with the album’s opening track “Just Like Honey,” which samples the iconic drum beat of “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes—perhaps producer Phil Spector’s magnum opus—and pairs it with melty, distorted guitar strums that sum up The Jesus and Mary Chain sound.

The group took to the stage with audible praise from the audience and began its Chicago performance with minimal greetings, playing “April Skies” off of its second album, 1987’s Darklands. Standing stoically in place with Jim Reid at the front of the stage, The Jesus and Mary Chain matched the melancholic enthusiasm of its mostly somber, poorly lit music videos of the 1980s. This was a far cry from the band’s earlier shows, which were loud, fast and rough, reportedly lasting only 20 minutes and often ending in violence.

To combat the band’s more mature, less aggressive stage presence, the first part of the performance was overrun with billowing smoke and persistent, mind-numbing strobe lights. 

After a brief intermission, The Jesus and Mary Chain returned to the stage to the “Boom, boom boom, tish,” drum beat of “Just Like Honey,” producing an eruption from fans, many of whom have waited a lifetime to see it performed live. Flooded with a red aura from the stage lights, The Jesus and Mary Chain dreamily released its dark love song upon the audience, most of whom were singing along. 

Without much pause, The Jesus and Mary Chain played through Psychocandy, with all 14 tracks sequenced in the order of the album and perfectly echoing it in the process. From the buzzing “Taste the Floor” to the haunting “Sowing Seeds,” the Reid brothers led the crowd hand-in-hand through the gloomy, melodic masterpiece the fans came to see.

Jim Reid seldom spoke during the performance. He finally broke his silence to thank the audience for joining the band in the playing of the iconic album before introducing “It’s So Hard,” the closing tune of both the album and the show.

Playing historic albums front to back has been somewhat of a trend in the last few years for many bands who have entered the reunion phase of their careers. Psychocandy is one of those albums fans of underground music can now mark off of their “performances to see” list. 

The Jesus and Mary Chain formed like many other bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s in the United Kingdom, picking up their instruments after seeing revolutionary and infamous performances of bands such as the Sex Pistols. In turn, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Psychocandy did the same for another generation of musicians. 

The importance of Psychocandy and albums like it can still be seen today in groups who borrow the dark, pop sensibilities such as Trailer Trash Tracys and Gliss, and the appreciation of the fans who witnessed a monumental album performance at the Riviera Theatre.