Live Review: Jim Bob and Jesus Jones

Jesus Jones were absolutely back on form last night at O2 Islington Academy. Supported by a great set from Carter USM's Jim Bob up first, the gig was a definite crowd-pleaser and gave the two Gigseen attendees cheesy grins all round. So once again a dual-authored review is in order ...

jim bob: (grim)

I may have mentioned before that I'm a bit of a sucker for the 'one bloke + guitar' school of performance. You don't get to muffle or hide your talent (or lack thereof) in such situations and luckily for listeners, the potential for complete engagement is high.

I've been a Carter fan since gawd-knows how long, but last time I saw them live was at Reading in 1991! Since then I may not have pogo-ed like a lunatic ever quite as much as that day - but there's been times I've forced friends (sometimes strangers) to sit down and listen properly to one or more Carter albums to show what truly brilliant lyricism sounds like. At its best; poetry you can headbang to.

Jim Bob's warm-up for Jesus Jones was no disappointment then for me at all. Nothing like it whatsover. Looking respectably sharp nowadays, Mr. Morrison easily carried off a 10-song acoustic set including a good few Carter classics familiar to me (Anytime Anyplace Anywhere, Prince In A Pauper's Grave, Bloodsport for All, Do Re Me, So Far So Good and Only Living Boy in New Cross) plus others such as Glam Rock Cops, The Tesco Riots, Victim and Mrs MacMurphy that I'd not heard before, but are now firmly added to my must-follow-up list.

A few little stories and banter between tunes was appreciated, particularly when it was pointed out that Jim's guitar lead was of that 'iron flex' style popular in Grannys' cupboards during the 1970s. In humiliation, it broke shortly afterwards and was shamed ... and replaced. Such minor glitches aside, I really enjoyed Jim Bob's set, a spot on show from someone I've always thought had a hint of genius. I think, once I've done my homework and chased up the material I've missed out on, I'll be heading out for another decent night out later this year seeing Jim Bob on tour as a top-biller.

jesus jones: (neil)

If I were reviewing the gig on Twitter I’d throw something like this out. "Great gig, had a few beers, met a hot blonde (Hi Toni), GREAT BAND!!! love Jesus Jones, danced and sang a lot, awesome!", and still have a dozen or so characters to throw out a few LOL’s and XOXOXO or whatever the kids do nowadays.

Which brings me to my point. The kids are all out tweeting and talking about Skrillex or some other clever kid who links great pop infused tunes to high-energy danceable pop loveliness, and it’s about time somebody gave them a quick education on the history of these coolest of new sounds. If we plot that said family tree back a few years (OK, 20 odd years), sitting proudly near the roots of this would sit the band we were here to see, Jesus Jones.

The band rattled through a blistering 20 song set that kept those of us at the front bouncing around all night long. Let’s be clear, I’m biased, I like the band, I have all their albums, they aren’t going to get a bad review, it was genuinely great to see them onstage (last time I saw them was at the Kentish Town forum around 1991). Although the band came on with an energetic punch, they did look a tad uncomfortable for the first two songs of the set, maybe it was just them finding their feet, but with the announcement of International Bright Young Thing it dissipated and a much more relaxed band started to appear and got stronger and stronger as the set went on.

This uncomfortable start shouldn’t be considered a negative. Taking into account that it was only the second gig they’ve played in the last few months these guys put on a good performance of a level that would suggest they rehearse regularly and didn’t take a ten plus year sabbatical. The reality is that maybe a handful of rehearsals would have taken place with bassist Al Doughty now being a resident of the Chicago area. Then take into account that these guys (bar baby drummer Tony Arthy) are ‘approaching’ 50 years old – sorry guys! And it was nothing short of amazing to watch the energy and commitment that went into the set. Keys and sample man, Iain Baker losing none of the ‘dancing like a loon’ element that we remembered so well from the 90’s. Sure there was the odd bad note, forgotten lyric and knowing look to say "that wasn’t meant to happen...", but that’s what is so good about live music, it should be chaotic, it should be full of surprises, humour and humility. Tonight did not disappoint.

Guitarist Jerry De Borg (recently announced as the newest guitarist with The Wonder Stuff), Tony Arthy and ‘bouncy’ Al Doughty who didn't stand still at all during the set, hold everything together, letting lead singer, Mike Edwards step away from the limelight and get lost in the music once and a while. Iain Baker seems to gel the whole thing together on stage. Some keyboard players are lucky they have jobs. In most cases a laptop with a basic screensaver would be a more entertaining addition to the band onstage, but not in Jesus Jones, Baker knocks out those noises and hits the keys (normally with the keyboard on its side) with a ton of energy. Whilst in-between what can only be described as keyboard abuse he prowls the stage almost possessed (it’s that or he’s busy practicing for a cameo in the next 'Planet of the Apes' film), either way he makes his presence felt unlike most other keyboard players.

So to come full circle and conclude, many bands of today could show homage to Jesus Jones and their pop/dance contemporaries (they may not know it, but their 'new' sound is part of an 'old' one). But in return, and just as exciting, you can hear the bands Jesus Jones love filtered into their music too, from an AC/DC inspired guitar riff (Mike Edwards seemed to add something extra to his performance when he hit the overdrive on his amp) to a synth sound that wouldn’t be out of place in a classic Neu! track, there are many influences that the band soaked up, which in turn they made their own and flourished with the albums Liquidizer and Doubt.

Move forward to 2012 and they may not be the biggest or best-known band in the world, but they’ve genuinely played their part in music. So whatever the reason for their annual get-togethers and gigs, long may they do it for us, the fans! Mike Edwards summed the night up perfectly when he said;

"We’ll play some songs for our benefit, some songs that are really for your benefit, and the odd one or two that perhaps is mutual appreciation."

(See the full Jesus Jones setlist and a 'bootleg' podcast of dubious recording quality over at Grim's Mixcloud page.)

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