Brian Jonestown Massacre
Concorde 2 – Brighton, 10th October 2018
Reviewed by Gavin Juniper
Arriving in a damp, warm, late-afternoon Brighton in early autumn, I am thinking of climate change and how so much has changed along the south coast since I first spent the odd weekend here in the 1980s. I’m looking forward to what I hope will be an overdose of odd this evening in the presence of one of the world’s favourite cult musical groups, Brian Jonestown Massacre.
21 years since they first alighted in England and with many line-up changes bar the co-frontmen Anton Newcombe and Joel Gion, this chaotic, prolific ensemble guarantees only one thing; that there are no guarantees. They can fall apart, fight, be shambolic or, as they would this evening, churn out a lush and exuberant coming together of musicians and audience.
At 8.45 the band wander onstage, tune up and the ritual begins. There are tantalising moments, the crowd is teased by what may be a flashpoint. Joel looks moody. Anton asks if he is okay. Feedback, something out of tune and a look from Anton could possibly turn into a kicked amp or thrown guitar. The mood turns though and becomes jovial, then loving, ultimately producing a sunburst of tone with multiple walls of sound, which caresses the audience into a small sea of rising tides. The anthem Who kicks in and the crowd join in, loudly and joyfully. This is not
The Grateful Dead, this is the glad to be alive. Anton laughs and chats in a deliberately over the top English accent. When a driving licence is handed up onto the stage after coming loose from a dancing pocket he reads it and says, “Yer middle name’s Alfred? Mine as well. I like that name, mate. Here you go Alfie.”
Even the occasionally extended gaps between songs feel part of the experience. The wait for the next rush and high. Anton has honed his craft and faced down his multiple demons then released them in spurts of intense creativity. The two hour set, with far too many songs to namecheck, ends with Yeah Yeah and A Word in a nova of seven guitars, voices and percussion. No encore. We’ve been treated to a good one tonight, there are no guarantees.
As I leave I see at least 20 people I know from Hastings. It’d be nice to have a venue the size and shape of the Concorde 2 here, but then again sometimes a journey out of town is all the more rewarding. The hour or so it takes to get home is just about the right amount of time to come down from this high.
• Brian Jonestown Massacre return to Brighton Concorde 2 on October 24th. Their latest LP is Something Else, released earlier in 2018.
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