With no support band on the bill, Brian Jonestown Massacre arrive onstage at 9pm, front man Anton Newcombe apologising and thanking the audience for being patient. From the very first song, he is chastising the other members of band calling out, “Slow down, please. Slow down”. Following this song, Anton spends a few moments indecipherable but clearly criticising long-term band member Joel Gion’s tambourine playing on the previous song and then announces, “This guitar sucks”. This is a man unconcerned with airing his grievances with the band in public. A couple of songs later he makes a clarification about having had vocal issues due to having lost his voice and being prescribed steroids which have almost rectified the situation and is noticed throughout the set to using a medicinal spray like it’s a breath freshener. He makes later asides about not being able to bring the whole instrument set up on tour due to luggage carriage restrictions and there is a rambling almost stream of consciousness monologue encompassing the attitude of expecting an encore and American food serve sizes being too large and leading to an obesity epidemic.
Enough about Anton’s idiosyncrasies for a moment though as this was a Brian Jonestown Massacre gig so I should address the music. This is a band to see for their reputation and their songs but maybe not necessarily for quality. Even the new songs sound familiar with most songs barely differing from one to the next. Anton explains that some of the songs being performed are from two new albums released this year, the first Something Else released days ago and the second to be released later in the year. This explains the lyric sheets on a music stand in front of Anton that a 60s Keith Richards lookalike roadie continually exchanges throughout the performance. It is this roadie that almost seems to be Anton’s only ally and minder, rushing out on stage to pick up the microphone after Anton drops it abruptly to fiddle at the settings on his guitar amp. He appears to console and give Anton a hug following a heated exchange later in the set when Anton complains about the band’s quality of performance and brings up something about an appearance on the David Letterman Show.
The other members of the band remain stone-faced so as not to exacerbate Anton but Joel gives a sly glance to the audience and rolls his eyes when Anton turns away. Anyone who has seen the documentary film Dig! would be well aware of the dynamic between Anton and the rest of the band and it comes to mind that it would be interesting to see a Some Kind of Monster style follow up. I consider the signs that the band is in a domestic abuse relationship with Anton and am surprised that the band hasn’t folded for good long before now. Anton is actually quite respectful and apologetic to the audience for equipment and technical issues and in an awkward exchange with a woman in the front offering him her drink, he takes it and gargles before spitting it back and returning it to her.
Although not always giving Anton a pass for his behaviour towards the other members of the band, the audience were certainly enjoying the show but I couldn’t be sure if I have seen them play better in the past or if tonight was just more of the same. The two and a quarter hour set ended with a suitable maelstrom of distortion, Anton playing faux slide guitar up against his microphone stand before most of the band left the stage. For another couple of minutes the drummer Dan Allaire continued while Anton orchestrated a cacophony of feedback that almost drowned out the audience’s final applause before they followed the rest of the band backstage and concluded the set, not returning to encore, understandably given Anton had earlier voiced his opinion on the expected tradition.
Review by Jason Leigh
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