Jesus And Mary Chain Get Down To Munki Business

Well-amped Brit-poppers dragged their audience merrily through a low-energy mope-a-thon.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Jesus and Mary Chain's performance at the

Fillmore on Monday night sucked.

The Jesus and Mary Chain performance at the Fillmore on Monday night ruled.

Sometimes at exactly the same moment.

It was "the worst Jesus and Mary Chain show I've ever seen," said audience

member Chris Ward, 30.

"I'm really having a great time," said Markie McDonald, 25.

On this night, those reactions were not incompatible.

Here's something that was great about seeing the Jesus and Mary Chain: They

often began and ended their songs, many from their new album, Munki,

like they were still a bunch of 15-year-olds in a garage band, trying to get their

timing right by letting loose a few false starts and playing a bit with some

feedback. As they say in the hip-hop world, they're keeping it real, you know

what I'm saying?

Yet that same dickering around was completely maddening. It led many in the

audience to ask themselves, "Are they playing yet, or is that incessant plucking

of one note them tuning up?"

The answer to both, of course, is yes.

Here's another thing that was great about the Jesus and Mary Chain. They

didn't talk much between songs, and when they did, it was something pretty

snotty, such as "Stop being so polite," delivered in a really thick Scottish accent

that was practically drowned out by the above-mentioned noodling between

songs. Dude, how much more punk rock can you get?

Then again, the sporadic patter also dragged down the overall quality of the

show. I mean, should we chuckle along but secretly feel insulted by what they're

saying, or should we chuckle along and secretly feel annoyed that William Reid

is so absorbed with making guitar noise that we can't even hear what his

brother Jim is saying?

The answer to both, of course, is yes.

And so it was, at the Jesus and Mary Chain show at the Fillmore -- that is,

completely annoying yet incredibly engaging from beginning to end.

Singer Jim Reid attacked his vocals with the energy of a sleepy kitten slurping

up a saucer of milk, and guitarist William banged out chords with all the

liveliness of someone who'd much rather be doing something else.

"It used to be that they just acted like they didn't care," Ward said. "After tonight's

show, I know they don't care."

However, while the energy level from both the band and the audience was low,

the songs were still outstanding. It's a testament to the songwriting abilities of

the Reid brothers that the best songs of the set -- "I Hate Rock 'n' Roll," "I Love

Rock 'n' Roll," "Head On," "Supertramp" and "Reverence" -- exploded from the

stage in spite of the less-than-zero enthusiasm shown in performing them.

But the same low-mope level of energy ruined other songs, including "Sugar

Ray" and the almost-techno "Virtually Unreal."

In the past, the Jesus and Mary Chain were well-known for performing short

shows that, in retrospect, were a blur of angst, smoke machines, strobe lights

and feedback. At just over an hour, the Fillmore show was also short. No smoke

machines were present, however, and lights were limited to the Christmas bulbs

draped across the speakers. Feedback squealed, though it was interesting to

see Jim continually looking surprised when it started up.

You'd think that he'd be used to it after all these years.

Many fans of the group were as disappointed as Ward was with the set. "I just

didn't feel it tonight," said Jessica Shaffer, 26, after the show. "I love the new

album, but the energy really wasn't there."

Others in the audience, such as McDonald, who planted herself in front of the

stage, got just what they came for. "I'm totally obsessed with Munki," she

said. "This crowd needs to get the sticks out of their asses and rock out!"

So, overall, was the show a waste of time or was it a fun night at the theater?

The answer to both, of course, is yes.