SHEPHERDSBUSH EMPIRE, JULY 2012
Raindrops cast a silver haze over Shepherds Bush Empire as fans queued in anticipation for the long awaited return of The Brian Jonestown Massacre to London, their first outing in the capital since their show in the same venue over two years ago. Muffled music spilled out onto the street through a side door as word quickly spread that, characteristic of notoriously unpredictable frontman Anton Newcombe, the band had taken to the stage twenty minutes early.
Opening with a mix of classics, such as ‘Anemone’ and ‘Vacuum Boots’, they seamlessly progressed to tracks from their latest offering ‘Aufheben’, their thirteenth full studio album which was recorded at Newcombe’s Berlin studio, and met a warm reception from fans and critics alike. Eight years have passed since the release of ‘Dig!’, the film documenting the tumultuous relationship between The Brian Jonestown Massacre and West Coast rivals The Dandy Warhols, particularly featuring Newcombe’s unruly and often eccentric behaviour, yet tonight there are no signs of this and band appear to have matured, performing a tight set spanning their twenty-two year career.
A Brian Jonestown Massacre gig is more akin to an extended jam session in front of two thousand enchanted fans than a band working their way through a structured set-list, each song seemingly bleeding into the next. Of the eight members present on stage, there are at certain points six different guitarists coaxing their strings to produce a hypnotic sound, difficult to capture on the band’s recordings. BJM’s records are always heavily saturated in 1960’s psychadelia, through both their sound and twisted song lyrics. There have previously existed nineteen different incarnations of today’s line-up, each new member adding something along the way, yet with Newcombe always very much steering the helm.
We were treated to a glimpse of the capricious temper of Newcombe as the band launch into ‘(David Bowie I love You) Since I was six’, as he stops the band and lambasts guitar and vocalist Matt Hollywood for performing out of key. In previous years perhaps this would have led to a war of words or even fists onstage but the band simply restarted the song, this time without mistakes, Anton’s perfectionist nature ensuring the band don’t miss a note for the rest of the night. The air is thick with cannabis smoke and the atmosphere throughout the crowd is elevated making the whole gig feel like a celebration of the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s vast collection of songs, with everyone cheering for their own particular favourite throughout the night. One cannot help but feel that with this band, musical intricacies are almost irrelevant, for their creation of a performance, a story and a cult following really is, to draw upon their own lyrics, ‘Seven Kinds of Wonderful’.