Brian Jonestown Massacre / Shepherds Bush Empire
Our man Ed Spencer went down to see the legedary Brian Jonestown Massacre and feel the groove
The groove. That’s the thing about Brian Jonestown Massacre. That, and the band’s unmistakable after hours, fucked-up, should-I-come-onto-you-or-not-I-can’t-read-the-signs-anymore feel - perhaps unsurprising given how long most of those assembled on stage have been under the influence for the last however many years. (I can’t vouch for the crowd but the aroma is certainly herbal mixed with a Saturday skin-full). Happily, the only hits tonight are those being played. BJM are tight, on form, and, well, grown up. Having been going the best part of a quarter of century, Anton Newcombe has returned the band to a classic-ish early line-up, and hot on the heels of the soothingly cinematic Aufheben, they, with their groove, take the stage. It’s so infectious this evening that even the uninitiated (whose only prior knowledge is volleys to the head in that film about those two bands) are soon bobbing and weaving with the best of them. It is rather startling to see that the crowd tonight is so young but that is an indicator of the band’s far reaching appeal.
Anton Newcombe - no coincidence he looks like Beefheart given how he has led his musical troupe of changing mood and member- directs from stage right and after easing us in with a few tunes from Aufheben, kicking off with the psych clang of ‘Stairway to the Best Party’, things really get going with ‘Got My Eye On You’ from 1998’s Strung Out In Heaven’. The groove continues in smoked out form in ‘Anemone’- one of the standouts of the night- given a bruised smacked heart on-the-sleeve working over.
The atmosphere is fantastic. It may all be a bit sardines-in-a-tin but there’s still enough room for little huddles to protect the spliff-maker amid the general bonhomie of the Saturday night crowd. As I close my eyes to allow the full glory of the acid drenched stomping psychedelia to envelope me, the crowd surge and retreat, and all around ‘Super-Sonic’ maintains that smoked out feel, this time combining with it a guttural edge. In fact, it all goes off quite nicely. Only once did Anton deign that a song be restarted – a minor victory given the band’s past.
The middle section of the set is especially strong- the Vietnam haze of ‘There’s a War Going On’, ‘Walking Up To Hand Grenades’ - Aufheben’s standout track and, naturally, ‘Not If you Were The Last Dandy On Earth’- with its pastiche of the Dandy’s guitar style and their bababas and woohoohoos. Cue massive singalong, huge cheers, and general love.
Finally, we are treated to ‘Open Heart Surgery’ – coming across magnificently like a psychedelic Cure, then ‘Servo’ –surely their coolest track– and the mournful ‘Prozac vs Heroin’. By the time ‘That Girl Suicide’ drops, the crowd are proverbial putty and as the lights come in, we take the groove out on to the streets of west London.