My early life as a music fan, back in the late 80s and early 90s, was characterised by an insatiable thirst for new music, to discover the sounds that I could call my own. And precisely 30 years ago, in 1991, if you’d asked my 16 year old self what her favourite band was, she would have replied without hesitation that it was Jesus Jones.
Fickle as I was back then, it would not be too long before they were booted from the top spot by Ride, and then Ride unceremoniously dumped for the Manics. And by the time I made it to London in 1996, I had flickered in and out of obsession with so many other bands since the time I called Jesus Jones my favourite that they barely registered on my consciousness any more.
Which is how it has come to pass that here in 2021, 30 years since I first thought of them as my favourite band, I am finally seeing Jesus Jones live for the first time. Since I started delving into my teenaged musical inspirations in the All The Songs Of My Life series on this blog, I’ve begun to realise that a lot of the artists I dabbled with in those early music fan days were actually pretty damn fantastic, and certainly not deserving of being consigned to the scrapheap of my current music fan life.
And so, rather than thinking of Jesus Jones as a band I once loved many years ago, I began to consider them one who deserved a place on my list of all-time favourite bands. Therefore it was with huge excitement that I ventured out to the 100 Club this frosty November evening, to experience my first gig from this band who had soundtracked a significant chunk of my music-obsessed teens. This year has certainly been full of surprises in terms of my gigging life, but one that is hard to rival at this late stage in the proceedings is actually getting to see an all-time favourite band for the first time.
Almost as exciting as that was the fact that this gig was at the truly iconic 100 Club, a venue which for some reason I have only visited once, for my first Kula Shaker gig in 1999. Remembering the legendary, up-close-and-personal rock thrills of that gig, I hoped for something similar from Jesus Jones, and they sure as hell did not disappoint.
Opening their set with “Zeroes and Ones”, the searingly prophetic ode to the internet age from 1993, was a brilliant choice. However, the sound was at first somewhat less than ideal, with bass and drums overpowering everything else. Listening with earplugs didn’t help, so after a few songs I just had to give in to the ear-splitting pounding mayhem and hope that the Gods of Tinnitus did not curse me for my folly.
And despite these initial sound gremlins, this was a stormingly energetic rock show from start to finish. With a setlist heavily focused on their first three albums – the period in which I was actually paying attention back in the early 90s – this could have been a huge nostalgia fest for me. But what struck me most keenly was how spirited and youthful their performance was. It was certainly difficult to believe that this was a gang of 50-something men in front of me and not the 20-something troupe I listened to when I was 16. And no one on stage exemplified this more perfectly than singer Mike Edwards. If I thought Crispian Mills must have a portrait in his attic when I saw Kula Shaker in 2016, then Mike must have a whole gallery put away, so little changed is he from the the way he appeared back in the music videos I watched in the early 90s.
Despite my relative neglect of the band in recent times, I recognised every single song, though a few were rusty in my memories from the passing years and so I was only able to shout along to the chorus. Then of course there were the Monster Hits, still etched on my consciousness after all this time. “Right Here Right Now” was predictably huge, and listening to it, the line ‘it feels good to be alive’ seemed perfectly apt. “Who Where Why” was a chaotic singalong, and although I am never quite sure what the lyrics to its earworm of a sample actually are, I gamely hollered ‘cheesy sunglasses!’ in hopes that I was somewhat accurate. And “Real Real Real”in the encore was a moment of pure 90s indie-dance ecstasy.
The absolute highlight of the gig for me was “Song 13”, a track from their 1989 debut Liquidizer. Always one of my absolute favourite songs of this era by any band, with its richocheting, plummeting synth refrain, screeching wall of guitars and lyrics of inner torment, it was completely incredible to experience live, especially right at the front as I was, totally immersed and engulfed by the sound.
The crowd were predictably mainly middle aged blokes, a few with female companions but as far as I could tell I was the only woman gigging solo this night. This was by and large not a problem from where I was standing, but in the middle of the throng there was an intense rowdiness, with a great deal of moshing and slamming going on amongst the men there, occasionally causing disruption to other members of the crowd.
The final song was the one I was most looking forward to, as it was “International Bright Young Thing”, the song that made me a fan in 1991. Unfortunately this was the point where some dude decided it was appropriate to slam himself right in front of me, spilling his beer all over me and destabilising the elderly gent leaning on his stick beside me. Thankfully he disappeared after a few moments, and I regained my spot at the front, so I was able to enjoy the rest of this most euphoric tune. But watching people to the middle of the crowd, including some women, being repeatedly shoved onto the stage by the careless moshers behind them, left me a little uncomfortable.
Perhaps it’s wrong of me to criticize the Jesus Jones crowd, given that this is the first time I’ve actually managed to head along to a gig from them myself, but there are some crowd behaviours that are acceptable in the young which just seem rather unnecessarily thoughtless when it’s coming from the middle aged. It’s not like it’s impossible to have a pogo and dance and even a mosh without shoving everyone around you into oblivion. After all, the best thing about gigs is the ability to come together with others who love the same music you do and celebrate this together.
However, the good thing is none of that is what sticks with me in the aftermath of this gig. All I feel is the incredible joy of having this former favourite band restored to my music fan life, and huge excitement at the prospect of seeing them many more times to come. Regardless of how rowdy the crowd may get, I truly cannot wait until I can see Jesus Jones again.