Date / Venue: Tuesday March 10th, Kings Arms, Auckland
Jesus Jones, the British alternative dance/ rock band playing here at the Kings Arms? Wow! Why didn't I hear about this earlier? Am I wrong in thinking that this was quite a significant band in terms of the whole Indie dance movement of the late 80's and early 90's? A band that was said to have sold out all of their American Concerts before they had even set foot in the country on the back of their US number 1 best-selling album, Doubt? Yet here they are playing at a relatively small music venue with a bit of free space in the pit? Well it is the Kings Arms; one of Auckland's few remaining iconic venues, which is able to get the very classic bands in. Perhaps it's because, like quite a few of my friends I told after the concert, not many people knew about the gig. I had more than one disappointed mate that would have been there with bells on had he have known.
Well it's been 24 years since we've had the chance to share an evening with Jesus Jones in New Zealand. One of the few international bands that was actually at the peak of what turns out to be quite a long career, when they toured NZ.
Mike Edwards enters the stage and is welcomed with a rousing applause. Other foundational membersJerry De Borg (guitar), Al Doughty (bass), Lain Baker (key boards) and Gen (Drums) follow close behind. It's basically the original line-up that would have played New Zealand 24 years ago. They kick off with ‘Trust Me', a huge hit with the crowd. Edwards announces that they're going to be working their way through the Doubt album which delight's the crowd. They follow that up with, ‘The Who Where Why' and then straight into one of their signature songs, 'International Bright Young Thing', then two songs later ‘Right Here Right Now.' Wow! Are they deliberately stirring the ‘pot of nostalgic pop' so early into the concert to make sure they still have the fans loyalty or are they getting them out of the way so that they can play their new stuff... the songs they haven't played countless times, or is this simply the order of the album? Well, for whatever the reason was, I find myself enjoying not just the nostalgia but genuinely enjoying a couple of well written songs and remembering the days when Jesus Jones was truly one of the cool bands to be getting in to.
Lead man, Mike, is a good entertainer and also enjoys a good yarn and moment with the audience as he recalls what he claims to have been the only ‘fight' he has ever had in his life which happened right here in Auckland of all places. Not a fight with any of the locals, thank goodness, but with Jerry De Borg, the band's guitarist. Over what I'm not quite sure, but perhaps it was, according to Mike, not a very good performance from the band that night all those years ago. He assures us that this concert is a chance to make up for that. Not the fight but the performance.
They break into, ‘Welcome Victoria' which is a solid rock song from the Japanese version of the Doubt album. It is from about from this point in the show onwards, that for me, Jesus Jones reveals their true ability as musicians. I must confess that after hearing their two big hit songs so early in on that I was wondering where exactly we would go from here as most bands from yester-year usually save the best for last. Not the case here. After Welcome Victoria they kick into, ‘Sacrifice' and then 'Stripped'. Wow!! Jesus Jones has now found their form and pace and are quite honestly blowing my mind with these sweet, rocking guitar driven statements of pure soul and energy. Their music is tight, tasteful and rocking while still able to retain some of that Jesus Jones/ness which is part of their sound. I find myself involuntarily punching the air with satisfaction.
In conclusion Jesus Jones still knows how to rip it up on the stage and I believe I actually enjoyed them live better than the recordings. ‘Zeros and Ones' a song from their more recent work, still has that sound of the Jesus Jones of the 90s but is delivered with a professionalism that was apparently not present 24 years ago. I am glad to report back that I thoroughly enjoyed the night. Even if you don't fully appreciate the music of Jesus Jones you must appreciate their commitment to their craft.
The concert is finished with ‘Idiot Stare' which is an excellent fusion of rock, industrial dance which the crowd gobbles up with much enthusiasm which then leads to an encore. Synth driven pop euphoria which has an underlining rumble of dual guitar fire, the classic ‘wall of noise'. Yeah!! We're being shaking as though standing on a bridge shaken by a flooding river. Yet they are still able to maintain the integrity of rhythm and melody. Nicely done JJ.
They are, in my opinion, still one of the more influential bands from the ‘alternative rock, alternative dance, techno, electro-industrial era that still has it. Their sound is still very distinctive and has managed to stay contemporary. I would hope that the next time they're in town, my disappointed friends that missed them will get to enjoy them in concert as I did.
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