The Brian Jonestown Massacre – O2 Academy, Oxford. 21/6/16
It would not perhaps be totally unfair to label The Brian Jonestown Massacre as a band who have been serial underachievers. Despite their unbridled potential they have encountered every dispute known to rock and roll; drug abuse, in-house quarrelling, insubordinate tendencies and it’s a wonder that they have survived the twenty odd years of self desctructive controversy. Anton Newcombe, BJM’s iconic figurehead, epitomises a stubborn and difficult to work with front man and at times has allowed his ego to run the show, resulting in dreadful repercussions and the bands unpredictability spews into their record releases, some incredible, some mediocre and some extremely poor. As they arrive in Oxford, it’s worth the admission fee alone to see which BJM turn up and what shape they will take.
What is immediately apparent from the off is that this is a band who have mellowed and matured and allow themselves time to dig their heels into the set and the show is a refreshing slow burner as the band take to the stage with delicate grace as apposed to the chaotic shambles of previous years. Their gentle swaggering pace creates a hypnotic pulse which runs through the entire show and the layers of instrumentation, the band now a seven piece, give a full bodied depth to their sound, something which is a rarity in modern music. The open chord structures of the songs allows the music to resonate and loiter and the head nodding, foot tapping rhythmic heartbeat of the tracks are really quite mesmerising as BJM play an all inclusive set of old and new but altogether impressive compositions.
The ego and over confidence has all but disintegrated, bar a few characteristic outbursts from Newcombe, and their work can now stand up for itself and it’s as impressive a back catalogue as any band still touring. BJM have refused to become saturated or perverted by the industry and instead continue to do what they want which is their own brand of 60’s psychedelia and for that and sheer perseverance alone, they deserve real acclaim. The music never sounds dated or of an era and it is an honour to see them take to the stage, without the fracas or conflict, and deliver a 2 hour plus masterclass in style, delivery and tone. After twenty years of blood, sweat and tears the ethos which defined them still runs true and strong which maintains their allure as one of the must see live acts still making the rounds.