Jesus Jones @ Portland Arms, Cambridge 23rd May, 2018

Jesus Jones are definitely back — although arguably they never went away. Almost 30 years after the alternative dance-rock band’s first album Liquidizer hit the charts, April 2018 saw the release of their sixth long play release and a new bunch of live dates announced.

I first saw the re-energised Jesus Jones back in 2016 at the second Shiiine festival at Butlins in Minehead – a wonderfully hedonistic three day event of 1990s indie nostalgia — and I’m happy to say that I re-fell in love with a band who, to be honest, had rather fallen off my musical radar.

The 1990s revival of the last few years has seen more than its fair share of bandwagonesque-ing from all manner of floppy-fringed bed-wetters – some of whom appear to be more interested in cashing in on the wave of nostalgia and churning out old hits, than adding anything new. Nothing wrong with this of course — those of us of a certain age are generally more than happy to hear early ‘90s favourites played live again; all the while surrounded by our generational peers: older, greyer and balder maybe, but no less enthusiastic than we were.

However, there is something exciting about a band who are keen to record, release and tour new material after a 17 year hiatus and this is where Jesus Jones really triumph.

At Shiiine they played an unenviable afternoon slot, in a 5000 capacity venue; last night they returned to The Portland Arms in Cambridge, a recently renovated pub-gig venue, which accommodates a more restrained 200.

Playing such a relatively intimate venue seems a far cry from 1990s world tours and a Glastonbury slot, but this is what Jesus Jones revel and excel at – small sweaty dives with a powerful PA; and this is why the Portland Arms proves to be such a great venue for this highly energetic electronic-guitar band (my ears are still ringing..).

The room is so small that the band have to arrive from behind the crowd, walking through us to climb onto the tiny stage. Starting with Zeros and Ones from 1993’s Perverse (an album Mike Edwards admits to being his favourite), the band zip through the 19 track set-list on full power, in sweaty, high-energy, fast-tempo exhilaration.

Three songs in and we’re treated to their highest charting single, International Bright Young Thing, from second album Doubt; followed by earlier track, All the Answers, while Edwards lampoons his younger self and by the time we get to Two and Two and Bring it on Down, the audience is riding high on a wave of indie-dance, while keyboardist Iain Baker jumps about like a well-behaved Bez.

Of course we are treated to crowd-pleasers Real, Real, Real; Move Mountains; Who? Where? Why? and Info Freako; but we also get plenty of new tracks, all of which are equal to the band’s back catalogue of hits and which go down just as well — no bar and toilet breaks in this set-list.

The band have spoken on social media of their recent decisions to record again; to play more gigs; to throw themselves into their shows and to enjoy themselves and their live gigs are testimony to that drive and energy. They are charming and friendly, the pace doesn’t let up, the sound is tight and there is a real connection with their audience.

It would be too easy to pigeonhole this band, to label and forget them, but this would be a mistake — their sound is a unique blend of dirty rock guitar and dance perfection, the original line-up are clearly revelling in being back doing what they love and I would urge you to make the effort and buy a ticket next time they’re in town — and be prepared for plenty of dancing, a tonne of energy, and a lot of sweat.

Reviewer: Sally Hamilton

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