“You have to do these things at BJM gigs, that’s the point, getting a reaction from them” was the alleged riposte from the man who brought Anton Newcombe down from the stage and into the crowd tonight. His claim that Anton “sucks” was met with a few laughs but not from the target of his Wildean missive. “You suck, you fuckin’ pussy. Beat that guy up. Everybody… actually just throw him out. I’ll do it myself” was Anton’s response. And he follows through with his threat too, followed by a train of security guards he is over the barrier and and right into the mix.
To be fair, this isn’t why people come to see the psychedelic, travelling madness that is the Brian Jonestown Massacre. They are, not just based on tonight’s performance – but generally speaking, a study of one man’s vision and his struggles to realise it. Whatever idea Anton Newcombe has in his head in terms of what the BJM actually are may never actually be made real but hearing him (and them) work it out is a beautiful and genuine thrill. As the band leak onto the stage there are spatterings of applause and cheers but it’s doubtful that many were confident that Anton would be turn up or, if he did appear, sing. Previous nights on the tour had apparently developed into three-hour jamming sessions with no singing from Anton but tonight at precisely 8:03pm he opens his mouth and sings. Thank fuck. He even looked happy to be there. A few verbal bullets for a guitar tech aside, and maybe a couple of comments pertaining to his hatred of selfie requests, he is in great form. His voice sounds great, his guitar playing is remarkable and the band sound well drilled, confident and above all else absolutely mesmerising. A hard-core of unlikely looking fans are already committing themselves to a night of manic deference and Joel Gion, the world’s second best living tambourine, maracas and vibes man, even looks slightly amused. All good so far, yet there is the possibility that it will all go south at any minute.
An expansive set covering three decades includes ‘Geezers’, ‘Anenome’, ‘ Who’, ‘Nevertheless’ and ‘The Devil May Care…’, ‘Jennifer’, ‘Servo’ and ‘Pish’ which are all stunningly effective in their rhythmic, 60s’ affected drone. And just to further that point, if you will forgive a little opinionated digression, how wonderful it is to hear an artist play and sing music that they wrote, moulded, developed and shaped themselves unadulterated by anybody or anything save for the odd blow-in. One of the most endearing things about Anton Newcombe and the BJM is that this music is theirs. They made this art and released it as they wanted it, for better or worse. Tonight it sounds otherworldly at times and this can be attributed to the fact that they can ONLY sound like this. These songs should never be covered by anybody. Unlike, let’s say in this instance, the admittedly incomparable Beyonce, who may or may not write anything before sending tracks off to be produced to within an inch of their lives by a team of crack engineers and producers before calling the exquisitely mastered results her ‘art’. Anybody can sound like Beyoncé with the right team behind them. Hence why Beyoncé does.
So, you can say what you want about the Brian Jonestown Massacre…actually you can’t, clearly. But they will always be one person’s cup of tea and another person’s lethal injection. You can’t please everybody and at times the BJM probably only suit themselves. And at times why shouldn’t they? Some people will love it and some people won’t so as long as people are happy with that we’re all good. If you think turning up to a BJM gig in order to get a reaction from Anton Newcombe is funny well he’ll most likely take care of you himself. But someday the crowd will do it for him, there’s a reaction for you.