I’d not seen Jesu live before, but it would be unfair to form an opinion based on tonight. Things started well enough with a spirited run through “Silver”, but the set soon became mired in technical problems. There were long gaps while Justin Broadrick fiddled with his amp and/or laptop, and when they were playing, the sound was pretty gruesome with virtually inaudible vocals. Even allowing for the problems, though, I wasn’t especially impressed. The subtleties in the records were lost amongst the snails-pace riffing and bludgeoned beats. At times it sounded like Swans circa Children of God, but the drums were way too high in the mix, and the relentless cymbal hiss just did my head in.
Mono appeared to be using different amps. Their sound was clean and clear. When I last saw them two years ago, they seemed just a bit too beholden to Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor for their own good. Nothing really stood out that night. Tonight was different, and they were very impressive indeed. A typical Mono tune is long. It starts out quietly and builds. After a couple of foothills, it reaches a peak with a noisy, cinematic climax, has a brief quiet coda and finishes. Not everything follows the same formula, but it isn’t varied that much. They do, however, have some glorious tunes. Unlike Mogwai, they don’t have the tendency to end each piece in blankets of white noise – preferring instead not to sacrifice melody for volume. It’s music that is easy to get swept along by – by turns melancholic and euphoric. They played just over an hour and then were gone. No encores, no speeches, just polite bows and a rapid exit.
Much as I enjoyed them tonight, it would be good to hear them incorporating the strings that characterize their later records in their live sets (I realise that cost is a factor). And I’d love to see a live collaboration with World’s End Girlfriend and string section along the lines of the Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain album.