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Will and Jim's Excellent Misadventure
Keith Cameron / NME
Rollercoaster - Glasgow SECC

One local voter, at least, has no doubts. "Oh yes, I thought it was marvellous, I loved it, I really did." Beaming widely, our representative sample takes another drag on her cigarette and adds, "But then, I'm biased aren't I?"

You didn't have to be their mother - for it was she - to reckon Jim and William played a blinder tonight, but it certainly helped. Variously touted as the most evangelical touring concept to hit Britain since Billy Graham, a worthy attempt to give the recession-strapped public some much needed value for money, or the only way The Jesus And Mary Chain could still pull a decent crowd, the Rollercoaster is two stages down the track and taking the sort of bumps associated with the dodgems.

See, there are two different shows here. The main one involves several thousand people who've shelled out to see four bands make a fine old racket. And then there's yonder backstage area, where those same four bands wrestle with the notion that this is supposed to be not just another tour, that they're supposed to be involved in a somehow ground-breaking event, and where Great Things Should Happen (Man).

The common consensus holds that Manchester the previous night had been something of a bummer on both counts, due mainly to the fact that the audience was seated and the cramped facilities mitigated against legendary acts of rock'n'roll comradeship, debauchery or, erm, polite conversation. And here's one of the many rubs: some generous souls have mentioned Rollercoaster in the same breath as that paragon of punk idealism, the Anarchy tour. Besides the fact that anarchy is the last thing one is likely to encounter at SECC - the hall adjacent to Rollercoaster booked by the Liberal Democrats - this tour's participants comprise three of the least personally demonstrative bands in the world, plus Blur. Hooley Central this ain't. At least the Glasgow set-up, though aircraft-hanger in ilk and ambience, does give everyone plenty of room to mingle and get beyond first-name eyebrow-raising terms.

It's just conceivable that by the end of this two-week stretch, the side-show might be exerting a meaningful influence on the main event, whereby some mutual bonds are cemented and a way found to express a wider collective spirit to the audience and the world. Right now, though, our heroes are fumbling with the concept of expressing to each other, and all Rollercoaster amounts to is four great bands for the price of one. No agenda, no manifesto, no what-were-you-doing-when-the-circus-came-to-town vibe: just a good gig. A mite prosaic for those looking to glean some apocalyptic message pertaining to the future of rock but, for the majority of the Glasgow customers, like Ma Reid, it had never occurred to them that Rollercoaster should be anything else

At Manchester, Blur had drawn the short straw, played first and died a stonily silent death. Filling the warm-up slot in Glasgow were My Bloody Valentine and, though a stage time of seven in the evening must have looked a trifle daunting for the notoriously nocturnal MBV, it would do them no harm to take pole position at every opportunity. For this was a devastating performance, all the more so for its suppertime allocation. It has been noted before that My Bloody Valentine play loud, but it is unlikely that the point will ever cease to be worth making: My Bloody Valentine play loud. Very loud. Astonishingly loud. Inconceivably loud, unless you want to be strapped on to Concorde at take-off just to see which is in fact the louder. And in this maelstrom of sound, it's hard not to get lost. It happens even to the band: as 'Honeypower' begins it viciously yawning course, Kevin steps up and starts to sing before realising that this is Bilinda's song.

One of the most admirable aspects of Rollercoaster is the restriction of each band to 45 minutes maximum and no encores. This, friends, is how all gigs should be. For the Valentines, it presents a slight logistical problem, as approximately half their set is therefore taken up with one song. Nonetheless, they refuse to back pedal so, after a brace of pop song preambles, it's off to that dark and lonely place way down in the middle of 'You Made Me Realise'. That song's one-note purgatory remains sonic brinkmanship at its very finest, and, inasmuch as one left the hall wobbly on the pins, partially deafened and in need of a stiff drink, My Bloody Valentine achieved the distinction of being the only Rollercoaster band to take their brief to the letter.

"This is fine, just fine," grins that sappy-faced starman Damon Albarn. He's staring out at 4,000 dubious noise-kids for whom Blur are at best a curious diversion from the evening's pretty relentless plot, at worst prefab pop prats not worth the spittle. Yet Blur's presence on this tour is a healthy blast of perspective, not least for Blur themselves, who quite freely admit to getting away with murder on many of their own shows, and there can't be many tougher nail-sharpening routines than a My Bloody Valentine-Dinosaur Jr sandwich. With their ever tuffer pop perspective informing the bulk of their set, Blur surprised those zealots prepared to lend an ear.

Apart from anything else, Damon is the only frontperson of the evening likely to subscribe to 'pop star' as his profession and, set on this grand scale, his spoilt brat histrionics - jumping on the amp stacks and assaulting the drum roadie are but two of his extensive repertoire wheeled out tonight - don't seem so downright dumb. Musically the current single 'Popscene' is a fair indication of where Blur are headed, a less coy, earthier schtick, and the back-projected visuals, sorta kitchen sink dramas on acid, complement Albarn's Ray Davies/John Lydon/George Michael (!) personality porridge. Afterwards he goes for a walk, only to be mobbed by autograph hunters, one of whom even wants his credit card signed! Yup, the expiry date of Blur's going back all the time.

When quizzed for his view on the previous evening's disappointment, J Mascis had ruminated for an hour or three before declaring the problem to be: "mmm, the aaah, seat thing". No such problems in Glasgow, though and, after an enforced delay due to drummer Murph's disappearance, Dinosaur Jr got right down to the gig thing, incorporating the 'playing all our songs too fast' thing and the 'bending outrageously beautiful sounds from the guitar' thing. Unhappily for one and all, the gremlins thing dogged much of the Dino set, after Mike Johnson's bass had packed in after the opening 'Lung'. Still, this did at least give J the opportunity to regale us with five minutes of his finest ambient six-string doodles. These were, in all truth, most engaging, and the audience's spirited response prompted from Mr Mascis the only band-crowd communication (Blur excepted) of the night: "Thank you."

It's the way he tells 'em. Dinosaur Jr rattled all the familiar cages - hey, you weren't seriously expecting a different set from Reading, were you? - and J's amazing hair guitar routines provided Damon's only real showbiz challenge.

This was a sort of homecoming for the brothers Reid - mum had dragged the rest of the family along too - and the attitude of a sizeable chunk of the crowd held that this was a Jesus And Mary Chain gig with three big-name support bands.

Never too comfortable with live performance, the Mary Chain have bolstered themselves with so many outside hands that Jim and William now look rather disconcertingly like they're guesting in someone's else's band. At least in the old days they kept extras like John Moore in their proper place - at the back, pal - but today's commendable sense of democracy places guitarist Ben Lurie and bassman Matt Parkin prominently stage-left. Their role, along with drummer Barry Blackler, should not be underestimated, though, in the sweetness of this latest JAMC sound. Word that the sequencers had been causing some problems in the Scandinavian warm-ups proved unfounded and in fact there seemed a confidence stemming from the presence of a sure-footed rhythm section - the lack of which has contributed to some ropey JAMC shows over the last few years.

Yet no number of extras can detract from the unlikely stars of this show. Whenever William's hands lie idle - as on the first verse of a sagged out 'Halfway to Crazy' - the Mary Chain '92 are a competent but unedifying guitar groove outfit. Once he lends his presence, though, they are the ravaged noise reprobates of their dreams. As for Jim, well, things hadn't been looking too hot four hours earlier when he slumped to the floor of the hotel bar, mumbling that he "felt a bit sick", but this guy still knows the right shapes to cut. The Jesus And Mary Chain have always looked like they ought to be the only band on the planet and, sure enough, as 'Reverence' clanks into place and belts the ride on a gear or two, Jim throws his head back and for a millisecond he's framed by the light and the slide backdrop, local oik as rock'n'roll deity. It's breathtaking.

It's the recent texts that get plundered - only 'Taste The Floor' nods to the dark ages - and the longer the set goes on the more punches connect. They close with a deadly 'Sidewalking' before Jim walks over to brother Will and takes the guitar. With William screaming into the mic they pull off what could be the first ever cover of Nirvana's discord diamond 'Endless Nameless' - but probably wasn't - before tripping off.

The lights come up and the slides read "Game Over". a false prophecy, indeed. Those who look to Rollercoaster to save their lives are going to be disappointed. But then, it is only rock'n'roll.

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