The Jim Jones Revue


In an era when music is increasingly subjugated to seamless production, studio chicanery and the pursuit of a flawless product, it is refreshing to find a band who still celebrate the raw ebullience of a live performance, and find their triumph with the masses and not behind a studio mixing desk.

The Jim Jones Revue, who are now on the final set of shows on their ‘last hurrah’ tour, have spent the past seven years building an enviable live reputation, and it is hard to think of many bands who deliver a performance on this level.  They deal in a blustering, soul and blues drenched confection, and tonight they crash & croon through a set that references both the headlines and the footnotes of the last 70 years of rock and roll.  It may be derivative, but they know what appeals and how to deliver, and unlike many “traditional” rock and roll bands, they have the licks and the attitude to carry it off.

The heart and soul of the Jim Jones Revue are strung somewhere between the dazzling virtuosity of Henri Herbert’s piano playing, and the switchblade sharp dynamics and ruthless charm of the rest of the band.  There is a deep knowledge and intelligence in their music, but they are never afraid to push it over the edge, and revel in the rough edges and chaos at the heart of all great blues.  However the best moments of the night are when the band strip back to just piano and drums such as on ‘Seven Times Around the Sun, and engage in their call and response numbers:  It is almost spiritual, elegantly louche, complete with handclaps, bawling and arm waving, offering deliverance for those who want it.
And this may be the strength of their appeal:   They are proud prophets of a music they’ve dedicated themselves to preserving and respecting, but not to curate:  Rather there is a passion to set alight in others the love they feel for this “basic” blues/soul/rock ‘n roll music.   This is all done knowingly, and lovingly, pulling the best parts of the past, refining and melding them, then delivering with confidence and polished abandon and enticing us to abandon our reserve and glory in it.   Indeed, we are informed at one point “this is not a spectator sport.”

If you chose to over-analyse, they could be easy targets as there are many contradictions: The music is not sophisticated, though they play with style.  It is derivative, but full of invention. They play with our preconceptions, and challenge the blurred lines of where tribute becomes parody, and where every moment of wild abandon could be dismissed as a studied move culled from rocks back pages.   But maybe that’s the point:  Ultimately the Jim Jones Revue are not afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves.  If you choose not to buy into it, you will be poorer for it.

The collective effect of tonight’s performance means a breakdown of the set-list is almost futile:  There are some individual stand-out tracks such as ‘Rock N Roll Psychosis’ or ‘It’s Gotta be About Me’, but their entire performance is both a manifesto and a statement of their conviction in this roots music, and that is its greatest impact rather than the specifics.  If you wanted to describe what rock and roll is, or should be in 2014, look no further:  They are grounded in music that hardly changes, are true to its roots and heritage, but have refined and made it relevant for a modern audience.
In Jim Jones’s world, if you believe in the spirit of the music, you will surely be saved.

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