Jesus Jones shakes rock to the roots

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
May 6, 1991

Creating a euphoric version of rock ‘n’ roll that relied on equal parts acid house, hard rock and Beatlesque melodies, Jesus Jones’ performance Saturday night at the Vic Theatre embodied what rock music once was all about.

Foregoing the hackneyed formats of its sample-crazed colleagues, Jesus Jones – a five-man band from London – deftly demonstrated that with a little ingenuity, artists can borrow from the past without committing an artistic crime.  Jesus Jones is not the savior of contemporary rock ‘n’ roll, but the group has proven that using the musical past is no sin if it’s the  way to a better future.

While some of the sampling, such as on “International Bright Young Thing,” sounded inspired by George Harrison’s sitar playing on the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” most of it utilized unidentifiable cacophonous noises that offset singer-songwriter-guitarist Mike Edwards’ somewhat wispy vocals.

Keyboardist Barry D. took an irreverent approach to his instrument, dragging it around the stage or carrying it above his head, suggesting he was aware there was no way it was going to overpower the impact of the band’s one-two guitar punch.

On “Blissed,” from their current LP “Doubt,” D. created swirly melodies that at first were in tune with Erasure’s lush pop sound. But then Jerry DeBorg let his whammy bar go crazy on his guitar and D. added a series of thunderous chords that sounded like a car crashing into sheet metal.

There is little doubt that creatively, Edwards has a monopoly on this band. But live, he has to work hard to keep up with the other Joneses.  Compared to his bandmates, who all got their turns to shine under the black strobe lights, Edwards was almost stoic.  Stripped down to his black leather pants, Al Jaworski made bass playing a spectator sport. Thrashing his blond locks hither and beyond and moving his sinewy body in sync with the music, he and drummer Gen created a succinct and powerful rhythm section.

The British dance-pop group Soho opened the show with an energetically entertaining set that showcased identical twins Jacqueline and Pauline Cuff’s perfect harmonizing.  Performing the echo-induced “Hippychick,” the sisters passed out flowers to an audience that seemed to both respect and enjoy their performance.

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