JJ72 @ The Boat Race, Cambridge (6th October 1999)

You've got to admire him, the singer in the anonymous last-minute support replacement band, for being so into it that he didn't even turn the scary echo vocal processing off between songs, thus rendering everything he said incomprehensible. Everything, that is, except for the dedication of a song to a dead friend which caused a stampede of one to the front of the stage followed by a display of solo dancing clearly influenced by childhood drama class trauma ("now class, pretend to be seeds growing up through the earth") and those bouncing New Order puffa imps. So, plenty of goth points for the vocals, the trousers, the tendril sideburns snaking towards beardship, ice-maiden bassist and doomy drum machine but none whatsoever for the most entertaining aspect of the band: the singer's Marcel Marceau-does-vogue flash poses, best of which was the begging dog.

JJ72 look uncomfortable following such a spectacle and sidle apologetically onto the stage. Gawky and stilted, they are overly self-conscious and probably all-too aware that the few people here are probably mates of the support, their debut single "October swimmer" not being out for several weeks yet. But as the first chord is struck a tiny hint of strut and poise appears and as singer and guitarist Mark Greaney opens his mouth and produces what can only be described as an astonishing sound---three parts Molko, one part Sharkey---we see some swagger. All of which dissipates when guitars are swapped and the new one doesn't work. The ubiquitous hunched roadie scrabbles amongst the leadage for a while before discovering that Greaney has forgotten to turn the volume knob up. Embarrassment and red-faced muttering precedes two solo numbers (including "Improv" from the single) which send shivers up and down the spine. The band reconvene and rockier business is resumed. Much noisier and edgier than on record, there's echoes of Nirvana in the live performance, a bottled-up anxiety that rags at the edges of the songs and a tautness that clenches and flinches at its own power. Confidence rightly grows and they win the audience over with a super-loose set-closing Iggy Pop cover which only illustrates that despite the lack of self-belief, JJ72 are nobody's dogs.

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