Live @ Bristol Academy
October 21, 2002
Review & Photography: Steve Bateman

It felt like JJ72 had been away for a very long time, before returning in late September, with the fantastic comeback single Formulae. I instantly fell in love with the new album I To Sky, and having played it over and over again, it only served to heighten my excitement, of seeing the band play live.

JJ72 have progressed rapidly, since their eponymous debut album was released in 2000, and it now seems, that classics such as October Swimmer, Oxygen and Snow, only hinted at what the band were hoping to achieve artistically, emotionally and spiritually.

Their sound has matured, by becoming much fuller, much more wide-screen, with the ever-improving musicianship of Mark, Hilary and Fergal – which has been well-documented in the music press. Indeed, this is a band who are firmly establishing their own agenda and identity (aided by producer Flood), as well as acknowledging / referencing their influences, in the shape of The Smashing Pumpkins and Joy Division.

Mark has commented on several occasions, that he feels: “There has been a void in the musical landscape, without bands like The Smashing Pumpkins”, and this is what JJ72 are striving to change, with beautiful and melancholic songs. Certainly, in the current sea of Indie and Rock acts, JJ72 are a band who stand-alone and are proud of it!

As you would expect, the stage lighting is subtle, and is complimented by a backdrop screen, showing imagery of symbols, angels and cover artwork etc. JJ72 are dressed in black, with a strong sense of self-belief / inner-determination, and walk on stage to rapturous applause, their fans are definitely pleased to see them!

They immediately launch into City, with the poignant opening lyric: “When I ramble down in my paltry crown, I hear things will change, but nothing will change”, followed closely by a harder-edged version of October Swimmer. Although on stage, a band of few words, Mark declares: “It’s great to be back in Bristol”.

The set consists mainly of new material, alongside old favourites: Oxygen, Snow and Long Way South, with Mark performing Willow acoustically. JJ72 also treat the crowd to an amazing cover version, of Chris Isaak’ s Wicked Game – which just has to be a b-side!

Hilary looks beautiful, and now appears to be more comfortable, with singing backing vocals. I love the way in which her voice, gives songs such as Always And Forever, a different feel to the original studio versions – the perfect accompaniment, to Mark’s powerful and unique voice.

The epic Sinking, is one of my favourite tracks tonight, with its atmospheric bass opening, to the intricate guitar ending, it highlights just how far JJ72 have come, and how their ambitions, are beginning to be fully realised. Formulae receives a huge ovation, with Mark playing a few notes reminiscent of the intro, to tease fans first, before actually playing the memorable picking pattern.

After a triumphant set, JJ72 return for the encore with Bumble Bee – Mark’s loud distorted guitar, Hilary’s thunderous bass and Fergal’s military precision drumming – culminate with Mark lying on his back, and throwing his plectrum into the crowd.

Hilary and Fergal leave the stage, later followed by Mark, with his right arm aloft in the air. The lights go out, and the sleeve of I To Sky fills the screen – tonight, JJ72 are victorious.

A very special thanks to Ian Cheek for all of his help, and to JJ72 + their management / security.