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Love From The Jam

The Jam were, perhaps, the band that had the biggest influence on me throughout the course of my teenage years. The Beatles had already cemented their place as my first love, and the Stone Roses and Oasis were some years off. The Jam burst into my consciousness in the late 1970s, all sharp edges and noise, and I was hooked from the outset. I would have been a mod in any event, but The Jam were my personal catalyst.

When Paul Weller broke up the band in 1983, I wasn’t sure if life would ever be the same again. I wasn’t crying myself to sleep at night, but I was wondering where the next big thing was going to come from. Something had to fill the void.

In the quarter of a century that followed, many bands came and went, but nothing quite captured my imagination in the same way that The Jam had managed.

In late 2007 I first heard that Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler were touring as members of ‘From the Jam’, and my immediate thought was that this would only serve to dilute the precious legacy of one of England’s finest bands. I had no intention of seeing the band. Paul Weller and I were of a similar opinion. Pointless and potentially embarrassing.

ticket

Weakening resolve

In the weeks that followed, I could sense that my steadfast solidarity with Weller was diminishing. “What if these guys are really good?”, “What if this is my only chance?” and “What if I never get to see Paul Weller?” were questions I was asking myself. I was weakening by the hour.

As it happens, I did get to see Paul Weller, later in 2008, on the Isle of Wight. But I saw From The Jam, in Adelaide, in March.

And they were great.

Waiting

It was a particularly hot day on March 17th, and it was difficult to contemplate dressing in much more than shorts for the gig. I settled on a white Fred Perry and dark jeans, with a pair of shoes that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Shelley’s catalogue.

When I got to the Gov, I noticed a small token effort of about five scooters on show, and I made a(nother) mental note to do whatever I could to get a Vespa. I also noticed that most punters had taken the same wardrobe advice as I.

I bought a pint and waited at the very front of the queue, with my very tolerant wife in tow.

Getting in

The doors opened and we hurried inside. Immediately we made our way towards the vantage point I’d scoped out when watching Ian Brown at the same venue the week before. The recorded music covered entirely appropriate ground; I heard The Clash, Secret Affair and a host of other music from those heady times as I waited for the Green Circles to appear.

The lights went down and the level of expectation grew. The majority of the audience comprised older blokes, whose faces (mine included) no longer strictly matched the clothes they wore. There quite a few women there too, and some teenagers, perhaps dragged along by their diehard folks.

The Green Circles were fantastic; much better than I expected, and I was almost sorry to see their set wrap up as quickly as it did. They did a great job, as is the support act’s role, in pumping up the crowd for the main event.

It was time.

From The Jam

The recorded introduction tune was “Circus” from The Jam’s last studio album, “The Gift”. I felt the same kind of rush as I felt when waiting for The Clash and Madness to appear at gigs all those years ago. There was a crackle in the air.

The band appeared on stage to rapturous applause and cheering. Foxton and Buckler were accompanied by Russell Hastings in the Paul Weller position, with a fourth member, David Moore, lurking in the shadows while supporting the others on keyboard and guitar.

From the opening bars of “In the City” I knew I’d made the right decision to come. I was surprised at just how good I felt. I had such a rush of excitement mixed with joy, engaging my suspension of disbelief while I immersed myself in the moment.

four in blue
pretty green

“This is the Modern World” came next, followed by “All Mod Cons”. The crowd were doing their bit, singing, jumping, dancing and air-punching, and the band delivered near-perfect renditions of classic Jam memories. Just for a moment, I forgot that this was more or less a tribute band that I was watching. More songs from The Jam’s watershed third album were performed, namely “To Be Someone”, “It’s Too Bad”, “David Watts” and the incomparable “In the Crowd”.

Hastings did an excellent job in fronting the band. Never once did he appear to be trying too hard to mimic Weller; at the same time he stuck to the sound and sentiment of the original versions. He was almost perfect in his execution. Buckler and Foxton also did just enough; showing us their moves but stopping short of self-parody.

From The Jam continued to belt out the classics – “Pretty Green”, “So Sad About Us”, and challenging recreations of “Little Boy Soldiers” and “Private Hell”. These two songs from “Setting Sons” evoked all the atmosphere of the album recordings.

I wondered if we’d get all of Bruce Foxton’s material, striving for parity with Weller’s catalogue of great songs. Obviously I’d underrated Foxton’s judgement, as he only offered the worthy “Smithers-Jones” and “News of the World”. I was almost hoping for “Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane”. Well, perhaps not…

I was over the moon to hear good ‘n’ loud versions of two of my all-time Jam favourites, “When You’re Young” and “Strange Town”. I was like a kid at Christmas. Except that I was 44 years old.

bright lights, small city...

Song after song took the audience to increasing levels of excitement, climaxing with “Eton Rifles”, which was immediately followed by “Going Underground”. Breathless stuff.

The boys bade us a fond (and fake) farewell, and vanished from the stage for a few moments before responding to the exhortations from the crowd. They re-emerged, presenting an encore comprising “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight”, The Gift” and “Town Called Malice” which was sufficient to send everyone home happy. And knackered.

It was over far too soon.

I resisted the urge to buy a t-shirt as I left; I was happy enough with my evening. Soon enough I was back on the street, safely returned to the year 2008.
thanks for coming
t-shirt, anyone?

Aftermath

I agree with the sentiments expressed by Paul Weller when asked about From the Jam. It is unnecessary and it adds little, if anything, to the legacy of one of England’s greatest-ever bands. But the evening I spent with the band was great fun - classic songs performed with respect and accomplishment by a band who can probably argue that they have some legitimacy.

If From the Jam were playing here tonight I’d be there again, cheering and watching intently, with a huge smile on my dial.

If Paul Weller was playing next door, then I might have a decision to make…

Anyway, let’s all be friends.

Set list: Circus (recorded intro), In the City, This is the Modern World, All Mod Cons, To Be Someone, It's Too Bad, Pretty Green, David Watts, In the Crowd, So Sad About Us, News of the World, Little Boy Soldiers, Private Hell, Ghosts, Smithers-Jones, When You're Young, Start!, A Bomb in Wardour Street, Strange Town, Eton Rifles, Going Underground.

Encore: Down in the Tube Station at Midnight, The Gift, Town Called Malice


© Copyright David Robinson, 2009

Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author