What is it about tribute acts that I always seem to frown upon? How do you get excited about seeing people, dressed as their idols, knocking out pub style karaoke in an attempt to kid you into believing that they are the real deal?….I guess for acts that are long since gone, it’s the only way that you’ll be able to witness a stage performance that may resemble the original act...maybe not. I’ve seen some real howlers in the past and despite being called something along the lines of the band name (DC/AC, No-Way-Sis and other such dross), they always seem to fall flat in their attempt at transporting you back to the heyday of the act in question.
The Jam were an English punk rock/new wave/mod revival band consisting of Paul Weller (vocals/guitar), Bruce Foxton (vocals/bass guitar) and Rick Buckler (drums) (Steve Brookes (guitar) and Dave Waller (rhythm guitar) have also been in the lineup). They were active from 1977 to the end of 1982 where they stormed the UK charts, having 18 consecutive top 40 singles and 6 studio albums.
Support was provided by a local 3 piece act called ‘The Real me’ who seemed really at home playing the best of Mod, Soul, R&B and New Wave. They opened their set with a high energy version of the Jagger/Bowie classic ‘Dancing in the Street’ followed by other crowd favourites ‘Walking the Dog’ and ‘Runaway’ to which they claimed that the audience in Cornwall did a really good job of singing along to, goading the Exeter crowd to get their voices in tune! It was great to see some Kinks in the setlist (You Really Got Me) and even some vintage Bowie (Boys Keep Swinging). I must admit to falling in love with Richard Hawes’ Rickenbacker, it was rather nice, mmmm, Rickenbackers…SORRY, went off into a little daydream there! Anyway, their set was loaded with a selection of sing-a-long favourites that certainly did a great job of warming up the sell out crowd in readiness for the main event.
Near the end of their set, Richard said how honoured and privileged they were to be up on stage supporting Bruce Foxton and co, funnily enough, ‘Setting Sons’ was the first album he purchaed by The Jam and so held many memories for him.
Their cover version of ‘Substitute’ by The Who was really well received, the front row even broke into a light mosh, which was exciting and a sure fire sample of what was to come later on in the evening.
Jonny Cook and Mark Brind did a sterling job of providing the bass and rhythm for Richard to play over, I was thinking all the way through their set who Jonny reminded me of and it just came to me, a young Kevin McCloud from ‘Grand Designs’, I’m sure this isn’t the first time he has been likened to the Channel 4 TV celeb, if it is, I apologise Jonny, he is kinda dishy in a ‘manly’ kinda way! (if that helps…?) No?…TAXI !!!!
All in all, a nice set, delivered with some humorous and engaging between song banter that the crowd lapped up, if you get the chance to see these guys in the Exeter area, please make the effort and get out and support them, they’ll be back at The Phoenix next November when ‘From the Jam’ tour ‘Sound Affects’ which was released by The Jam in 1980, we’ll be there, you should get your tickets booked NOW as they sold out in record time this year!
Dancing in the Street
Walking the Dog
Gotta Dance to Keep From Crying
She Does it Right
Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache
You Really Got Me
Boys Keep Swinging
Have Love Will Travel
River Deep, Mountain High
The lights dimmed, the intro music piped up and the capacity crowd were rammed into the auditorium to capture the trio taking to the stage for an evening of music that was to take you back to the late 1970’s.
They said a quick hello prior to launching straight into ‘Girl on the Phone’, the opening number from The Jam’s 1979 album ‘Setting Sons’. ‘Thick as Thieves’ saw a light commotion in the crowd and I could see that a small but lively mosh pit had formed, consisting of 40-50 year old receding/bald males who would no doubt be suffering the next morning whilst in their potting sheds or trying to push the lawnmower around the garden!
Russell announced that it was ‘time to get the place dancing’ and swiftly kicked into ’Saturday’s Kids’ which ignited the place again, so much so, a young lady passed out on the front row and had to be lifted over the barrier by the ever present security guards who did a sterling job in making sure that she was safe until she regained consciousness a few minutes later.
During the latter stages of the album playback, a bright spark in the crowd decided it would be a good idea to launch a half filled pint (plastic) glass up on stage, liberally soaking Russell Hastings, to his credit, he remained professional, finishing the track prior to asking for the house lights to be turned on, identifying the culprit and giving him a damned good dressing down prior to continuing the set.
From here on in, the classics just kept on coming and by now, the mosh pit just behind the front row had grown to a good 3 rows and it was getting ‘a little lairy’! ‘Going Underground’ took me back to when I was just 7 years old, sat at the breakfast table eating my Rice Krispies before having to go to school! This was followed by ‘When You’re Young’ and ‘Strangetown’ kicked things up a gear and the place was literally rocking!
They ended with 5 amazing tracks ‘David Watts’, ‘Butterfly Collector’, ‘Start!’, ‘Beat Surrender’ and ‘That’s Entertainment’, the crowd absolutely loving each track and performing well in a sing-a-long moment during ‘David Watts’ where Russell and Bruce took things right down, the crowd chanting ‘Wish I could Be Like…’ before kicking back in to finish things off.
Bruce’s playing was astounding, he seems to be able to get this real crisp, punchy bass sound that I have been searching for years to perfect (still looking…), he seemed to be playing his Fender Precision for most of the night but did play a rather nice looking cream guitar (sorry, I cannot see anything about this on the web), no sign of his classic Rickenbacker 4001 which I was dying to get a glimpse of, maybe that’s securely stashed away at his house, leaving the cabinet for very special occasions only! On the subject of playing, I have to commend Russell Hastings on his style, at times, I closed my eyes and I was transported back in time to the late 70’s with the original lineup, his playing was tight, precise and his voice sounded just right, okay, he’s not Weller, I’m sure he doesn’t try that hard to be him and to be honest, he pulls it off just fine!
Steve Barnard did an amazing job of laying down the beat for Bruce and Russell to play over, without a good drummer, the band falls apart and although often forgotten, the drummer's hard work and dedication is required in order to pull it all together. Major kudos to him!
They left the stage to rapturous applause, Bruce almost hobbling down the steps leading to the backstage area, I had money on them not returning to complete the encore as he really did look to be in some pain. A few minutes passed and the guitar tech came out and jumped on stage, to my delight, he walked straight past the microphone stand and tuned Bruce’s guitar!
The last 3 tracks included ‘Down in the Tube Station at Midnight’ and the ever pleasing ‘A Town Called Malice’ which sounded amazing, both very bass heavy, executed perfectly by Foxton, sounding tighter than a nun’s wotsit, proving that he still has what it takes to deliver the goods. The final tracks lifted the roof off the place, the crowd were satisfied, though they would have happily stood and enjoyed another half hour of tracks, I think that they knew that the time was up and it was time to return to their homes after a truly wonderful night of music and all round entertainment.
Chatting to Bruce after the gig, he said that he was looking forward to taking the show on the road abroad and visiting Australia and Thailand prior to heading back to Blighty for some festivals and then preparing and rehearsing for their Autumn/Winter tour of ‘Sound Affects’. They’ve already been booked to play at the Exeter Phoenix again next November, judging by the speed of ticket sales this year, I’d get them booked now to avoid missing out.
All in all, a night to be treasured forever, okay, it wasn’t The Jam and judging by recent interviews I have seen, there won’t be a reunion of sorts happening in the near future either so best get yourself along to see ‘From the Jam’, the nearest thing you’re gonna get to the real deal!
Girl on the Phone
Thick as Thieves
Little Boy Soldiers
The Eton Rifles
When You're Young
Non Stop Dancing
To Be Someone
Down in a Tube Station at Midnight
A Town Called Malice
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photographs by Bruce Benson (www.241photography.co.uk)
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