I’ve always enjoyed listening to The Jam so when MusicMuso offered me the chance to go and see ‘From The Jam’ featuring the legend that is Mr Bruce Foxton, I grabbed it with both hands.
Full confession: I have a passing interest in The Jam – I only own one of the myriad of greatest hits packages that have been released by them over the years but in my defence I did buy the “Funeral Pyre” single on it’s release (and I still think it’s the best thing they ever did, but I am biased as it’s rather drum heavy). I was wondering how this would go, I was aware that From The Jam originally consisted of drummer Rick Buckler and bassist Bruce Foxton but with the former having departed (originally replaced by Mark Brzezicki of Big Country) I wasn’t really sure where From The Jam sat in the scheme of things – are they a “touring band” or a tribute but with the added kicker of having one of the members of the band as a member. Sort of a “Diet Jam”, if you like (© J Baird, MM’s in-house photographer).
First things first – support act The Real Me….. Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the band had already started playing as I got into the auditorium, they were already into their second song, a splendid cover of The Who’s ‘The Kids Are Alright’. The three piece local act are definitely a tight band and picked a bunch of decent songs to cover. They were great fun to watch and the nominal front man was energetic, all jerks and twists, he was an engaging presence. Although most of the songs were mod/new wave (The Jags, Small Faces and The Who) there were some interesting diversions with covers of ‘Woolly Bully’ and ‘River Deep, Mountain High’. They are clearly talented musicians and the one original that they indulged themselves in was suitably Jam influenced. Judging by the numbers bopping away, they had definitely done their job of warming up the crowd and as they mentioned that they support FTJ in the South West, they must be a local band – one I would love to see again but doing their own gig.
This being a gig celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Sound Affects album, the band open up with the first song on that album – ‘Pretty Green’ and it’s politely received but perhaps not as rapturously as I’d thought it would. Lead singer/guitarist Russell Hastings is a decent replacement for the mighty Paul Weller but hang on a minute – why is their a 4th person on stage playing tambourine?? Turns out this is Tom Hill who is playing keyboards and percussion where required. The crowd warms up a bit more for ‘But I’m Different Now’ and a few mobile phones appear for ‘Set The House Ablaze’ and with a shout of “C’mon then” from Hastings the crowd starts jumping almost as one for the ‘la la’ section.
The first of the two singles I was aware of before I listened to this album, specifically for this gig, ‘Start’ is next up. I credit this with introducing me to another particular band – the sleeve notes on the first greatest hits package I owned noted that this “had the feel of The Beatles classic, Taxman”. Feel is perhaps not a strong enough description but Weller’s rewrite is a great version and certainly had everyone in the hall moving. Following that would be a tricky task in the middle of a gig, were it not for the classic single ‘That’s Entertainment’ which gave keyboard player Hills a chance to show his versatility but donning an acoustic guitar. After Hastings tells the lighting guy “absolutely no more haze and get some lights on the crowd” the band play a cracking rendition and on being exhorted to “sing your hearts out” we willingly oblige. The rest of the album is met with affection but it seems like people are waiting for the “hits” section……….
Hastings tells us that it’s time to really get this place going and what better way to help us than kicking off the (nominal) second half with ‘In The City’ and following everyone clapping in the intro to ‘David Watts’, the crowd duly goes mental. Well as mental as people of our collective ages can be! – I don’t remember seeing anyone aged under 40 in the audience. ‘David Watts’ is sung by sole remaining Jam member, Bruce Foxton. Foxton, despite being 60, seems to have as much energy as a man half his age and cuts a dapper swathe with his jacket – which survives until the encore. After the peak and frenzied reaction to ‘David Watts’, which included plenty of crowd participation, the Foxton penned ‘Smithers-Jones’ seems to give us all a break but despite less bouncing, it’s well received. Hastings takes the opportunity to introduce Hills and the drummer who I confess, I didn’t catch his name properly – I thought he was called Mike Random. Whatever his name, he did a fine job all evening. The set closes with two more classic Jam singles, ‘A Town Called Malice’ and ‘Eton Rifles’ which ends with a nifty extended ‘jam’ session (see what I did there?). Both are met with tremendous responses from a crowd completely won over by the band.
After a slightly extended wait for the band to reappear the encore starts with ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’ I can hear the crowd singing over the top of the band and the bouncing starts again at the middle point of the first verse when the drums kick in properly. After a song I confess I didn’t know (Be Brave?), Hastings says goodnight to the crowd before saying that him and Foxton had been watching Strictly Come Dancing before the gig and had seen the house band do a crap version of their final song and that he would like to “see if we can do it better”. With that it’s into ‘Going Underground’ and unsurprisingly they do a superb version of it which finally finishes off the happy crowd. The final words come from Bruce Foxton – “see you next year” and I suspect a large part of the audience is already counting the days.
With the chances of The Jam getting back together appearing very remote (despite Weller and Foxton reviving their friendship), this is the best thing that you can get and as far as I’m concerned it will more than do. See you next year, Bruce.
We would have loved to embellish the review with some of the professional photographs that we took at the show, the bands management have asked that we refrain from doing this, I am currently seeking feedback as to why.....
Words by Adrian Grainger
Invisible Photography by Julian Baird