An evening of power, passion and inspiration
Of all the literature written about the golden years of Punk, possibly the finest is Barry Cain’s ’77 Sulphate Strip’. It is an essential, eye-witness account from the journalist who seemed to be present at every pivotal moment but also draws a fascinating conclusion – there were only ever five Punk bands. They were; The Damned, The Stranglers, The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Jam. Yes, The Jam! One of the most successful bands of the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, placed right at the centre of the Punk phenomenon.
And why not? Isn’t that the entire point of Punk, whatever it really was (and there are plenty involved at the time who don’t actually approve of the concept anyway), that genres did not apply and one person’s Mod was another person’s Punk? And who really cares anyway with music that good?
The Jam were a band charged on the energy of youth, singing about what mattered to them in power-packed tunes with hooks that many bands would kill for. They packed out venues, they sold mountains of records and they changed people’s lives. And then Paul Weller, their driving force, decided he could no longer work within the constraints of the band and they were gone. And gone they will stay as it is impossible to see Weller ever relenting on his often-stated view that the band will never reform, despite the fact that it is probably the last great reunion possibility in British music.
But where does that leave the many thousands of devotees of the band, on whose lives their music made such an impact? Well judging by the crowd, a fair percentage of them are rammed in the Tivoli, Buckley tonight to enjoy Bruce Foxton’s celebration of one of our finest songbooks. And this is precisely what this show is – a celebration. With the excellent Russell Hastings taking lead vocals and guitar duties, both of which he is supremely talented at, this was an evening that delivered classic songs and a very interesting new track too.
The Modern World and Strange Town kick off the show tonight, songs of independence and isolation that, as much as any capture the late’70’s youth outlook. Set those alongside the power of A Bomb in Wardour Street, News of the World and a David Watts that has the whole room rocking, and the quality of the set speaks for itself.
This is the ‘A’s and B’s’ which takes us back to a better time and is further evidence of the quality of the music we are celebrating tonight. When The Jam were recording, to reach the high point in the charts that they always did, you had to shift vast quantities of records. There is simply no comparison, sales-wise, with music from that era and this and this is further emphasised by the concept of B sides which are very much in evidence tonight. Having bought and played a single, you would lovingly flip it over to enjoy the B side of the record and tonight we are treated to classics such as Liza Radley, The Butterfly Collector and the Foxton standard Smithers Jones. All good enough to grace the A side of many other bands.
Another striking feature is the continued importance of Jam songs, not just to their original fans, but to the many younger fans here tonight. If you cannot see the continued relevance of songs like Going Underground and Funeral Pyre then you really haven’t been paying attention recently. Then of course, there is the huge importance these songs hold in the lives of the audience, evidenced by the numbers filming Tube Station and That’s Entertainment tonight.
In addition to Funeral Pyre, encores were Heatwave, a frantic In the City and the tour de force of Eton Rifles that left another delighted audience all moshed out. On leaving the venue, it was interesting to hear youngsters discussing how inspirational they had found the show and that really says it all. This music is going to live for ever.
A Bomb in Wardour Street
News of the World
Down in the Tube Station at Midnight
When You’re Young
Now The Time Has Come (New track)
A Town Called Malice
In the City
Photograph credit Lynne Chick