It’s hard to believe it’s been 35 years since a certain Mr. Weller spat out the words “In the city there’s a thousand things I wanna say to you…” on the Jam’s debut single. Tonight those words kickstart a set of old school Punk and Mod from Weller’s former partner in crime, Bruce Foxton, and his band From The Jam. A capacity crowd at Gloucester’s Guildhall Arts Centre are here to relive those days of sharp suits and sharper lyrics, of inner city anthems and suburban hymnsâ¦ including Louder Than War’s Simon Barton.
But first, local heroes Chinese Burn tear up the stage with their melodic Punk-pop and demonstrate the power and passion which so impressed LTW boss John Robb when they supported the mighty Goldblade at this very venue a year ago. Led by the irrepressible Ben Rigsby, a Punk frontman in the classic tradition who writes some of the most incisive, idiosyncratic lyrics imaginable and gives every performance 100% commitment, Chinese Burn firebomb the audience with short, sharp bursts of adrenalised rock ‘n’ roll. As ever, the Guildhall brings out the best in them and they play a blinder, winning new converts along the way. Long live the Underdog!
It must be strange for Bruce Foxton to find himself, at the age of 57, to be playing in what is essentially a tribute band to his own group from three decades ago. Not that this is reflected in tonight’s performance, however, as Foxton – looking remarkably well-preserved and as dapper as ever – is clearly loving playing the classic Jam songs as well as his own solo material.
The first half of the set consists of a 35th anniversary performance of the In The City album and some of Foxton’s solo songs, which leaves all but the hardcore fans somewhat non-plussed, although the album’s title track and Away From The Numbers are stand outs.
But when the hits are wheeled out the place erupts. It’s easy to overlook just how many perfectly-formed Punk / Pop / Mod singles The Jam produced in a 5-year chart career and most of them get an airing tonight: the social comment of That’s Entertainment, the anti-violence anthem Down In The Tube Station At Midnight, The Eton Rifles’ class war parable, the nuclear war nightmare of Going Underground and the giddy optimism of Beat Surrender – all present and correct and enducing euphoria in the crowd. The band are tight and enthusiastic, with only a couple of hiccups as guitar / lead problems provoke some blokeish ribbing of their soundman.
Russell Hastings is a fine lead singer and guitarist, although lacking Weller’s charisma, and Foxton’s own vocals on David Watts and Smithers-Jones are as strong as ever. After fantastic versions of When You’re Young and Strange Town, From The Jam finish with a funky Town Called Malice, the crowd dancing their way to a frenzy.
There may never be a Jam reunion but it’s reassuring to see someone as talented and passionate as Bruce Foxton being able to take these wonderful old songs out on the road and communicate so successfully with this Modern World.