Monday 4 June 2007

A thought for the heartbroken

"Better to be hurt by the truth than comforted by a lie." From The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

Friday 1 June 2007

I've got a pocket full of Pretty Green

I saw a real live Jam gig last week No, really, I did... sort of. Because whilst The Jam split up when I was still at school, bassist Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler have reformed with a stand-in Weller in the form of Russell Hastings and a supplementary guitarist/keyboard player whose name escapes me. And they're touring as "From The Jam: Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler". Now some would tell you that The Jam without Paul Weller would be like Starsky without Hutch, Laurel without Hardy, Dr Who without the Tardis, or Wimbledon strawberries without cream... and that this partial reformation would be nothing more than a caricature, more akin to a tribute band than the real thing. Maybe, artistically, such people would have a point, and so it was that I went to the gig with more than a little trepidation, half-expecting my twenty-five year old musical memories to be soured by a half-hearted, half-baked rehash...

...except "From The Jam..." were bloody brilliant! Maybe the fact that the audience - mainly men in their late-30s and early-40s - had been waiting so long to hear these songs live, and knew every word, contributed to the amazing atmosphere. Maybe the small venue - capacity under a 1000, I'd estimate - played a part too. But most of all, I think, the fact that the songs have stood the test of time so well, and still sound fresh and vital was the key to the success of the night. And they didn't just trot out a "greatest hits" style set, there were old album tracks a-plenty (never thought I'd get to hear "Pretty Green" played live) and even a cover of The Who's "So Sad About Us" which The Jam had only ever done as a B-side back in the day (and which went down a storm with all the old Mods in the crowd). Russell is a skilled guitarist who recreated the crackling Weller riffs with ease and accuracy. Crucially, he didn't try to sound like Paul singing though, he just sang them as himself, but with all the intensity and passion the original recordings deserve. I think Bruce and Rick made a smart choice in recruiting someone who is clearly a fan, rather than a sound-alike, because when Russell was singing, he looked like he meant it. And speaking of Bruce and Rick, it was amazing to see them play live. Bruce is as dexterous a bassist as I have seen at such close quarters, and still has a lot of energy on stage (though his mid-riff leaps into the air were a little lower than in his heyday), whilst Rick's drumming was mind-boggling at times - quite how he could drum so quickly and powerfully with apparently so little effort (seeming to barely touch each drum-skin and cymbal) was beyond me.

I see that The Police have also reformed for a summer of gigs - I'll be going to see them if I can get tickets. Of course, Sting is on board for this, so they will only be playing enormo-domes, not the sort of intimate venue I saw The Jam in. Should still be a good night though. What worries me ever so slightly is that both reformed acts are talking about new material! Maybe The Police will be able to pull this off, with Sting on-board and if they can refrain from arguing long enough, but new Jam material without Weller to pen the bulk of the songs? I have more than a little trepidation about this... but at the same time, this old closet Mod hopes he is wrong.

"From The Jam..." are coming back here in December, and I'll be going again. I would recommend you do the same if you get the chance. For details of how and where that chance awaits you, including autumn/winter tour dates, take a sneaky peek here.