From The Jam 7.8.21 The Brook, Southampton
Another postponed gig I wondered about ever happening. It’s arrived. Hopeful Lockdown bookings are now finally rolling out – hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew 🤔 in what could be a monster run up to the end of 2021. Each booking I thought was a roll of a dice. They can’t all come up with a six can they?
It’s a fabulous time to catch a band and lap up that return to business enthusiasm from artists, doormen, bar staff, punters and all. Tonight a return to The Brook, Portswood Road, Portswood, Southampton…and it’s been a while, even pre-Covid, since I’ve been here.
Always a good menu of tribute and local acts with the added spark of the occasional bigger name.
I usually end up driving to this one – or being driven as with tonight – as it’s a fairly inhospitable walk down the busy 1.7 miles from Southampton Parkway station or an ambitious 2.7 miles up from Southampton Central. Parkway and a cab is probably the best option coming from outside the city but you need to get your act together to get one back later at some unpredictable time.
It’s a big old Victorian pub converted to be one of the bigger pub venues, with 600 capacity – the speciality being the split level and large overlapping upper, casually seated area which gives a view that almost feels like you are hovering over the stage. There’s a bar upstairs as well. You need to get there as the doors open to get a seat with a view – more popular the older the band. The view is good downstairs though with a high stage.
My history here is a relatively recent – 2005 – but the gigs started in the current setting in 1994. While it is a tribute band heaven, Absolute Bowie is the only tribute act I’ve seen here – excellent. Other bands I can remember seeing and I’ll note here for my record are: The Undertones (post Feargal obviously); Secret Affair; The Rifles; Buzzcocks, Cush and Swill from The Men They Couldn’t Hang and The Rezillos.
We arrive about ten minutes before doors open thinking we will be early enough for an upstairs seat – foot ailments continue – and it is, just. The queue is an eager one tonight and leads round the corner and down the Portswood Road.
A feast of bands on the posters outside to attract pointing fingers at future suggestions and booking acknowledgements from queuing punters.
We are soon in, greated by smiling faces – everyone’s happy to be back.
Support Band: Nine Below Zero (Dennis and Mark)
Bit of a bonus this. Not seen anything about the support and as I am trying to see what the case of things is on the stage when I heard a mention of Nine Below Zero… it was a case of about 20 harmonicas….Mark Feltham’s harmonicas. Mr Harmonica himself.
Dennis Greaves and Mark Feltham of Nine Below Zero have arrived from doing Wickham Festival and provide the opening set this evening with some harmonica heavy blues – more traditional ‘Move it on Over’ to the new material ‘Wannabe Wannabees’ (a dig at modern celeb culture youth) of a near current album.
The harmonica playing was an obvious highlight. I bought one myself in Lockdown, maybe inspired by seeing Nine Below Zero at the 2019 Butlins Minehead Great British Alternative Music Festival. (Alas I can only manage Twinkle Twinkle Little Star so far.)
Greaves encourages visits to the merch stand to pick up a CD, pointing to the woeful earnings from Spotify in particular. He reflects on the Spotify owner’s wish to take a big stake in Arsenal Football Club with all the money he’s made from everyone’s music and Dennis declares his Spurs loyalty before some light hearted abuse.
I Never Saw the Jam
I can’t believe I never saw The Jam. I bought Jam singles in my school days – not albums until later – and despite going to see bands while at school and in the Jam active years after I never got to see them. I remember scouring Sounds and NME at school hoping to rumble an ad for a Jam secret gig (they were a thing around London) but I don’t remember trying for tickets anytime. When it came to the last Jam tour, while I was in Birmingham, I didn’t join the scramble for tickets at the huge Bingley Hall gig. Despite all this The Jam were a big part of my musical backdrop 1977-1982, The Jam years. I just missed the bus on the live front.
On the live gig front my regrets are pretty limited but my few are never seeing The Jam or The Clash live. In both cases I’ve seen the dismembered parts but not the whole body of these bands.
I’ve seen Weller a handful of times – Pheonix Festival, Bournemouth BIC, Poole Lighthouse and Victorious Festival 2018 (best one) – but he is focused on his solo material and Jam songs are heavily rationed. What From The Jam offer is some Jam indulgence….unrestrained indulgence.
From The Jam
When From The Jam emerged in 2007 it was with bassist Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler, from the Jam, plus a new Jam fan front man Russell Hastings. Rick has since left.
I caught up with them in the unlikely surroundings of Ferndown Barrington Centre, East Dorset on 20.5.2016 and again at the aforementioned Butlins Minehead event in March 2020.
They recorded an album of their own material, ‘Smash the Clock’ in 2016 in Paul Weller’s Black Barn Studios. Bruce must of patched up his differences with Weller by then. These differences, and Weller’s complete separation from Bruce and Rick, are well documented in Rick Buckler’s absorbing autobiography ‘That’s Entertainment: My Life in the Jam’.
From The Jam Tonight
This evening is billed as ‘up close and acoustic’ – Bruce Foxton and Russell Hastings sat front stage and with regular FTJ keyboardist Andy Fairclough. No drummer.
They start with ‘Liza Radley’ (from Sound Effects) and then a Bruce fronted classic ‘David Watts’ – the Kinks cover – the place is absolutely buzzing. A few feedback problems in ‘Eton Rifles’ with some sound level corrections before we are in to ‘So Sad About Us’.
The roadie support is introduced – Russell Hastings’ son who lurks behind the amps centre stage.
One more recent FTJ song I note is ‘Number 6’ and aside from a couple of songs the set is a barrage of classics including ‘That‘s Entertainment’, ‘Smithers Jones’, ‘English Rose’…the latter not getting the quiet it needs and deserves. This is no traditional acoustic set. It couldn’t be – they need the volume or all would be lost amongst a chorus of aging voices singing along to every line of every verse.
I’m upstairs looking down through wide bars so photos are a bit select. It was too hard to wander about – Jam packed it was!
I’m wondering if this is quite as high on the sheer excitement front as last time I saw them, then ‘When You’re Young’ starts. The neck hairs are bristling. Brilliant.
You used to fall in love with everyone
Any guitar and any bass drum
Life is a drink and you get drunk when you’re young
Life is new and there’s things to be done
You can’t wait to be grown upFrom ‘When You’re Young’
The hits continue and this is heart warming stuff. The singalong crowd are getting more raucous: ‘Town Called Malice’ and one of my favourites ‘Saturday’s Kids’ which appears as a raw demo version on the first Jam CD I bought, the compilation ‘Live Extras’.
Hastings is so Weller-like on the vocals that if you shut your eyes you might not tell it wasn’t him. Actually if the lights were dimmed more and you’d forgotten your glasses you still might be fooled, aside from Hastings’ more up beat banter.
Foxton is quiet meanwhile and is coaxed for comment by Hastings.
To finish two of the best ‘Strangetown’ and ‘Down in the Tubestation at Midnight’ ….of course they can’t just leave it and back for an encore of ‘In the City’ and ‘Going Underground’.
After all that I just want to see them again. Full band next time in a more conventional set up. The songs are so good and so familiar.