The Jam: London Hammersmith Odeon 24/07/1977

The disco plays Bad Company, Queen, etc. Safe. Making the point that the Jam are a neatly sealed cross-over product – energetic, "modern", punkoid enough to sell to all those (thousands) who won't take the plunge but don't mind getting their toes wet. They've shown clearly that there is a market for tuneful fast "fun" which'll grow in 1978. They fill it with panache and style. To these eyes/ears, it'll be totally dire – modern boredom – and I always thought one original aim of the Jam, among others, was to do away with the hideous "product"/ "market" syndrome – not to be fodder for another turn of the screw.

Well, the Jam have become stars and they let us know it. An hour-long wait for a 45-minute set. They run through much of their two albums: 'Change My Address', 'London Traffic', 'Carnaby Street', etc. – fast, proficient professional. And so cold and sterile. Much of the material dissolves into a breakneck blur: the three-piece line-up (guitar/bass/drums) is used in a limited way – the pace is always frantic, the sound always treble, the vocals always shouted... ending up very two-dimensional. All shell and no substance. All on the surface...

The audience respond, of course, by Pavlovian reaction (i.e. "I’ve paid my money and I'll goddamn have a good time") and genuinely; but for all the atmosphere In the theatre the Jam might as well be wind-up dolls. For sure they do what they choose to do very well: leap around, put on a show, play dead sure. At no time do they break out of the predictability – no risks – or extend themselves. They're up on stage, unreachable, "stars", hardly bothering to really communicate with the audience, us. At least the Clash, say, in a similar situation (big gig, "image" to live up to) have the grace and humanity to try and break out of their image, to bridge the gulf between the audience/performer, even to involve the audience...

There are other, more disturbing elements. Looking hard at what they project/are on stage, the way it's presented, it becomes clear (no matter what they might say in "interviews") that they are deeply conservative, if not reactionary. Dressed up, of course, in vague "modern" clichés/form to snag the kids. OK, maybe it’s to much to ask that they don't fall straight into the star trip, but there’s more. Their image is of strict uniformity/blandness, directly. White shirts/black ties/suits. All the same. Cold, regular. The lighting is white. The only colours are the red of Weller's Rickenbackers – he has three, exactly the same – and the Union Jacks (one draped over a speaker, two on Buckler's drums). This last is ambiguous: fine as pop-art in 1965, understandable in the light of their unashamed Who revivalism (and why not, to a point?), but are they so unaware of its more sinister connotations in the year of the National Front media blitz? Of course. In these restricting times, though, any such chauvinism on a mass level, delivered so authoritatively/frontally, can only be dangerous in the long run, and I'm sure they are not unaware of that...

Sure they celebrate the modern world, but they leave things out: it's nothing so much as the bland world of drab concrete uniformity, security guards, carefully manicured intolerance, the C&A generation – everything unpleasant filtered out; and when it bursts through, others are the scapegoat...

Enough. Maybe they're just tired and naive. I am fully aware that I've no doubt overstated, but I haven't disliked a concert so for a long time, for reasons coming from outside myself that are hard to define. I've tried to; may be I’m wrong. One thing is sure: the Jam badly need the lay-off that they're about to get badly, because on this showing they've been spread thin...