The Rainbow, London
FASHION NOTES first. The band, of course, were in their sharp suits, looking less like matching mods, though, than a good old group in uniform. Out front parkas predominated, as if plum loafers and peanut suits had never existed. Parkas originated as practical wear for the boys with scooters, but there were major faces who wouldn't be seen dead on two wheels.
Indeed, the essence of mod elegance was minutiae: the name on the label no one ever saw, a millimetric precision in the depth of vents or pocket flaps, the arrangement of ticket pockets inside the jacket. The girls in the audience were either less concerned to recreate the cult or didn't know how – not that it mattered much, since the business of being a mod was always essentially male (pace Pat the window-dresser and her pals).
If Friday had been '64 or '65 and The Jam a genuine mod band, they wouldn't have been playing there at the Finsbury Park Astoria. No mod band ever got that big. The Who were Shepherds Bush scruffs kitted out in Carnaby Street, the Small Faces were more like it, but they didn't play mod music. Georgie Fame, Chris Farlowe, Ronnie Jones et al were the ones, and they played all night to stand-up pilled-up crowds in clubs. And the best stuff, anyway, was all on import records.
The Who, however, took Mod to the provinces, the way John Stephen put its clothes in high street boutiques, and it was their spirit that infiltrated the evening, a spirit made manifest by the vast target hovering behind the drum kit, the indelible symbol off Moon's T-shirt. The Jam lack that band's voice, but none of the vigour.
Paul Weller's songs are powerful anthems to be sung along with from start to finish, and the crowd did just that, having leapt up and as near the front as the bouncers (cotton-wool spilling from their ears as if their brains were made of it) would permit them from the moment the music began.
They massed before the apron, pogoing and passing broken seats above their heads like fainted kids at football, knowing not just the numbers, which mostly came from 'All Mod Cons', but even the running order. A new set is clearly due.
Unlike Jimmy Pursey and some others, The Jam maintain an old-fashioned aloofness from their audience – Weller never once looked anyone in the eye – and the succession of solo dancers on the stage's edge were whipped off within seconds like unsuccessful auditioners, but they're loved none the less for that and were called back for a double encore.
A closing question: why do roadies always look like hippies?
John Pidgeon, Melody Maker, 19 May 1979