Brighton Centre, Brighton
I WASN'T exactly willing to be converted but I was willing to be entertained.
Never been a Jam fan, y'see, and lately it looks more and more as if Paul Weller, like so many of the rock stars he despises, is beginning to believe his own press cuttings, especially the ones hailing him as the angry spokesman for the now generation, the modern UK suburban wilderness kids of Tory town.
I can't help feeling that any generation that needs a spokesman isn't worth speaking up for. And how about the spokesman, what's he worth?
The Brighton Centre is nice and spacious, ideal for the Jam in that it has the concrete and brushed aluminium glow of any council office in the Midlands. But there was nothing on show tonight to make this different from any other rock concert, be it by the Who, Motorhead or Dollar.
Three young men spread rather thinly over the stage, the drummer high above the other two, stacks of Marshalls, the light show's dull surprise. The music had little to offer, either. Oh sure, there were lots of dedicated boppers upfront, jogging on the spot, but all the Jam's horses and all the Jam's men never seemed to make them come off as anymore than the sum of the three parts.
Despite Foxton's hunched shuffle and Welter's gawky strut, they still looked tired with what they were doing. It's a job. A fan said to me:
"Compared with what they used to be..."
The sound was alright but the vocals were naff. Rock, rock, rock my axe; none of the fizz and flash of their best singles.
'Bitterest Pill' (MUPPET REVIWER - THE YDIDNT EVEN SING BP)_was first into the muddy trench. A list? Oh, 'Town Called Malice', 'Away From The Numbers', 'Start' and 'Precious' and lots more but no 'Eton Rifles'.
Paul rarely talked to the audience, relying on the songs to communicate, which I never felt they did in this setting of traditional frozen rebel moves. Each song seemed to be a rearrangement of the same elements. For one dodgy second, I thought we were in for a drum solo.
A change of guitars and lighting, a switch from Weller's 'Strummer' voice to his 'Lennon 1966' voice...to compare the Jam to one-shot Beatles copy boys like the Knickerbockers would be unfair but the question clings like a leech: What's the point of all this rereading of history? Phantom Leslie keyboards added a touch of pseudo-psychedelia!
About three-quarters through I could take no more and wandered to the bar area. Just like any USA stadium gig for Journey or Styx, there were lots of bored kids drinking, puking, talking, arguing. For many, a Jam concert is not as intense an experience as it is for those crazies at the uncritical frontline.
As 'David Watts' cemented the Kinks worship and 'Tube Station' died in the mundane air, I took out a William Burroughs book and scanned the pages. A drunk kid yelled at me: "Are you a student? You can't read a book at a gig!" No, but you can get pissed and ignore the band! I told him Uncle Bill is better than Paul Weller and that at 68 he's still doing gigs. Ones that count. I don't think he heard me through the booze, the shouts and the roar of the bloodied Jam.
It's not all Weller's fault that the Jam aren't as important as they'd like to be (though he isn't blameless either). It's tradition and the Jam have opted to work with tradition, for which they're now paying the price of success. 'So Sad About...'
Worrying for the intelligent fan, if they exist. Maybe it's time to go underground.
Sandy Robertson, Sounds, 2 October 1982