published in Record Mirror, 5th April 1980
The Jam aren’t making it quite as quickly as The Clash in the States though they’ve been coming here longer. The Clash sell out two shows in San Francisco. The Jam have to be content with one. Not that it’s a competition and then The Jam have never been as determined as the Four Horsemen to conquer the States.
The Jam are after all English to the core, and they have none of the revolutionary glamour to which The Clash aspire. Paul Weller’s subject matter has always been English to the core, council houses and people stifling in conventional conservatism with little hope and less glory. Ideals die and the world fails to change – everyone just grows a little older and no one writes better about the land of compromise than Weller.
Yet there’s nothing compromising about the music of Paul’s anger which is firmly in place. He continues to transform himself on stage into a raging wild youth, thrashing his guitar, spitting out the words, retiring to the back to whip up a storm of feedback.
The Jam’s music is tightly arranged, tight enough to be co-ordinated with the fastest changing light show in the west, following the music note for note, works his way into the frenzy that the music miraculously contains. You keep expecting him to smash something, the frenzy seems to demand it, and yet the anger is chanelled into the smartness of the suits. Rick Buckler’s inflexible drums, the wordiness of the songs.
The magic of a Jam show is that nothing bursts. Pent-up rage fills the air almost from the first and is maintained until the end.
The show is one long outburst that never falters, gathering in it’s way a whole treasury of songs, most of the last two albums, the recent singles singles plus ‘The Modern World’ and ‘Away From The Numbers.’
Bruce Foxton plays cheerleader, urging the crowd to clap along, all wide eyes and boy scout encouraging. By the end he’s satisfied. The balcony has finally stood up to join those who’ve long been bopping downstairs “That’s better,” he says. “This is more like England.” It must be hard to leave a land where you’re the tops and have to begin dragging audiences to their feet all over again.
Time was The Jam used to bash through each song as fast as possible then on to the next. Now they have the strength and confidence to let the song dictate the pace. So ‘Mr Clean’ is a triumph, the anger of the song carried full to the fore by the malevolent restraint with which Weller grinds out the riff, he gives it the necessary time to be downright threatening. Weller announces ‘Little Boy Soldiers’ with a timely reminder of Carter’s promise to reinstate the draft and then proceeds to underline the warning with the song itself.
Three encores and they have to turn up the houselights to get anyone out. Definitely a heatwave. (Mark Cooper)