The Jam at the Starwood, Los Angeles, April 1978
The last time The Jam played here back in November at the Whisky; they rushed through like an express train at a disused station. This time they’re at the Starwood, a large disco with sunken bars and sunken floors.
The place is packed so tight that armpits are steaming and the over-crowded crowd are on the boil; during the half-hour in which the Jam’s Marshall’s are set up, the crowd chant “Starwood sucks” and it’s true.
But excitement builds despite the routine punk bands that precede the stars of the show; the Jam are as efficient and as well drilled as any wild boy army but they have nothing to do with routine – practice just gives them a frame to explode in.
The selling of the Jam is the selling of England by the pound – hopefully at a better exchange rate than of late. The drums have Union Jacks all over them and there’s no fake Americanese in the vocals. The Jam aren’t L.A. tax exiles.
New Wave in England turned its back on cliches of luxury, the ‘agonies’ of being rich; like the Clash say. “I’m so bored with the USA”.
The problems come when new wave bands invade America with intent to conquer. The Jam aren’t Americanised and it’ll be the beginning of the end when Weller writes about freeways and cokespoons.
So the only way to sell them is the emphasise the Englishness of it all which has a tendency to turn them into curios and tourist attractions.
The band finally make it on stage around 11:30 running in gear, black suits, white shirts, black ties. In the land of the tan they look like ghosts, white as mods in Brighton on Easter Monday.
Weller smashes into ‘The Modern World’ and an earth – quake hits the sardine – packed audience. Once the Jam have turned it on they leave it on, knock you to the floor with their first number and hit you with another one every time you try to get up.
They do virtually all the second album, and the harmonies are even tighter than on the record. Weller and Foxton rush round the stage, eyes set straight ahead, then lurch towards the crowd bringing the music closer like an offering.
Weller chews gum throughout. Foxton, like all true bass players, keeps as far away from the mike as possible, leaping on the attacks then rushing to the mike in time to hit the harmonies.
No gob, thank god, but the band maintain constant haloes of sweat. City music in the city to end all cities. ‘In The Street’, ‘Today’, ‘In The City’, ‘London Traffic’, ‘Bricks And Mortar’, theme songs for the concrete jungle as repetitive as the streets themselves.
Underneath it all is the treble of Weller’s Rickenbacker and Buckler’s drumming, snapping it all down. Weller ends every number by slashing across his guitar like a hard boy with a knife.
He seems a little worried about the crush in the crowd, cautioning them, “We don’t want any deaths – leave that to the Stones”. A quarter of the way through Tom Petty appears on the balcony amongst the journalists and watches them intently as if sizing up the opposition.
The Jam do two double encores, thanking the crowd, ‘Slow Down’ from the first album, a contradiction in terms for the band, “Just so you won’t forget,” says Weller and they close as they began with ‘The Modern World’, exit running.
God knows what the Jam do afterwards – run into a wall a few times maybe to slow themselves down. They’re getting bigger and better all the time and not as curious, neither. This is the modern world I’ve heard about.
Record Mirror, 28/04/78