Monday, 26 January 2015

Recent Gigs Part Two: The Beat and From The Jam

My last gigs of that long-lost year 2014 included a couple of old favourites at my local rock 'n' roll Mecca, Gloucester's Guildhall. First up were The Beat ( Ranking Roger pictured above ) bringing their now-traditional Christmas party to the Shire. And when I say "Christmas party" I mean red hot, summery, skankin' ska action... in December. Sarah had wanted to come along to this gig ( mostly for the chance to see Roger take his shirt off... ) but wasn't feeling too good, so I persuaded James to fill in for her. He's always said he "doesn't like reggae" but I told him that I couldn't imagine anyone with a pulse not enjoying The Beat's exuberant, addictive rhythms   -  and, anyway, this is SKA...
But, before that Black Country beat we had to enjoy, sorry that should read "endure", support band Boys From County Hell. I always try to be positive on this 'ere blog and if I see a particularly bad band I tend to just not write about them... but this lot were something else. Aside from the fact that a Pogues-y folk band seemed a strange fit for supporting The Beat ( it seems to be a thing lately  -  The Levellers recently supported The Selecter too ) I thought I'd give them the benefit of the doubt. Oh dear. They played some of the worst hey-nonny-nonny drivel ever, with some incredibly poor vocals and doomed, desperate attempts to urge an uninterested crowd to sing along to songs that no-one knew. When they started to murder the peerless Fairytale Of New York I had to leave the room. Luckily the Guildhall has a separate bar and an art gallery so James and I managed to escape with our ears and sanity intact and checked out some proper culture.
Then The Beat came on and all was forgotten. If not forgiven. As ever, the band were excellent  -  pumping out so much energy, positive vibes and righteous rhythms that the whole venue felt like it was moving. Which, in fact, it was as we all bounced around on the sprung floor of this former ballroom. Hit after hit came skanking our way: Save It For Later, Too Nice To Talk To, Stand Down Margaret, the immortal Mirror In The Bathroom, the Roadrunner-soundalike Two Swords and, of course Tears Of A Clown. One of the best moments of the night was a slow and soulful Doors Of Your Heart, the band ably demonstrating they can master a mellow groove as well as uptempo, uptown, top rankin' ska beats. The father and son partnership of Ranking Roger and Ranking Junior are some of the best frontmen you're ever likely to see, both fantastic singers and performers, literally bouncing off each other as they criss-cross the stage with boundless energy. And, much to the dismay of many in the audience, Roger didn't actually take his shirt off, even in the cooking temperatures of the stage lights  -  he only rolled it up to partly reveal his impressive physique. I took the blurry photo below for Sarah but it doesn't quite do him justice :-)
And with the traditional final song, the rousing Jackpot, The Beat were gone, leaving us all knackered but happy... and leaving James a convert to their warm, sun-kissed sound. See you next year, guys!
A week later I was back in the Guildhall again, this time to see From The Jam, playing the classic Jam album Setting Sons in its entirety, on its 35th anniversary. Support came from Stroud's finest, the mighty Chinese Burn, legendary frontman Ben Rigsby above. As any long-time reader of TGWS will know I'm a major fan of the Burn and have probably seen them perform more times than any other band. I'm also glad to say that they're friends of mine but, even if I didn't know them, I'd still turn up for their gigs because they are just one of the best modern practitioners of melodic, intelligent Punk, on a good night easily a match for any classic '77-era group. They've got the sound, the tunes and the effortless charisma and idiosyncratic lyrics of Mr. Rigsby  -  a killer combo. Anyway, they went down a storm at the Guildhall, as they always do, probably one of the best sets I've seen them play. Below is a view of the audience, photo taken by Ben, with me front and centre, looking very red-faced in the heat. It didn't help that I was wearing my pin-stripe blazer to fit in with the Mod vibe of the headliners.
 ( My mate Rob said I looked like I was running for prime minister... )
From The Jam came on stage to the sound of a ringing phone ( and a cheering audience ) with Bruce Foxton asking "Should we answer that?" and then, of course, ripped into Power Pop classic Girl On The Phone, with its cheeky lyrics about groupies and stalkers. From then on, with us in the palms of their hands, FTJ ripped their way through such fantastic songs as The Eton RiflesThick As Thieves, Little Boy Soldiers and Smithers-Jones, each one a fizzing cocktail of great tunes, stinging hooks and acerbic lyrics. These songs of class warfare, suburban desperation and willing cannon-fodder still sound as pertinent today as they did 35 years ago, when Foxton and the long-absent Paul Weller first wrote them. From The Jam are the nearest thing we'll get to The Jam nowadays  -  the original band will never reform but Foxton's version are a credible alternative, fiery and passionate, avoiding the dreaded tribute band status by actually recording and releasing new material. Lead singer Russell Watson may not have Weller's voice but is a fine frontman who knows when to lead and when to let Foxton ( the real focus of the group ) claim the spotlight.
As you can see from the blurry photo above, From The Jam are very enthusiastic and energetic on stage... which doesn't make them easy to capture with a camera phone :-)
After the Setting Sons set they fired off a selection of The Jam's greatest hits, much to the delight of the crowd  -  Going Underground, Start, This Is The Modern World, The Butterfly Collector, Strange Town  -  so many classics! All in all, a great gig and I even got to meet the band backstage too, which was an added bonus. ( It helps to have friends in the support band. ) They seemed pretty worn out but were happy to chat for a few minutes and thanked us for coming  -  although I made sure we didn't outstay our welcome. I've seen From The Jam three times now and I'll definitely have to check them out again....
Sound Affects next time...?


John Pitt said...

Sounds like a couple of great gigs there, Simon!
As you say, if your feet don't tap to ANY of the two-tone bands, then you ain't got a pulse!
But From The Jam -I'm so pleased that Bruce is doing well now and his vocals were on so many of the early songs (lead on some!) I haven't heard much about what he's up to since his time in Stiff Little Fingers. Did he still play a Rickenbacker bass?
We did have Rick Butler's The Gift playing up here in the NE a few years ago, but I didn't go.
Of course, everyone rates All Mod Cons as their best album, but I always thought SS was better, myself. But then again I rated SA even better still. Can't quite share the same enthusiasm about The Gift though.
( You know I still have a list of my first 15 albums to send you. I was hanging on until after the Flaming Lips, but I can email the listto you before then if you like?)

cerebus660 said...

John, From The Jam are touring Sound Affects all round the country this year, including a few gigs Oop North, so I'd recommend you check them out if you can. If you're on Facebook they've published tour dates on their official FB page.

I'd love to see your list of 15 albums - email is fine, it's always good to hear from you. That Flaming Lips post is well overdue isn't it?


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