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Live review: From The Jam

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From The Jam / Nine Below Zero
Northampton Roadmender
November 30th 2018

Some bands age like fine wine and that’s certainly the case with Nine Below Zero. Opening their set with an energetic version of fan favourite ‘Riding on the L&N’ the band deliver a masterclass in rhythm’n’blues. ‘I’m in the Doghouse’ follows and simply swings while evergreen vocalist Dennis Greaves makes his guitar sing on a hard edged rendition of blues standard ‘Killing Floor’. With his partner-in-crime, the harmonica maestro Mark Feltham the pair have been performing together for four decades and share an obvious chemistry – as evidenced by a tight but fun rendition of ‘Tequila’. Nine Below Zero turn in a crowd pleasing, greatest hits set with ‘Wipe Away Your Kiss’ and ‘You Can’t Say Yes, You Can’t Say No’, both from their seminal Third Degree album, following in quick succession. As you’d expect a fiery run through of ‘Eleven Plus Eleven’ sets the venue alight and ensures they end on a high.

From The Jam are touring the classic All Mod Cons album to celebrate it’s fortieth anniversary. Nowadays a word like ‘classic’ is thrown around casually but All Mod Cons is certainly worthy of such a title. More than just an album it really captured the spirit of the times, both musically and lyrically, and the triumph of tonight’s show is that some of that essence is replicated. The short, sharp shock of opener ‘All Mod Cons’ is performed with the aggression it warrants, before the band ease off the throttle with ‘To Be Someone’. In the live environment it becomes evident what a kaleidoscopic album All Mod Cons is. From the power-pop of ‘David Watts’ to the neo-psychedelia of ‘The Place I Love’ to the primitive punk of ‘Billy Hunt’, From The Jam paint each song with the appropriate shade.

‘English Rose’ affords the opportunity for an acoustic interlude and the band deviate from the original track listing to include ‘Smithers Jones’ and ‘Private Hell’. The latter, when stripped bare, reveals a lyrical depth hidden in the original. Then it’s back to All Mod Cons for the Orwellian ‘A Bomb in Wardour Street’ and the poetic ‘Down in the Tube Station at Midnight’.

What follows is a ‘best of’ set full of songs that defined a generation. ‘A Town Called Malice’ turns the venue into a huge dancefloor, before we’re treated to the “too good to be a b-side” ‘The Butterfly Collector’. Vocalist Russell Hastings sounds uncannily like Paul Weller, but he still manages to impart his own stamp on proceedings. Bruce Foxton has cut down on the trademark leaps and bicycle kicks but he still turns in an energetic, lively performance and his vocal on ‘News of the World’ sounds vital and fresh.

The band return for three well-deserved encores: ‘In The City’, ‘Eton Rifles’ and a rousing ‘Going Underground’. Purists may dismiss From The Jam as a glorified tribute act (albeit with an original member), but they obviously haven’t seen the joy their performance brings. Thankfully Bruce Foxton cares enough about his past so we can relive a little of ours.

Peter Dennis

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