From The Jam Take On Exeter Phoenix

by Connor Jackson

Image Credit: Derek D Souza

The crowd shuffled impatiently. Balding men in their sharpest pinstripe suit trousers and Stone Island jackets looked at their watches, anxiously chattering among themselves. Where were they? The band should have been on stage fifteen minutes ago. The groupies had long since finished tuning the instruments, and the opening act had been and gone, so where were they? Shuffling turned to murmurs, murmurs turned to fans shouting lyrics at a blacked out curtain, hoping to draw them out of hiding. Suddenly, a bright light appeared as the curtains were parted.

Out he swaggered, looking like a Mod Wolf from the Mighty Boosh – his slim frame in a tight grey suit jacket, shiny black Oxfords, and a freshly cut barnet, Bruce Foxton looked as young and spritely as ever. Without saying a word the band picked up their instruments and launched right into the setlist with This Is the Modern World. Foxton’s thick, bone-jarring bass-line was unmistakable – it penetrated everything, it resonated above the drums and the lyrics; close your eyes and you could mistake it for a chorus of guitars, such was its power. I saw grown men close to tears.

The Phoenix was the final leg of their tour. The band didn’t look exhausted, like you’d expect. They cancelled a month earlier because of illness, and they claimed that it still hadn’t really gone, but you would never know. Energetic, lively, Foxton is evergreen. The rest of the band is visibly a lot younger but, in spirit, the whole band looked no more than twenty-one. Despite being called “The A and B Sides Tour”, every song was as famous and as beloved by the crowd as the last. By the end of the night, throats were raw; the constant flow of beer did little to rehydrate this frenzied mob of mid-50 somethings in the crowd loving every minute. Classic followed classic – News of the World, Down in the Tube Station at Midnight, That’s Entertainment, to name just a few of the opening songs of the set-lists.

This was it, this was the peak: Bruce Foxton, a legend of British punk rock in the flesh, performing with all his heart for an intimate gig of no more than a few hundred – I could see the whites of his eyes. He leapt. He sung. He waved his long limbs around encouraging the baying crowd to sing and clap and shove.

Their more famous tracks were intermingled with an acoustic song here or a slower song there, lesser known songs like Liza Radley still drew huge audience participation. From The Jam did a great job of keeping the crowd on their toes, faking a few songs out by playing the intro of Eton Rifles only to transition into another. The roof felt like it would blow off, everyone was slaked with sweat in both excitement and anticipation. By the time Going Underground was played, I thought the place might collapse – the crowd heaved, bounced, pushed, shoved and, above all, screamed lyrics at the top of their lungs. Town Called Malice followed and ended almost as quickly as it began, and with that the band thanked the crowd and walked off.

The encore would come, everyone knew it would, but not for lack of trying. Seconds turned to minutes, minutes felt like hours, hours of impatient waiting and cheering for an encore – the curtains for the second time this evening received a barrage of choruses from hit after hit and, in true rockstar fashion, From The Jam disappeared for so long I even started to believe there would be no encore. But when they emerged they played the song they had been teasing all night – Eton Rifles, and not just a regular version, but an extended one. Every second appreciated and savoured, before I knew it the encore was over and the band disappeared for good.

From The Jam don’t look like they’ll let up touring any time soon, and money spent on tickets is money well spent. The gig was great, the set-list truly superb, the atmosphere bumping and the cost was unbeatable. If From The Jam are touring near you it’d be hard to excuse not going – I can’t recommend them enough.