by Tim Stavrinou
Last year's Wake Up Woking gig was one of those moments that I'll be telling my children's grandchildren about, from the grave if necessary, and despite being told by Sam, the organiser, that Paul would 'definitely not' be putting in an appearance, I was still looking forward to it.
I saw From The Jam a couple of years and thought they put on a good show so I was looking forward to seeing them in a more intimate venue, which the HG Wells suite certainly was. Work commitments meant that unfortunately I missed Steve Brooks' slot which was a shame because I thought he was fantastic last year. The 5:16's were on next and I must admit I took the opportunity to visit the bar and have a pint or two to wind down. There were some nice framed pictures of Weller and TSC on display that were being raffled and I dutifully parted with a tenner for a couple of (losing) tickets.
The 5:16's finished their set and I made my way into the hall that was somewhat disappointingly quite empty. 20 minutes or so later the DJ faded out his song and the intro to 'Dream Time' started up. I glanced behind me and was still surprised to see the hall only half full. Bruce and the lads walked on to a loud cheer and picked up the song once the intro had finished.
Bruce looked as good as ever (and probably wearing one of his original Jam suits); Russell Hastings, the man who has one of the hardest jobs in the world, namely 'being' Paul Weller', looked relaxed and raring to go. The drummer I didn't know I'm afraid but I thought he did a great job and kept the two frontmen in check.
I've never been one for remembering setlists but after Dream Time came a wash of classic Jam - Thick As Thieves, Start, When Your Young and of course Bruce's songs, News Of The World and Smithers Jones.
The band were tight and well-rehearsed and, forgive me if I get sentimental, but Bruce's bass playing is simply the best I have ever heard. As a guitar geek I always pay attention to the playing and to watch his fingers blurring over the fretboard is a joy to behold. Russel's playing was as good as ever and eerily reminiscent of Weller's, even down to his fearful stance at the mic stand and his fondness for strumming higher up the guitar neck than usual; methinks he's watched 'Trans-Global Unity Express' more than once..
After a few tunes Russell announced that the album of new material would be available later in the year and the band eased into their single 'Later Day' followed by a couple of other new songs. These were fairly well received but it was evident that the audience was there to hear songs they knew and loved.
I kept looking over my shoulder, hoping to see a packed hall with sweaty energised faces but it never happened. I don't know if they sold all the tickets or simply played it safe with numbers but the atmosphere wasn't what I'd hoped for and I think the pockets of people dotted around were feeling the same. It was almost a brilliant gig but in the end felt like an okay one.
It's not often I leave a gig before the encore but I'd been on my feet since 7am and was feeling the strain so I slipped out as the crowd were just starting the usual chant of 'We are the mods'.
Oh well, there's always next year: 30 years since The Jam split. Come on you three - bury that damn hatchet and make a million middle-aged Mods relive their youth for one night only.
to follow Tim and Barry's photo's from the gig
CD release and review