FROM THE JAM + BUZZCOCKS + BIG COUNTRY – BRIGHTON CENTRE 3.12.22
On this day, Friday 3 December 1982, I saw The Jam play their third night of five at Wembley Arena, and yes I attended all five nights. It’s just eight days short of the 40th anniversary of their last ever gig at the Brighton Centre and tonight From The Jam are celebrating the occasion with a return to the venue along with Big Country who supported them on that final ‘Beat Surrender’ tour.
I have previously documented my own disappointing experience of that day, but now seems as good a time as any to relive the events of that day. I set off from Ealing in West London that afternoon with one of my best friends, excited at the prospect of seeing the final ever gig by my favourite band The Jam.
We didn’t have tickets, but we were determined to get in and I know of a group of local young ticketless men who went down and successfully gained access that night.
As for Chris and I, we barely made it out of West Five before my trusty Hillman Avenger conked out and we were left stranded. We had left it too late to get a train and we weren’t even sure of the timetables as it wasn’t so easy to access this information without the internet and mobile phones.
The outcome was a visit to Ealing ABC to watch ‘ET’ which was a classic in its own right, but couldn’t mask my disappointment.
Forty years later I set off from Hastings hoping that I’m not beset with similar issues though on this occasion I am attending with a friend who can also drive.
So tonight is to be the third time I have caught up with ‘From The Jam’ in the past four months. I was lucky enough to review them playing R-Fest at Rebellion in Blackpool back in early August, (Review HERE) followed by an appearance in September at The White Rock Theatre in Hastings.
Prior to that I had attended the opening night ‘This Is The Modern World Exhibition’ in Brighton, where I had the privilege of meeting Russell Hastings and having a pleasant chat with him. (Read the review HERE).
First up tonight are Big Country with a 40-minute set running from 7.13pm to 7.53pm. As the sole remaining original member Bruce Watson reminds us, they really came to prominence on the back of supporting The Jam on their farewell tour in 1982. From thereon they grew in stature with regular chart success including four Top 10 singles. Their first four albums also made it to the Top 10 with ‘Steeltown’ topping the charts.
They certainly acquired a new fan in myself, especially as I had loved the Skids, of whom original lead singer and guitarist Stuart Adamson had been a member. Tragically Stuart is no longer with us having passed away 21 years ago now, but Big Country continue to tour.
This was the first time I was to see the band since the late eighties. Like so many I lost touch with them after purchasing their first three albums, several singles, and seeing them play live on numerous occasions.
My first viewing of them was on the aforementioned tour when I went to see all five nights at Wembley Arena and I was most impressed, going on to see them numerous times in the eighties when they played in and around London.
In the current line-up, strictly speaking Bruce is the only original member but Mark Brzecki wasn’t far behind, and him joining on the drums in 1982 coincided with their rise up the musical ladder.
The tartan shirts of yesteryear are now history and showing his impeccable taste Bruce is sporting a black Clash t-shirt tonight. Splitting in 2000 they reformed in 2007 and since then there have been a few line-up changes. I am intrigued to see them tonight, especially with lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist Simon Hough who has been with the band for the past nine years.
The importance of a good frontman cannot be understated and much to my relief Simon carries the role off very well. His vocals are perfect and I immediately started to feel reengaged with the band again after probably 30+ years since I last saw them live.
Bruce Watson proves to be the master of engaging with the crowd with his Scottish brogue. He tells us how he was sh*tting himself as a 21 year old when they played Wembley Arena 40 years ago, but reassures us that is not the case tonight and his confidence exudes throughout the band as they put on a thoroughly enjoyable performance.
The addition of Bruce’s son Jamie on guitar who is the third longest serving member of the band, gives added appeal and he appears to be enjoying every moment he is on stage. The latest recruit Gil Allan on bass has only been in the band a year, but is an accomplished musician and fits in well with the Big Country aesthetic.
Not that I recall the exact setlist from 1982, but I’m sure that many of tonight’s songs were played back then given that six come from their superb first album which I possess on cassette, though I could have sworn I also purchased it on vinyl. They play all four of their Top 10 hits plus ‘In A Big Country’ which really should have also reached the heady heights, but still peaked at a respectable 17.
They end the set with one of my personal favourites ‘Fields Of Fire’ which includes an excerpt from the Thin Lizzy classic ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ midway through this epic 12 inch extended rendition. I also spotted some expert drumming from Mark during this number as he dropped a drumstick, but somehow managed to retrieve it barely missing a beat.
It’s safe to say that they are now back on my radar and I look forward to seeing them play in Bexhill at the De La Warr Pavilion next year where they will be supported by Spear Of Destiny for the 40th Anniversary of the release of their debut album. I will be particularly interested to hear songs played live from the band’s other studio albums, given that they have now released nine in total. Tickets for that night are available HERE.
Simon Hough – vocals, guitar
Bruce Watson – guitar, lead banter
Mark Brzezicki – drums
Jamie Watson – guitar
Gil Allan – bass
Big Country setlist:
‘1000 Stars’ (from 1983 ‘The Crossing’ album)
‘Look Away’ (from 1986 ‘The Seer’ album) (Single reached No.7)
‘Harvest Home’ (from 1983 ‘The Crossing’ album) (Single reached No.91)
‘Lost Patrol’ (from 1983 ‘The Crossing’ album)
‘Chance’ (from 1983 ‘The Crossing’ album) (Single reached No. 9)
‘In A Big Country’ (from 1983 ‘The Crossing’ album) Single reached No.17)
‘Wonderland’ (from 1984 ‘Wonderland’ single) (Reached No.8)
‘Fields Of Fire’ (from 1983 ‘The Crossing’ album) (Single reached No.10)
Next up we have the Buzzcocks who took to the stage for a 41-minute set between 8.22pm and 9.03pm. Now they certainly would have been a great addition to that final tour had they not split up in 1981! I never got to see them play live the first time round and had to wait until 1989 to see them at Brixton Academy, but it was worthwhile as they did not disappoint on the several occasions I saw them play live thereafter.
I had to admit to being somewhat surprised when Steve Diggle continued the band after Pete Shelley died of a heart attack almost four years ago to the day, as I always thought he was irreplaceable, but that he did and even took over the daunting task of following in Pete’s footsteps as he took over lead vocals.
I caught up with them for the first time since Pete’s passing at R-Fest (Outdoor stage at Rebellion) in Blackpool in August of this year, (Review HERE) and for me it was quite strange seeing them for the first time with the new line-up but to be fair they did put on a good show. You cannot fault Steve Diggle for his effort and he obviously loves being the frontman and focus of attention.
With the news that their long-time manager Raf Edmonds had passed away at the age of 79 just two days earlier, it was bound to be an emotional evening for the band, but Steve isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. He hasn’t rested on his laurels as it would have been easy just to rattle out songs from their brilliant back catalogue, but they released a new album ‘Sonics In The Soul’ in May of this year.
Tonight we are treated to ‘Manchester Rain’ and ‘Senses Out Of Control’ from said album, with the latter’s 156 seconds worth being one of my personal highlights of the set. I can imagine Pete Shelley would approve.
It is clear that the decibel level has increased for this set. ‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’ gets the best reception of the set, though I have to say that the fervour shown by Steve before and during ‘Harmony In My Head’ is second to none. Given that he sung lead vocals on this song originally is obviously a factor in his passion for it and he really gives his all and he manages to get his rant in about the cost of living crisis and ever increasing fuel bills before encouraging the crowd to bring the house down with a rip roaring end to the set.
Given the cost of living crisis he still managed to have a bottle of either Champagne/Cava/Prosecco, definitely not Lambrini, onstage to wet his whistle rather than the standard can of lager or cider.
A noticeable omission from tonight’s set was ‘Orgasm Addict’. I would also give anything to hear ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’ played live just one last time, but realistically that would not be possible without the distinctive vocals of the one and only Pete Shelley. It is good though to see Steve Diggle continuing the Buzzcocks name with such enthusiasm and releasing highly listenable new material, and long may it continue.
Steve Diggle – guitar, vocals (1977–81, 1989–present); bass (1976–77)
Danny Farrant – drums (2006–present)
Chris Remington – bass (2008–present)
Mani Perazzoli – guitar (2019–present)
‘What Do I Get’ (from 1979 ‘Singles Going Steady’ album)
‘Senses Out Of Control’ (from 2022 ‘Sonics In The Soul’ album)
‘Fast Cars’ (from 1978 ‘Another Music In A Different Kitchen’ album)
‘I Don’t Mind’ (from 1978 ‘Another Music In A Different Kitchen’ album)
‘Sick City Sometimes’ (from 2003 ‘Buzzcocks’ album)
‘Autonomy’ (from 1978 ‘Another Music In A Different Kitchen’ album)
‘Why Can’t I Touch It?’ (from 1979 ‘Singles Going Steady’ album)
‘Promises’ (from 1979 ‘Singles Going Steady’ album)
‘Manchester Rain’ (from 2022 ‘Sonics In The Soul’ album)
‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’ (from 1978 ‘Love Bites’ album)
‘Harmony In My Head’ (from 1979 ‘Singles Going Steady’ album)
The lights dim at 9.27pm, a bit later than scheduled, and the instrumental ‘Circus’ from The Jam’s final album ‘The Gift’ is played as anticipation of tonight’s main offering grows. As ‘From The Jam’ enter the stage there is a noticeable absentee in the form of the only original member of The Jam, Bruce Foxton.
Sadly, Bruce is unwell and Russell confirms that he has been receiving some medical treatment recently and, having missed last night’s gig in Guildford, he still isn’t well enough to play.
Russell is concerned that there will be speculation in the media so makes it clear as to why Bruce is absent. You won’t get any News of the World reporting here and as a life-time fan of The Jam I just wish Bruce a speedy recovery and that he is able to continue entertaining us soon.
The band have been beset with health problems of late and Russell isn’t shy to talk about them including his own heart attack. In spite of this they continue to tour relentlessly in their pursuit to quench the thirst of old and new fans alike, and you can do nothing but admire their commitment to their faithful fan base.
For tonight’s show the balcony has been closed off and I am advised that surprisingly only a third of the potential 4,500 tickets have been sold, though it does feel like way more than that are in attendance as the auditorium fills out. I reckon that some of the many thousands who claimed to have attended that final ever gig by The Jam have actually made it along tonight!
Well the show must go on and tonight is no different. I have to admit to initially being disappointed at Bruce’s absence, but friend of the band, Gary Simons, steps up to the plate on bass guitar to fill Bruce’s boots and I have to commend him on an admirable job. Maybe not the special guest appearance some fans are hoping for, but once the music starts at 9.29pm, I am whisked back in time to when I was an 18-year-old, and what better way to start the set than with their debut single ‘In The City’. For tonight’s 71-minute set, we get to hear nine songs from the 1982 twenty-four song set but no ‘Beat Surrender’!
After a rousing ‘Saturday’s Kids’ fourth song in, the crowd are clearly in the mood and we get to hear the first chant of “We are the Mods” from some. Looking around I see a lot of middle-aged men in the audience and have to wonder if I really look like them too given that I’m 58?
The last 40 years feel like they have flown by as I’m stood on the barrier down the front. There is a mosh pit going and even a lone crowd surfer at one point which alerts the two security guards who otherwise had a peaceful night.
Russell Hastings has taken over the void left in many people’s lives when Paul Weller called time on The Jam and fills the boots of the former frontman with relative ease and has great stage presence. Let’s be honest he does talk more on stage than Weller ever did!
As Russell was a loyal fan of The Jam growing up, and yes he was at the last ever gig, he knows more than most what is expected of him and he doesn’t disappoint. In my eyes he is living the dream of every fan from back in the day and long may that continue as he brings his own style to many songs.
After ‘Town Called Malice’ he tells us the story of how he was humbled when Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler told him in a Chicago hotel that he was the one to carry the band forward.
After the hard hitting ‘Set The House Ablaze’ we get to hear a delightful new composition ‘Lula’ which was released as a single on 1st September, which is coincidentally Bruce Foxton’s birthday. They are joined onstage by Tony ‘Rico’ Richardson whose CV is longer than his saxophone, and he impresses so much so that he remains for the uplifting cover of the Motown classic ‘Heatwave’.
For ‘That’s Entertainment’ the band are joined by Big Country onstage with Jamie Watson taking on the acoustic guitar and Mark Brzezicki on tambourine. There’s embracing all round afterwards.
As in 1982 the main set ends with my favourite ever song ‘Down In The Tube Station’, and as I’m punching the air and singing along to the line “she’ll be lining up the cutlery, you know she’s expecting me” Russell shouts “yeah man” in my direction.
At this point I am happy to go home, but they have only been on stage for 55 minutes, so there is the obligatory encore still to come. ‘Ghosts’ is sandwiched between ‘The Eton Rifles’ and ‘Going Underground’, in order to give the ageing mosh pit some brief respite. The band then take the plaudits of the crowd at 10.40pm, until next year’s traditional Brighton Christmas gig.
There are those naysayers who would say that tonight is just three tribute bands in the most disparaging way, but that’s far from the truth and I would argue that all three bands are carrying forward the great music that I was brought up on. Tonight again proved that you simply cannot beat the experience of live music.
From The Jam tonight were:
Russel Hastings – lead vocals and acoustic guitars
Andy Fairclough – keys
Mike Randon – drums
Gary Simon – bass (deputising for Bruce Foxton who was unwell)
Tony ‘Rico’ Richardson – saxophone
From The Jam setlist of The Jam songs:
‘In The City’ (from 1977 ‘In The City’ album)
‘David Watts’ (The Kinks cover) (from 1978 ‘All Mod Cons’ album)
‘Start!’ (from 1980 ‘Sound Affects’ album)
‘Saturday’s Kids’ (from 1979 ‘Setting Sons’ album)
‘Pretty Green’ (from 1980 ‘Sound Affects’ album)
‘In The Crowd’ (from 1978 ‘All Mod Cons’ album)
‘Town Called Malice’ (from 1982 ‘The Gift’ album)
‘Set The House Ablaze’ (from 1980 ‘Sound Affects’ album)
‘Lula’ (with Tony Rico Richardson on saxophone) (from 2022 Bruce Foxton and Russell Hastings ‘The Butterfly Effect’ album)
‘Heatwave’ (with Tony Rico Richardson on saxophone) (from 1979 ‘Setting Sons’ album)
‘Liza Radley’ (from B-side of 1980 ‘Start!’ single)
‘That’s Entertainment’ (with Bruce Watson, Jamie Watson and Mark Brzezicki) (from 1980 ‘Sound Affects’ album)
‘The Butterfly Collector’ (with Bruce Watson, Jamie Watson and Mark Brzezicki) (from B-side of 1979 ‘Strange Town’ single)
‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’ (from 1978 ‘All Mod Cons’ album)
‘The Eton Rifles’ (from 1979 ‘Setting Sons’ album)
‘Ghosts’ (from 1982 ‘The Gift’ album)
‘Going Underground’ (from 1980 ‘Going Underground’ single that went straight in at No.1)