Photo of the band The Selecter

From the Jam & The Selecter at Cheltenham Town Hall 10th December 2021

Growing up In the 1970s, a double A-sided single was to be treasured and highly valued. Out of respect to The Selecter, this tour should have been labelled as a double A- sided tour.

My loftiest memory of the Selecter is seeing them for the first time on the Old Grey Whistle Test during Two Tone’s heyday. The energised Ska sound, energetic skanking and the sheer unbridled energy of their belief in the performance has always remained with me.

Photo of Pauline Black from The Selecter photo
Pauline Black from The Selecter photo copyright Martin Reynolds

Pauline Black, the lead singer with her calm and rational approach to dealing with racism was for me a life lesson. P. Black gave a voice to and articulated a very real problem. Furthermore, female singers that led their band off stage when the monkey chants and sieg heil salutes started were in short supply!

Accordingly, there was an abundant supply of hard won devotion and respect when the latest incarnation of Selecter took to the stage. Instinctively the audience edged forward, to appreciate a band who when I first saw them, I was still receiving school dinners…now that is longevity!

Photo of The Selecter photo
The Selecter photo copyright Martin Reynolds

The Selecter’s “permanence” is due in part to their commitment to having a good time on stage. Miss Black still holds court, with “Gaps” as her partner in time and the new band – with the original drummer Charlie Bembridge – is as tight as Scrooge’s purse strings. The end result is an energetic performance as satisfying as “pink custard and choc sponge pudding”.

The sense of anticipation which greeted each song was real and defining. When the opening to “Missing Words” allowed us to relive the moment we were thankful. The first album was mined ruthlessly and the end result was so much more than homage. “Every Day”…“Too much Pressure”…and “On My Radio” signalled a rash of skankers trying to compete with Black and Hendrickson’s on stage antics…a far from easy task!

Metaphorically flipping over the double A-side saw From the Jam clocking on for their shift.

Photo of From The Jam
From The Jam photo copyright Martin Reynolds

With a nod to Sound Effects birthday the night contained songs not heard live for a long time. The opening notes of Pretty Green were met with an awed familiarity by the obsessive and there were quite a few in attendance. The aching love song Monday must have taken more than myself back to the throes of teenage romance? The socio-study of our little world in The Man from The Corner Shop was received with a knowing cheer based on life experience.

My ally for the evening stated between songs a number times: “It’s just so great to hear these songs live and loud again!” Truly.

From the Jam know what these songs mean to the fans. Reassuringly, with the bassist, Bruce Foxton from the original band in their numbers and a true Jam fan in the form of Russell Hastings up front the songs are treated with respect. These are the sound tracks of our lives, tracks that informed our political identity (sic).

From the Jam know their audience – enough to know that some in the audience might not know the arcane album tracks. Therefore, the inclusion of the anthems was necessary. The powerhouse version of Town Called Malice – god, can Mike Randon drum – offered a vignette of British life that is all too recognizable. And some still have to “make those big decisions”…

Many on-lookers declared Paul Weller was at his best live, back in the day, when angry about a social injustice. Hasting’s F-worded introduction to one or two tracks was reminiscent. Accordingly, Eton Rifles has not lost any of its irony. Of course Weller was also the voice for many in attendance, worryingly; Johnson, Cameron and Rees Mogg have given a voice to…

Both bands campaigned enthusiastically and convincingly throughout the gig winning our vote and leaving us with a manifesto to believe in. Outside in the cold we entered into a heated politically charged conversation…“the Selecter, for the first time made me realise we were a part of a multi-cultural society because where I lived”… “the Jam made me think about the politics of a bigger picture rather than just the end of my road.”

This double A-side of a night with both The Selecter and From the Jam promised an “oven-ready” gig and boy did they deliver!

By: The Swilgate Scuttler

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