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From the Jam & Buzzcocks Cheltenham Town Hall 18th November 2022

We always seem to be more content when looking backwards in our country; let’s be honest though, the preoccupation with the past has probably impacted immeasurably on the present…in many ways.

Buzzcocks gained our attention with no fanfare or introduction. The opening drum salvo from the drummer achieved its aim and signalled the band’s intention. My “plus one” stage whispered in my ear…”oh, subtle.” Whilst the rest of the band assembled on stage the audience were already on side. Steve Diggle the only original member stood front and centre and did not take a step backwards. The determination and motivation were etched on his time marked face. Noticeably, the newer songs were greeted as passing acquaintances but the early anthems – Promises, Orgasm Addict and Ever Fallen in Love –were embraced like familiar, lifelong friends.

As I sat in my favourite inn before the gig, I marvelled at the etched frontage windows adorned with stained glass windows and thought back to a time when all boozers were this distinct.

The distinctive haired Russ Hastings and suave-suited Bruce Foxton sauntered onto the stage with a gravitas earned over a number of years. Justifiably, the Town Hall had filled and swelled with those seeking a glimpse of what had gone before. However, the immediacy of the now ensured the gig ignited.

When you have a musical arsenal of Jam tracks to celebrate, the outcome is predetermined. Surely? Although, From the Jam still need to deliver to keep their reputation intact. To Be Someone echoed down the years. Strange Town was still able to pump up the testosterone levels. Butterfly Collector allowed for a melancholic respite. The lively rendition of Eton Rifles, kept the ever growing front line jumping in the over-crowded eye of wilful nostalgia.

By way of introduction Hastings segued into an anthem for those who came to see the Buzzcocks: Town Called Malice. The opening Tamla-tinged bass line was saluted with raised fists and care-free expressions of familiar delight. Perhaps the lyrics were lost on the spontaneous throng but it really is…“a big decision, to either cut down on beer or the kid’s new gear.” And increasingly so…

We were gifted a version of Ghosts, “as we [the band] hadn’t done it for a while.” The haunting opening took me straight back to the candy-striped album of my youth and the inherent loaded memories. Caught up in the moment like so many I murmured into my “plus one’s” ear: “I last heard this track live on the Jam farewell tour.”

For the band the sight of a gleeful, sweaty crowd of beered-up geezers rising in unison to Going Underground must be life affirming. Illnesses and age aside, for the band, the desire to continue must be intrinsic. Or perhaps, like many of us attending on the night sometimes it is just more satisfying to celebrate the known and the familiar. Or maybe, From the Jam still offer a good night where we can forget about the present; as Hastings is fond of saying at his gigs: “Don’t watch the news, it’s fucking depressing.”

By: The Swilgate Scuttler

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