WHAT better way to spend your last gig of the year than in the company of three of the best bands of your youth?
Well, parts of three bands, anyway, for something was undeniably missing from this triple-header featuring From The Jam, The Blockheads and The Rats.
Paul Weller has long refused to have anything to do with a reunion of The Jam, Blockheads frontman Ian Dury sadly passed on 12 years ago, and millionaire businessman Bob Geldof is happy enough to let former Boomtown Rats drummer Simon Crowe and guitarist Garry Roberts perform his songs.
However, the singers charged with the unenviable task of filling their shoes gave it their best shot, and with original members present, we weren’t quite in tribute band territory.
The Rats, up first, were the surprise of the night, though singer Bob Bradbury’s ‘spiked up’ hair was more Troll-doll than punk.
Starting with Lookin’ After No 1, they played most of their hits in a tight set which showed what good musicians they are.
The closing I Don’t Like Mondays, arranged very differently to the 1979 chart-topper, was particularly poignant, given its subject matter, coming so close after the Connecticut shooting. The Blockheads were next, with Derek Hussey given the impossible task of replacing Dury.
He seemed too intent on acting a part, rather than doing justice to the songs, which was a shame, as the rest of the band were as good as you’d expect after 35 years together.
The star was wiry bassman Norman Watt-Roy, whose funky playing has influenced a whole generation.
Again, it was a hits-filled set, including What A Waste, Sweet Gene Vincent and, of course, Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.
To the main attraction then, the Weller-less FTJ, with Russell Hastings filling the immaculate shoes of the Modfather.
He did his best, as he always does, and he made a decent job of most of the old Jam numbers they played, including Down In The Tube Station At Midnight, The Modern World and Town Called Malice. There was a good reception, too, for a smattering of songs from bassist Bruce Foxton’s recent album, Back In The Room.
There were a couple of clunkers, however, as Strange Town and Beat Surrender have sounded better, to put it kindly.
Perhaps it was the informal, all-seated venue which got to them, as I’ve seen them in standing venues where you can drink and dance, and they were far better.
They weren’t bad, and everyone present will have enjoyed hearing the old songs again, but maybe a sold-out Hall Two might have been better than a half-empty big room.
Food for thought for next time, and I hope there is one, because, as nights of pure nostalgia go, this was right up there.