Sunday, January 27, 2008

From the Jam! Hugh Cornwell! At the El Rey, Los Angeles, 1.26.08

It's an odd thing, the pairing of two acts, each embracing their former bands. On one hand, Hugh Cornwell filled nearly half of his opening set with Stranglers hits – now routine, though a bit of a shocker considering his years-long lack of contact with his former band mates – particularly prompting the largely-middle-aged audience to bounce and sing along with “Always the Sun.” But Cornwell's solo offerings don't hold up to the earliest Stranglers material, and sounded rather generic (the work of an aging rock star, frankly) between tracks like “Nice 'N Sleazy” and “Peaches.”

Even the latter lacked the sleazy gruffness they once had, as Cornwell's voice, though as smooth and handsome as he is even at 58, lacks its former bark. A man's gotta have bite when he says “lap me up,” right? But he sounded bored. And he couldn't be heard much over current bassist Caroline Campbell, an admittedly talented bass player who could nail the shit out of the “Nice 'N Sleazy” bass line, albeit while looking strangely out of place in girly punk garb. Poor volume levels meant we got a set's worth of bass and missed out on Cornwell's softened growl and underrated guitar playing. Shame that his solo acoustic tour didn't extend past the UK, even if his backing musicians were talented. If anything, it would have been wonderful to be able to better hear whether Cornwell's aged well or not.

Meanwhile, From the Jam – those being Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler – completely rocked it with an expected parade of hits, mod suits and mullets in top shape to boot. They managed to close their encore with “A Town Called Malice,” nary a “Go Billy!” to be heard. Unlike Cornwell, they really seemed to relish the songs that made them popular as neo-mods, expelling consistent energy at all points. Foxton and new vocalist Russell Hastings (filling in for Paul Weller) made for a tight duet on the group's cover of the Kinks' “David Watts” as well. Now a four-piece, the group's also got Dave Moore contributing keys and second guitar, and after this, their first trip to the U.S. since 1982, will be releasing new material this year.

Bruce Foxton of the Jam (yes, went a bit hog wild with the Cornwell shots.)

Purchase Rattus Norvegicus
Purchase Dirty Dozen (Hugh Cornwell)
Purchase All Mod Cons (The Jam)


Anonymous said...

I saw the show 4 nights later in Portland. I've always been a huge Stranglers and Jam fan. Saw The Jam in Vancouver Bc 25 1/2 years ago on their final tour and The Stranglers a couple of years later in Seattle. It was kind of surreal seeing Hugh and Bruce and Rick after so long. The show was definitely worth seeing although not many others came.I agree that From The Jam was rocking, but felt that without Paul it was missing soul. Hugh started slow, but his old rock' n roll genes kicked in pretty good by then end. Since the show I've felt very nastalgic and old. Oh Well!

China said...

I'm jealous that you got to see the original lineups! I imagine both were fantastic.

Even though the sound during Hugh's set this time around wasn't too great at the LA show, I definitely agree that they were worth seeing. I criticize quite a bit, but I've still got a big thing for Hugh Cornwell and was thrilled to see him live (rather inappropriate given the difference between his age and mine...). In any case, maybe it was better at other venues, then? I thought the new Jam vocalist did all right for a new member but that lack of soul you mention is probably due to the fact that none of the songs were his! So there's no sense of pride in returning to the stage, as with the others.