Norden Farm Centre for the Arts
18 February 2022
On a day when Storm Eunice wreaked havoc across the driveways, gardens and conservatories of Maidenhead, A Band Called Malice blew up a different kind of storm that evening at Norden Farm.
Norden Farm isn’t perhaps the first place you’d expect to find a punk mod tribute band. It’s a common observation from comedians appearing there that Maidenhead audiences are white, middle class and conservative - the very people the Jam specialised in ripping to shreds in songs like ‘Mr Clean’, ‘Smithers Jones’ and 'Private Hell’. Norden Farm is a seated venue too, more geared to enthusiastic applause than dancing with arms aloft.
None of that mattered tonight. Tonight was all about turning back time, joining in with songs to which we knew every word and getting high on the power of good music. And it helped that A Band Called Malice were absolutely excellent.
A Band Called Malice are Andy Coultas in the Paul Weller role, Matt Barker as Bruce Foxton on bass and Warren Mee as Rick Buckler on drums.They’re a close enough match visually. Coultas strikes the angry young man pose very effectively. Mee may well be a better drummer than Buckler if his solo contribution to ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’ is anything to go by. And Barker not only looks like Bruce Foxton he’s nailed the way he moves too.
This is so much more than a chance to hear the Jam’s songs being played louder than you’d ever dare play them at home. Performance wise, this is as close to The Jam experience as you can get. They launch the show with the fizzing energy of an out of control Catherine Wheel and scarcely let up for the next couple of hours (allowing for a 20 minute interval for the crowd to refuel their own energy levels at the bar.)
They’re nominally a tribute band so it would make sense to start with something like, oh I don’t know, ‘Start’. Instead they play ‘Standards’, a deep dive album track from the second album ‘This Is The Model World. It doesn’t make the cut of 44 tracks on The Jam’s comprehensive ‘About The Young Idea’ compilation but the band know it’s exactly the kind of track that works as an opener. It’s short, fast and whips up the crowd.
Their whole show is a mix of singles, B sides and album tracks. Refreshingly the set list is not determined by sales alone but by the songs that best capture the many faces of The Jam. ‘All Mod Cons’ fared particularly well, with seven tracks featuring in the set, including a gorgeous solo version of ‘English Rose’ by Coultas.
And where was the crowd in all of this? Not sitting comfortably that’s for sure. A hard core of fans stood from early on, but from the moment ‘That’s Entertainment’ launched forth scarcely a seat was occupied. As the show progressed, there was dancing in the side aisles. We clapped to order and with enthusiasm. We filled in the missing words on cue. We roared our approval as one.
There’s one main difference between A Band Called Malice and The Jam. By repute, the Jam could be grumpy young men. Coulton, Barker and Mee are as engaging a group of musicians as you could hope to meet. Appreciative of the effort people had made to navigate the rubble of broken pergolas, deforested mimosa trees and the Waitrose / M&S debris of overturned wheelie bins, they paid particular attention to anyone too young to have known The Jam at their peak. That was good to hear and see.
Hit after hit led the way to the end of the show, reminding us of how all conquering the band were at their peak. A fast paced ‘David Watts’, a dynamite version of ‘Precious’ and a wonderful ‘Strange Town’ were just some of the high points.
There was only one song that the audience wanted in the encores though. That song was ‘Eton Rifles’. After all it’s as close to a neighbourhood anthem as we’ll ever have in Maidenhead! In this, as in every other song they played, A Band Called Malice did not disappoint.
It was a stirring and rousing finish to what had been an excellent show. And that’s as much due to the band as to the quality of the songs at their disposal.
A Band Called Malice - if you’re in the city or a strange town, going underground or simply a boy about town you have to see this band. See them if you loved The Jam or if you just want the exhilarating joy of a classic gig.
A gig is a visual as well as a listening experience, so you may be wondering why there are no photos of the band in action If truth be told, it's because I was one of the stewards at the event, so taking photos wasn't an option.
Their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ABCMalice) has a number of photos and they don't lie about the quality of the performance.
And for further encouragement to look out for them as they cross the country, here's their latest promotional video.