Saturday, October 30, 2010

From The Royal Mail To The Forum: Paul Weller


From The Royal Mail To The Forum: Paul Weller

I am a massive Paul Weller fan. And I didn’t even realise it until a few days ago. I mean, I’ve always liked him, and regularly include his songs on mixed compilations. But it finally dawned on me just how much Paul Weller stuff I have. In anticipation of his concert, I began listening to various songs on my iPod. I have a couple of The Jam albums, all of The Style Council, and most of his solo work. In fact, as I look back, Paul Weller has played, and will play, a significant role in the key moments of my adult life.

As a young man I was hooked on A Town Called Malice and That’s Entertainment. They were the type of songs I wished I could write. Sadly, my efforts didn’t even come close. For our wedding, my wife and I chose You’re The Best Thing, which is still a very special song for us. I still remember the DJ we hired did not have a copy of the song, so he bought the album. It makes me laugh now as I recall he announced the married couple to the dance floor and played track 9, not track 10. For those not familiar with Cafe Bleu, track 9 is the rather unwedding- like Strength Of Your Nature. Across the other side of the room, we were frantically waving (and laughing) at him to stop. Finally, he stopped, apologised, announced the married couple again, and then proceeded to play the exact same song again. This went on another two or three times. In the end I had to go over to him, put his headphones on him, point out track 10, and let him hear the song properly. Shouldn’t he have played the song prior to the wedding reception? There was rapturous applause when, at last, we hit the dance floor to You’re The Best Thing. Of special significance to me is the song Brand New Start, which is one of the many songs that feature on my Funeral CD (but that’s another story).

So, it was with much excitement that I caught a train into the city to see Weller. As it was a warm day, I’d decided to meet Scog at the Royal Mail, in West Melbourne. The Royal Mail is just past a short walk from Flagstaff Station. When I say just past a short walk, I mean it is just enough past a short walk in order to build up a healthy thirst, loathe joggers, and appreciate cabs. The Royal Mail is a quiet and unassuming inner city pub, of the old school type. Most of the patrons are locals, and newcomers are greeted happily and welcomed. Everyone dips in and out of each other’s conversations. It’s not flashy or pretentious, and it delivers exactly what it should every time – a perfect cold beer on a hot day. It seemed like the perfect place to be before a Paul Weller concert. The idea was to have a few quiet beers between 5.30 and 7pm and then Scog would make his way to the station and I’d wander on down to The Forum. By 8pm, I was still caught up watching Scog play pool, and chatting about music, football, and family. I called it quits at 8.40 pm and stumbled out to catch a cab to The Forum.

The atmosphere was fantastic. I’m not sure if the people who had seats at the back paid more for them, but I reckon if they did, they were robbed. The real excitement was the standing room right in front of the stage. Perfect viewing, a bit of banter, and a short push and shove to the bar. Although, after taking out a second mortgage to pay for the two Jack Daniels, I decided I’d had enough to drink for the night.

Weller swaggered onto the stage, belting out tracks from his latest album, Wake Up The Nation, as well as from As Is Now. This was no Greatest Hits compilation – I suspect he chooses which songs to play carefully. And, at 52, Weller could easily settle for touring around with Hits and Memories, with such a vast songbook of popular tunes. It is a credit to him that he writes as good as ever, and he plays his songs with such passion and energy, that both old and new mesh together so well. A few songs in and Weller was well settled, alternately chewing gum, smoking, smirking, and singing, with a voice that hasn’t lost any of its vibrancy, or aggression.

The crowd helped to step it up a notch, getting into Shout To The Top, and That’s Entertainment. But, for me, the performances of You Do Something To Me, and Brand New Start were brilliant, as was Fast Car/Slow Traffic and Wake Up The Nation, which showcased the excellence of his backing band. The truth is, it was a perfect set. Each song fitted in place to enhance the whole show.

It was clear that Weller was enjoying himself, too; returning for four encores, including a superb acoustic session. There were a few murmurs about why A Town Called Malice was omitted from the set. Each to their own. The band were so good at what they did, that it was a privilege to watch them play anything. Weller should be congratulated for not being predictable, and having the courage to take some of his more complex arrangements on the road. And, after all, he is The Modfather – he’ll sing you a song you can’t refuse.

Ps: If you don’t own any Weller, you can get Hit Parade, which is a compilation of his better known songs across his whole career. If you can’t afford all his albums but want a deeper insight than Hit Parade, then I suggest three compilations: Compact Snap (The Jam), The Style Council Collection, and Modern Classics (solo work). That should keep you happy for a while.

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