Review: Paul Weller at Venue Cymru, Llandudno
Dec 9 2009
THE majority may have left their scooters at home because of the rain but the crowd were still unmistakable as followers of Paul Weller. Mainly blokes, mainly smartly dressed mods – and mostly waiting for the old stuff to be played at Weller’s gig at Llandudno’s Venue Cymru on Monday December 7.
The Modfather strode on the stage and launched into a set that was a mix of new, recently released and old favourites. Alongside him was guitar stalwart Steve Cradock who showed his usual deft, intricate handling of the instrument throughout the set.
On bass was Andy Lewis, who doubles up as bassist for Spearmint, plus Andy Crofts (of The Moons/The On Offs) on keys and Steve Pilgrim of The Stands on drums.
It got off to a slow start with a light show that initially seemed little more than random flashes. It took until several tracks in, with Porcelain Gods, that the light show kicked in properly – with colours fading in and out, spotlights picking out the players – and the set began to feel like that of a rock king.
The sound mix, at first a jangly and spiky with whistling top notes – though I may been standing in an acoustically bad reception area – also settled down with more bass filling in to create a smoother sound as the set progressed.
The crowd is used to being told to listen to their hero’s new music, and they did, politely, as he rolled out some recently penned tracks – such as Fast Cars, Slow Traffic, with minimal back-chat to the audience. After all, if Weller wrote it and wants to perform it, then it’s worth a listen.
But they were hungry for the old stuff, and so the dancing and pogoing (well, a few minutes worth, we’re all a bit older now) was kept for the Jam classics such as Strange Town, Pretty Green and Start!
Slower tracks like You Do Something To Me were as good as they can ever be, with Cradock’s guitar melancholic enough to melt the toughest mod-boy’s heart. And Weller proved that his years with the Style Council, often air-brushed out by some fans, has a musical legacy, such as Shout To The Top.
He mixed rocking with melodic, playing much of latest album 22 Dreams, and switching from guitar to keyboards. After a break, the band settled down to an acoustic set complete with cello. Steve Pilgrim – who’d earlier given a credible thrash-drum – came out from behind his stands and cymbals to pick up a guitar.
He joined Weller and Cradock in Wild Wood, taking over part of the vocals and guitar. Weller has backed Pilgrim’s recent releases and allowing somebody to play and sing on a key track is a sign of his true support. And Pilgrim did great job of it, with his voice and playing style bringing a new level to this multi-layered piece.
Then the Modfather left Pilgrim to his own devices (“he just wants a break,” laughed the Scouser, whom Weller had said was shy) for a beautiful, aching track of his own – his voice is clear and light, similar to a young Art Garfunkel (stop spluttering, it’s hip to like Garfunkel again thanks to his walk-ons with Flight of the Conchords).
Then Weller was back, the set moved back to full rock, the mood picked up and the crowd were steaming. One encore saw Weller and the lads finishing with Whirlpool from Stanley Road, and part of the crowd left to head home.
Then those hanging on, hoping for a little more, were rewarded with the band striding back on to complete the set with a storming Changing Man.