Modfather Marches On
October 20, 2010 – 6:11PM
Sydney Morning Herald
Paul Weller at the Tivoli is not a greatest hits package from his two previous bands, the Jam or the Style Council.
If that’s what you wanted, you might be disappointed. But there are plenty of tribute bands that will let you relive the Jam’s past.
If instead you want to sweep through some of the best rock and soul to emerge from England in the past 30 years, Paul Weller is still very much your man.
He remains the Modfather.
Emerging on stage at 9pm dressed in the ever-impressive pin-striped, grey suit, the man judged by NME as the coolest man in rock played well over two hours, including two encores in a set that concentrated heavily on his newest album, Wake Up the Nation.
Weller appears determined not to be considered a walking back catalogue and played a handful of songs from his very early glory days.
You did get these absolute gems from his days as the Jam’s singer songwriter: Art School, Pretty Green, Start, Strange Town and Butterfly Collector and his only number one hit in Australia (1984), Shout to The Top written when he fronted his first post-Jam band, the very elegant, Style Council. Those two bands helped define English music from 1977 to 1984.
Last night an almost-packed out Tivoli loved the trip down memory lane.
But the gig really belonged to Weller’s solo career, particularly songs from Wake Up the Nation.
The show opened with the aggressive Moonshine, one of nine tracks from the latest album played at last night’s gig.
Trees began with Weller playing Georgie Fame-styled piano, merging into soul, then a psychedelic guitar-workout before it’s back to the piano, with Paul singing to John Weller, his late father and long-term manager who died last year, “Take me back to the fields, where I need to be.”
The set proper finished with a rock work-out, the trippy Echoes Round the Sun, written with Noel Gallagher, while the band – Andy Lewis (bass), Steve Cradock (guitar), Andy Crofts (keyboards) and Steve Pilgrim (drums) left to sounds of the guitars feeding back.
They all returned with accoustic guitars for the start of the encore.
But the real encore was The Changingman from Weller’s 1995 Stanley Road album, with its sweet circular guitar intro. And with that, Weller was off to have another well-earned ciggie.
Paul Weller is back and while some songs wander on somewhat – at 52, and after more than 30 years in the business – he is entitled to take a few risks.
The show rises and falls with the feel of the big hits, but it’s a brave show from an eminently talented songwriter who will nod to his past, but still wants to see what else he can do.
(Not that that stopped crowd members such as Sam and Nic from London wondering if he still has the Peacock suit. Google it, everybody.)
Support acts, the scruffy-looking Widowbirds, drew a warm response to a short set of accoustic blues and soul love songs with singer Simon Meli’s voice a real stand-out.
– Paul Weller, plus the Widow Birds play again at The Tivoli tonight, then in Sydney at the Enmore Theatre (October 22, 23), then Melbourne’s Forum Theatre (October 26,27).