Paul Weller live @ The Tivoli, 19.10.10
I’ve never really gotten Weller. Although I can remember ‘Town Called Malice’ on Top Of The Pops, The Jam were largely before my time. But that’s no excuse; I like plenty of bands who split up and singers who died before I started buying records. People have said they were a singles band. The only album I have of theirs is the Compact Snap greatest hits, described as “one of the greatest greatest-hits albums of all time”, a faultless singles compilation, and yet it’s never really made me want to go out and listen to any more of their albums.
The Style Council came into the frame during my very formative years via Now! That’s What I Call Music and Hits compilations and while ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ and ‘Shout To The Top’ are part of the soundtrack to a period in my life, it’s part of soundtrack that also includes Axel F and Duran Duran.
Weller’s 90s renaissance as a solo artist, his reinvention as the Modfather, and the reverence that came with, didn’t do anything for me either. Wild Wood and Stanley Road-era songs were just too worthy, too serious, workman-like even. His association with the likes of Ocean Colour Scene probably didn’t help his cause either.
Tonight isn’t the first time I’ve seen him play, possibly a Glastonbury appearance, definitely a short set at the One Big No anti-war gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, but it’s another chance to try and work out if it’s him or if it’s me, another chance for him to suddenly stir something in me that makes me realise what all the people here at The Tivoli see in him; closure a happy ending, a realisation of what I’d been missing all these years. After all, it took me over 20 years to ‘get’ Springsteen and, more importantly, to the point where I can’t fathom how I didn’t ever ‘get’ him. Having seen the latest incarnation of Smashing Pumpkins at the same venue two nights earlier, the contrast is instantaneous; Billy Corgan’s faux rage is no match for Weller’s undeniable verve and passion, you could never accuse him of going through the motions. Unlike Sunday night, there feels and sounds like a band playing tonight, there’s a respect between the singer and the rest of the musicians, they’re with him, he’s with them, he’s one of them, rather than the glaringly obvious lead singer/star and hired guns, clocking in, clocking out and picking up their pay cheque, from two nights ago.
He mainly sticks to his solo work, as would be expected, the obvious singles from previous albums and a heavy emphasis on his latest album, Wake Up The Nation. There’s a smattering of Jam songs, mostly album tracks, although, even with my limited knowledge, a few sound familiar, although ‘Start!’ also gets played in the middle of the set and ‘Shout To The Top’, an Australian Number 1 single also makes the setlist.
But at the end of the night, there’s been no change from the status quo, nothing that’s making me want to go out and buy up his back catalogue and look forward to seeing next time he plays. And I still can’t quite put my finger on what it is. Maybe it’s that he always seems angry when he sings and I could never relate as I’ve never really had an angry, rebellious phase. And if I did it probably coincided with my obligatory teenage metal years. Maybe his Jam songs never properly spoke to me as they were about life in the cities and the suburbs, and I grew up in a seaside town in rural southwest England. He remains filed under a long list of artists that I don’t think I’ll ever get (a list that, off the top of my head, includes The Clash, Talking Heads, The Strokes and, with a couple of exceptions, The Rolling Stones). The photos are quite nice though.