Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Somewhere In New York:Paul Weller Live 5/19/12

When I got word that Paul Weller would be coming to NYC for two nights I decided I'd go.  After two decades of what can best be described as either hit or miss or partial to near ambivalence about his material I'd been suitably jolted by his  "Wake Up The Nation" LP (us old folks still call them LP's) to want to have a look.  After all "Wake Up The Nation" was to me, the best Weller product I'd heard since 1980's "Sound Affects", true story.  A month later after purchasing tickets for the fellas and I he launched his new LP "Sonik Kicks".  I had a problem.  After numerous listens I could not get my head around it save it's Ultravox-like opener "Green".  So it was with much trepidation that the Likely Lads (my gang of men friends) set off for the Big Apple....

Weller NYC gigs have always had an interesting cross section in my limited experience (I've seen two, both in NYC).  I hadn't been to a Weller gig since 1992 or 1993 but the demographic hadn't changed too much (although there was a distinct absence of any "mods" this time around, bar some of my band of merry men and I am happy to report that the NYC scruffy Brit pop/Indie mods are gone or at least absent from Weller gigs ).  There were the rich Euro/Brit jetsetters who flew over just for the gig and told everyone and sundry about it, those dedicated Wellerites who'd follow everything he did and probably pine for his unreleased "house" Style Council LP, those sad fuckers who go to bed every night praying one day they'll log on and discover he's patched it up with Bruce and Rick and then there's what "Mojo" faithfully described as:
"fortysomething year old men in Fred Perry tops, arms folded wondering what arty mini-suites like "Trees" are playing at".
Though in NYC they all seemed to be wearing gingham Ben Sherman's! On my way to the gents during the riot girlll opening band (my pal Kevin mused "They've seen The Runaways movie and formed a band") I bumped into Andy Lewis, Weller's bassist and all round cool guy (AND an amazing musician in his own right who's Acid Jazz releases have garnered more iPod time in Anorak Thing Manor than his employer.  Andy assured me that despite what I felt about "Sonik Kicks" that I'd possibly appreciate it live and that I should keep an open mind and that there'd be much more than the new LP and promised an enjoyable two and a half hours of music ahead of us.  He did not lie on any count!

Weller and band took the stage to a greeting that equalled the sound all the Chelsea fans made in the Belgian bar we'd been at a few hours earlier when they trounced Munich.   Kicking in with "Green" the place and mood was electric.  Resplendent in a kipper tie, immaculate Weller hair and a suit with lapels large enough to carry him to the Falklands with a strong headwind the man wielded an Epiphone solid body and looked high on playing.  I will own up and admit that Andy was right, "Sonik Kicks" did indeed sound brilliant live!  My highlights of the "Sonik Kicks" set were (beyond the stellar opener): the string quartet and trippy Floydian '67 effects on "Sleep Of The Serene" segueing into "By The Waters" where I saw for the first time in the 30 years I've been going to see him live, Paul Weller perched atop a stool clutching a microphone while Steve Craddock in the absolute coolest fucking double breasted suit I've ever seen strummed an acoustic and immaculately arranged string section did their thing.  Then there was the Melodica laced "Study In Blue" (with a guest spot by Mrs. Weller Hannah on vocals) with it's "Armagideon Time" extended dub reggae swatches towards the end and the "Interstellar Overdrive" meets "Tomorrow Never Knows" screamadelia of "Drifters" that was absolutely trippy.

The band came back for an acoustic set that saw all band six members perched on stools and all but Andy strumming acoustic guitars (Andy had a groovy Epiphone semi acoustic bass).  The set opened with "The Butterfly Collector", which actually worked well and of course sent the Jam deprived members of the audience into insanity and included one of my fave "early" Weller solo tunes "Out Of The Sinking". 

Off they went and came back for an electric set, electric in more ways than one with punchy versions of my faves like "From The Floorboards Up", "Stanley Road" (with Weller on electric piano) and "22 Dreams" which until tonight I'd never paid any mind to and is now a favorite!  "Foot Of The Mountain" became a bit "jam bandy" (and not in the Woking three piece sense) but kept shorter than I'd seen it played before and my faves from the previous LP like "Wake Up The Nation" and "Fast Car/Slow Traffic" kicked out the jams.  Sadly there was no "7 + 3 Is The Strikers Name" (which he'd played the previous night or so I read). 

The band beat an exit and returned to a thunderous encore.  By now a flatulent German my age or older  had violated my personal circle space and beyond his noxious odor I had to contend with his fist pumping and juvenile jumping up and down and flailing limbs with near childish enthusiasm. Encore #1 brought more "old" solo faves like "Into Tomorrow" which brought me back to being a demobbed soldier in the Summer of '91 and hearing this new and interesting "Weller solo debut" and another "old" solo fave "The Changingman" (aka E.L.O.'s "10538 Overture").  There was a second encore.  By now I was weighing the issues of ruining a $1,300 suit and traumatizing my family by getting locked up for assault as the German had now taken to swinging the handkerchief which he'd been mopping his balding head with all night and I contemplated seizing it and wrapping it around his neck from behind in a low horse stance to gain control of his balance.  When the second and final encore brought "Town Called Mallice" der arschloch was in full on idiot dancing cuming in his pants mode and I was in no mood to enjoy it.  Maybe it was also the weird sing along frenzy that swept the venue and caused me to suddenly feel as I did when I took my wife to see Crosby and Nash for her B-day and all the 60+ hippies caterwauled out of key to every favorite: nauseated.  Not at all by the band or even their decision to play the track but by the corniness of the sing along "oldies" feel the night suddenly had taken with thousands of hands reaching into the air and swaying like they'd seen the messiah and wanted a piece of him.  I suddenly found it odd that Weller as a practice, disowns Jam reunion talk but here's several thousand people crooning along off key to possibly the best known Jam tune in their a difference my friends?  You tell me. But no matter what it wasn't going to piss on my parade that was, as Andy promised, an amazing two and a half hour evening!

Sonik Kicks Set
1. Green
2. The Attic
3. Kiling I Klang
4. Sleep Of The Serene
5. By The Waters
6. That Dangerous Age
7. Study In Blue
8. Dragonfly
9. When Your Garden's Overgrown
10. Around The Lake
11. Twilight
12. Drifters
13. Paperchase
14. Be Happy Children

Acoustic Set
15. The Butterfly Collector
16. Out Of The Sinking
17. Aim High
18. All I Wanna Do (Is Be With You)
19. You Do Something To Me
20. Devotion

Electric Set
21. Moonshine
22. From The Floorboards Up
23. 22 Dreams
24. Stanley Road
25. Foot Of the Mountain
26. Wake Up The Nation
27. Fast Car/Slow Traffic
28. Echoes Round the Sun
29. Whirlpool's End

Encore #1
30. Pieces Of A Dream
31. Into Tomorrow
32. The Changingman

Encore #2
33. A Town Called Malice


diskojoe said...

It's nice to know that you had a good time. The set list looks like a good mix of songs.

Isn't it always the case that there has to be one idiot to nearly ruin a concert? There was the same type of twit that had a front row seat when I saw Ray Davies in Boston a few years ago.

Monkey said...

Good comprehensive review Bill. Felt I was there. And if I had been I'm certain would've viewed it the same.