What more can be said about Paul Weller, The Modfather has been producing music that has traversed the decades and continues to stand the test of time. This man’s work has soundtracked the vast majority of my life and those of others too, from The Jam to The Style Council and last 30 years of his solo career.
This was another gig that had been rearranged a few times over these last years, I had a nice little conversation in the bar before the gig with a local couple who said to me they could have been forgiven for thinking it was going to be an April fools joke when they received a call confirming the rearranged date!
If tonight couldn’t have got any better for me, I realised that I would be sharing the pit with none other the Mr Derek D’Souza, the man who has photographed Paul for over 40 years, amongst many other high profile artists and been responsible for album artwork for The Jam as well. It was great to meet him and share a few stories.
The lights dimmed and The Beatles song ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ played out, it felt like an eternity before Paul and the band ventured onto the Guildhall stage to the adulation of the packed out crowd. Starting the set with a few numbers from the recent album ‘Fat Pop’ and 2015 Saturns Pattern, Weller then moved into a rollercoaster of older solo numbers including ‘Stanley Road’ and ‘From the Floorboards Up’. Sandwiched in the middle of these were two delightful The Style Council numbers ‘Headstart for Happiness’ and ‘Have You Ever Had It Blue’ – perfection!
Paul turns the attention to his trusty right hand man Steve Craddock to introduce ‘Hung Up’ from the ‘Wild Wood’ album, this song is buried a the end of the album but is superb song in my opinion. Bassist Andy Crofts then introduces the funky little number ‘Woo Se Mama’, definitely one to get those hips moving to! Paul gives his customary ‘Thank you’ and comments ‘you do know that we are not even half way through yet, you know we’re here for hours don’t you’ much to the delight of the crowd!
The audience were treated to a brilliant drum solo from Steve Pilgrim during ‘Into Tomorrow’ which see Weller shaking his tambourine along with the beat. Paul’s previous long term drummer, Steve White, would always give a drum solo during sets and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better one then his ‘Friday Street’ solo some years ago.
Paul’s set is now approaching 20 odd songs and this is when he starts to pull out the classics that most in the crowd were hoping for. The opening chords of ‘Shout To The Top’ send the crowd into a frenzy, people in the seats jump up and others at the back in the stalls are dancing in the aisles! If that wasn’t enough Weller then plays ‘Start’ much to the delight of the mods in attendance.
This was just a taste for what was to come, the first encore (yes that’s right!) begins with the main man on the keys for ‘Broken Stones’, a song that means a particular lot to me. Paul says to the audience ‘apparently this next one is my most played/popular song according to plays online so I guess I better play it’, the first note on the piano gives it away immediately with ‘You Do Something To Me’. A huge crowd sing-a-long is next with ‘That’s Entertainment’ with this encore finishing with ‘Wild Wood’ which is dedicated to the people of Ukraine. Both bass drum skins are also adorned with the colours of the Ukrainian flag.
With lights remaining down and the crowd calling for Weller, he and the band return for a further two numbers from the ‘Stanley Road’ album with ‘The Changingman’ and ‘Porcelain Gods’. Leaving the stage once more, a lot of the crowd around me reach for their jackets and begin to leave the Guildhall only for Paul and the band to return to play out with the ultimate crowd pleaser ‘Town Called Malice’!
If you are a huge Paul Weller fan then be sure to visit photographer, Derek D’Souza, exhibition called ‘True is the Dream: The Jam, The Style Council & Paul Weller’ on at Barbican in London. Exploring 4 decades of Paul Weller images, the exhibition runs until 16th May and is free to get in. Further details can be found here.