I’d been quite excited about seeing Paul Weller at Colston Hall, Bristol. The last time I’d seen him was with The Jam back in the early 1980s, before he adopted floppy hair and a stripy blazer with The Style Council. As a former punk who saw Weller adopted by mods, this change of style was not to my taste. Conversely, Lady Barton St Mary loved The Style Council and bought the cassette, which she played constantly, allowing me some familiarity with their tunes despite the constant reminder that, as far as I was concerned, Weller had ‘gone soft’. His later solo albums were a redemption in my mind, especially ‘Stanley Road’.
I was accompanied by Lady BSM, Nancy Cuticles, Pen, Steeley the Tinkers’ Friend and She-La! (who had a hit in the 1980s called ‘Touch Me – but not there’). They had seen him at Westonbirt, a lovely wooded musical venue in Gloucestershire, a couple of years ago. I am not a fan of Westonbirt, since it is open air in the evening, you are usually miles away from the stage and the audience usually consists of punters called Toby and Jocasta with children in 4 wheel buggies who leave half way through the set when they have enough material to pontificate at length about seeing Paul Weller at their next dinner party. Blimey, I’m such an inverse snob.
The Colston Hall is a wonderful venue for music. Not a pushchair in sight, in fact a couple in Stranglers t-shirts who were happy to engage in conversation about their appearance at the hall a week earlier.
Anyway – Weller. What a back catalogue of music he has, a prolific writer. He started with White Sky, a cacophony of guitars and rocked the place, moving on quickly to Long Time and I’m Where I Should Be before the first Jam song. Guess which one? Ghosts. Yes, I struggled too. Was it from Setting Sons? I couldn’t remember. Then two Style Council hits – Ever Changing Moods and Have You Ever Had It Blue? – which, to be honest, were really good, because they were played with a little bit of edge and Paul didn’t have floppy hair and wasn’t wearing a yellow and red striped blazer. (By the way, the Weller hair has also improved. Still quite ‘youthfu’l but a little less like a trendy granny hairstyle).
Then back to the album tracks. Hardcore Weller fans would have loved this gig, whereas everyday Weller fans would have struggled to recognise the songs. Wonderfully played, great musicianship, but not familiar. Hence the cheers and relief for Peacock Suit, Guilded Splinters and, for the first encore, Wild Wood.Even for the encore, Paul plumped for The Ballad of Jimmy McCabe and a number from the latest album.
Of course, he left on a high with Start! and Changing Man.
Lady BSM commented afterwards that he seemed to play what he wanted to play, rather than what the audience would prefer. I agreed, but then another musical snob would categorise me as another Toby/Jocasta.
And it is Paul Weller. He can play what he likes.