[Live Review] PAUL WELLER (Sydney)

Sydney Opera House
Friday February 2, 2018 :

Tonight was my first visit to the Opera House to see a ‘rock’ show, and the venue truly surprised me. Stunning acoustics and lighting are always appreciated especially when the man on stage is hitting things hard, and everything about this room supports the artist. Rockin’ at the Opera House, who would have thought.

I went to the Opera House thinking I was a Paul Weller fan. I knew the significance of the man and had purchased The Style Council albums as they were released back in the early ’80s. I knew The Jam’s hits and remember seeing ‘Town Called Malice’ on Countdown, plus have a couple of his more recent solo releases including his latest, A Kind Revolution. It is in fact this release that prompted me to see Paul Weller live rather than joining the Foo Fighters sheep who were also playing tonight at some soulless concrete bowl to 40 thousand people.

I now realised that I am a mere acquaintance, that I have not invested any real emotion into the artist nor his fine body of work. As I sit here writing these words while listening to his 2001 acoustic solo release, Days of Speed, I feel embarrassed to have even considered myself a fan. Last night, I was totally ‘schooled’ in who Paul Weller really is.

If you wanted to generalise, the true Paul Weller fan is a Fred Perry polo wearing lad with a strong UK accent, and there were definitely a few of these ‘not-so-young’ lads around. What became apparent quite quickly was that regardless of your choice of threads or if you were bred in the mother country, those here tonight were in awe of Paul Weller, and it was a lovefest for an artist who infrequently tours this country.

For a man who is 60 in May, he is mighty fit, cutting a decades younger profile in his snug long-sleeve blue crewneck embellished by a string of blue beads. It is only the lines of experience on a face draped with a mop of silver hair that hints that he has a 40 year catalog of music to draw on.

And he did dig deep into this catalog, paying respect to the bands that set up his 25+ year solo career. ‘The Eton Rifles’ from The Jam’s Setting Sons kicked the crowd to their feet early in the night, and when The Style Council’s ‘My Ever Changing Moods’ arrived 30 minutes later we were still standing.

Near the backend of the night, The Jam featured heavily. ‘Start!’ closed out the main set with an opening riff of pure English bounce, preceding an encore wait that was as raucous and impatient as any I had been involved in. The acoustic encore then Jammed you thrice with some beautiful, subtle slide within ‘English Rose’, Sound Effects‘ ‘Monday’, and a smashing version of ‘That’s Entertainment’.

As for the solo Paul Weller, the setlist cherry-picked some of the finest fruit from his 13 solo releases. 1992’s ‘Into Tomorrow’ saw the man spitting riffs off of his ruby red SG. The song swung with an affectionate groove, a muscular groove that held you tight and expelled the unwanted breath from your lungs.

Stanley Road‘s ‘You Do Something To Me’ placed Weller behind the piano, and elicited a cheer from the crowd on the opening chord. It’s a beautiful ballad and has won me over as one of my new favourite songs. From the reaction of the crowd, it seems that I’m a bit slow on the uptake.

A couple of cuts from 1997’s Heavy Soul appeared as the main set neared it’s conclusion, ‘Peacock Suit’ and ‘Friday Street’ were both delivered with ultimate conviction, Weller’s face contorting as he spits forth demanding lyrics. The acoustic ‘Wild Wood’ possessed a subtle darkness, a menace that paced around you.

More recent solo works were definitely not neglected, especially 2015’s Saturns Pattern, with ‘I’m Where I Should Be’ and ‘White Sky’ opening the night, and ‘Long Time’ following not long after. His most recent release, A Kind Revolution, gave us the muscular throb of ‘Woo Sé Mama’, and one of my favourite cuts, the deep swing of ‘She Moves With The Fayre’.

Two hours into the set, and we have begun our second encore with the entire Concert Hall on its feet. On making one young girl in the front row’s night by wishing her a wonderful birthday, we get our final song from Stanley Road, ‘The Changingman’. It’s such a powerful rock song, and the second from this album that has become a new favourite due to this show. Looks like I need to get a copy of Stanley Road, on vinyl please.

Closing the night proper with a humble Thank You, Paul Weller gave us the song that will get everyone on their feet, singing and dancing, even if you don’t know who sung it, ‘Town Called Malice’. The perfect way to cap off ‘my schooling’, the song that introduced me to Mr Paul Weller 35 years ago.

Photographer + Reviewer : Kevin Bull

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