October 6, 2017
Paul Weller is touring behind his latest disk, A Kind Revolution.
True to the title, he eschews the currently popular, strident expression of
viewpoint, in favor of an eclectic, career spanning set of impeccable, politically
aware rock. He avoids co-opting the stage as bully pulpit. He hardly addresses
the crowd directly at all. He weaves his concerns and observations into his
lyrics and leaves it at that. My Ever Changing Moods was an early Style
Council highlight and could easily have doubled as the subtitle for
the setlist. Live, almost every tune invited loose limbed dancing.
He doesn’t shy away from the new disk. One Tear moves back and forth
from moody late period Bowie croon to scratchy, Let’s Dance groover while
giving an apparently disinterested God a funkified chiding:
I don't want your kind of gods
That divide us
Blood stain traces
Lyin' to the races
If God is real
Then show your face
I can't find it
She Moves with the Fayre rides a James Brown Get Up guitar groove over a wash
of synths. The Cranes are Back’s lilting melody casts for hope in a kind
revolution against the odds of an often ugly world. Woo Se Mama ratchets up
the guitar and B3 patch to warn against losing sight of what is important. The
Impossible Idea waltzes in a woozy three four about what love might accomplish.
And those are just four tunes from the new disk.
I have to admit that in real time I felt the same way about The Jam’s
mutation into Style Council as I felt about Bowie’s move from Diamond
Dogs to Young Americans: Wtf? I still don’t want to listen to YA’s
or SC in their entirety, but, cherry picked, I’m down with that. The muscular
arrangement on My Ever Changing Moods kicked the originals sweet northern soul
out onto a fast dance floor. Have You Ever Had it Blue braised on the back burner.
Shout To The Top had spent time at the gym.
Of course, a few more Jam songs wouldn’t have hurt. That said, Weller
didn’t feel a need to drop them during the proper set. Instead, he distributed
them across the three encores. Two of the three came from Sound Affects.
Monday lands in the acoustic set. The arrangement emphasizes the universality
of “waiting to see you again”. Start! struts it Beatles on new wave
feel with strut and that irresistible “If I never ever see you”
call and falsetto response refrain. Finally, the B3 teases Heatwave and the
band, Weller and the crowd get all lined up in a rockin’ tough times but
hopeful Town Called Malice.
Weller’s musical changes are certainly not as radical or ground-breaking
as fellow former Brit Mr. Bowie’s. Nonetheless his restless muse juggles
and mixes punk, soul, funk, electronica, psych, vignettes and sea shanties with
equal aplomb. His genius lies in his old school, Brill-like mastery of composition,
lyrics, arrangements and styles. The easy-going but tremendous ability to control
the arc of a very long show with a notable lack of gimmicks highlights this
perfectionism. Weller’s a songwriter with a capital “S”. Thirty-two
tunes and three encores later the sweaty crowd melted out into Indian Summer
on Lansdown Street.