You know a show is going to be something special when the star of the show gets a standing ovation before he’s even played or sung a note – this was how Paul Weller was greeted by a near capacity Sydney Opera House crowd for his first tour of Australia since 2010. There was an air of exclusivity around these three Sydney shows as they were the only ones scheduled for this Australian visit which prompted me, and a few others in the crowd I’m sure, to book flights. Having first toured Australia in 1985 with The Style Council and in 2008 and 2010 in support of his solo recordings, it had been a while since he’d brought his collection of musical consciousness to our shores. Amid the sea of leather loafers and Fred Perry polo shirts, there were plenty of British ex-pats in the crowd who were all here to catch some of the magic of ‘The Modfather’ himself.
This tour was in support of Weller’s latest solo offering A Kind Revolution. His 13th solo album, released in May last year yet Weller acknowledged right off the bat that most of the crowd wouldn’t know the songs on that album “because you haven’t fucking bought it!” He explained that he and his band, which included Ocean Colour Scene’s (and long time Weller collaborator) Steve Craddock on guitar and vocals, The Stands’ Steve Pilgrim on drums and Andy Crofts on bass, would be playing a mixed bag of songs from his entire catalogue. Weller proclaimed how privileged he felt to be playing in the iconic Sydney Opera House and acknowledged how awestruck he was upon gracing the stage. This was my first time attending the venue and I too felt lucky to be there as a punter, a fan and as a modern architecture enthusiast.
As a long time fan of The Jam, I was not alone in being delighted to hear Weller delve into the back catalogue and although he now favoured a Gibson 335 over his trademark Rickenbacker 360, I was delighted to hear classics such as The Eton Rifles, Man In The Corner Shop, Start!, Monday, English Rose, That’s Entertainment, Town Called Malice all representing a time when as a young songwriter, Weller was already emerging as one of the greats. Craddock once again proved himself as the perfect wingman for Weller on guitar and vocals. His sound was impeccable and oftentimes he was fine tuning delays and distortion as he hunched over his sizeable pedal board without missing a beat and singing like a bird. The transition from power pop punk rock to Northern Soul and back to pop rock was reflected in the repertoire via such Style Council classics as Have You Ever Had It Blue, which Weller admitted was a finer song than the movie whose soundtrack it was included on (Absolute Beginners) and the iconic Shout to the Top which threatened to bring the house down.
Although the bulk of the Opera House sold out crowd were there to hear the aforementioned sections of the Paul Weller songbook, the majority of the set consisted of material from the solo years and it was a treat to witness he and his band tear through them live. As a friend in the crowd said to me as we waited with baited breath for the first of the two encore brackets, “Even the songs I don’t know I love!” Stanley Road, Friday Street, Wild Wood and Changing Man are probably worn in enough now to be deemed new classics, while the material from the latest A Kind Revolution took flight in the form of Woo Sé Mama and The Cranes Are Back and the soul/funk hip shaker She Moves With The Fayre showed that Weller’s creative light is still burning brightly.
It was refreshing to see Weller change the pace for first encore in which the band emerged from the wings to join their leader on stools across the front of the stage for an acoustic encore. The years 1978-1995 were represented in this mini set with songs from Jam classics All Mod Cons and Sound Affects including a country swing version of Monday as well as the title track from Wild Wood and Stanley Road’s Out of the Sinking. The second encore was back to the full band set up, launching straight into Come On/Let’s Go with driving guitars that grabbed us all by the scruffs of our necks and out of our seats into the deep groove of The Changingman and finishing with A Town Called Malice. A solid band, a solid set and a venue befitting of such a great performer in Paul Weller certainly solidified the bond in my heart for the man and his music at the show’s end. Let’s hope a national tour is on the cards sooner rather than later.