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Paul Weller – Blackpool Empress Ballrooms
By Words by Finton “Mr Clean” Stack
Adidas Holiday. In Stone. Deadstocks. Took me ages to track down.
Yet, there they were getting covered in piss at this magnificent yet ageing venue with its sprung floor, chandeliers & antiquated toilets that bore more than a passing resemblance to the River Caves, a Golden Mile or so down the road.
I mention the trainers because I’d made the effort. Well, you had to. It was Weller. The Modfather. An artist so hallowed that the need for a Christian name was deemed unnecessary sometime in the last decade. The stylish bastard’s stylish bastard, notwithstanding a barnet that nowadays, in the wrong light, can be eerily reminiscent of Brian Connolly of The Sweet.
The world seems to be split where Weller’s concerned. There are those that have grown up with the man & followed his career avidly, getting into The Jam or Style Council or both & ending up with his solo stuff. Others jumped on board round about Stanley Road as a by product of his patronage of the likes of Oasis, OCS etc. The rest probably had “You do something to me” as their wedding song ( surely “Lady in Red” for the Britpop generation ) & came along to mouth the words to their beloved, like the couples you catch doing it on the concerts they show on BBC3 from the inner sanctum of the corporate area. It seemed very much the latter 2 categories out in force tonight & I can only assume they’d missed the memo. Good hair & decent footwear – the staples of any common or garden Weller show – were scarce on the ground. Still, those that had made the effort looked the part & I’m glad to say the look for any discerning chap about town in 2008 seems to be….wait for it…….for the 32nd year running………….Fred Perry!!!!
It’s about now that any standard review waxes lyrical about how the support act is going to be the next big thing. I’m not even sure who the support actually was. We went in the venue, saw he only came on stage at 9 so we nipped back out to the Rose & Crown ( where I once co promoted a house night in the mid 90’s in another life ) for an hour or so. Far too warm for any of that standing around nonsense. Once back in, the great man took the stage promptly. Well, it was Weller – fastidious, lean & strictly business. The show followed in much the same vein – tune after tune with the minimum of fuss. The new stuff he played was variable. I’ve not a clue what the tracks were called ( the double album “22 Dreams” is released in June ) but some of the more guitar heavy pieces sound like future anthems in the making. Except one of them has nicked the Showstoppers “Aint nothing but a houseparty” riff. Many of the usual suspects got an airing – Peacock Suit, Out Of The Sinking, Porcelain Gods, Broken Stones etc etc & there was an outstanding acoustic section where Butterfly Collector & Brand New Start stood out. Oh, & best not forget a rendition of Eton Rifles – complete with Jam style air kicks & guitar posturing – which nearly brought the chandeliers down. A swift 2 hours later, he’d gone off, come back on freshly armed with ex Stone Rose Mani brandishing percussion, played Changing Man & You Do Something To Me then was gone for good.
Whether the whole Weller experience is suited for the big stadiums he’s touring in the autumn, I’m not sure. However, for a humid Spring evening at a smaller venue in a good old fashioned British seaside town, the gig was damn near perfect.
Just like the man himself.
“Clean living under difficult circumstances?” Nothing difficult about it when the music’s this good……………
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