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Paul Weller At Music Hall of Williamsburg, Saturday, June 20th, 2015, Review

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Paul Weller by Elizabeth Ross, June 2015

I’ve seen Paul Weller countless times since he became the focal point of my musical direction and Mod obsessions in my younger days. The funny thing is, I hadn’t seen a solo show of his since 1997’s Heavy Soul tour, which was a great show, but nothing in comparison to what I witnessed this past Saturday night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

Though the years have passed and keep on moving, Weller seems to have gotten far more powerful and energetic; indeed, I’ve never seen him play with such fire and abandon – not even with The Jam. He seemed to enjoy playing for the crowd and was equally embracing of them as they were to him. Three encores tells you right there.

The opening act, a singer/songwriter, Hannah Cohen (a New York native) had – musically – a good sound; a bit ethereal and dreamy. The problem is the sound itself in the venue was very poorly mixed – you couldn’t hear her vocals after the first song, which was quite good. The other vibe I got was that she wasn’t connecting with the audience – and I felt she seemed to be backing away. Unless it was the fact that she was running into a brick wall with the poor mix of her vocals, which, when you could hear them, were breathy and warm. It would have been nice to have had a balanced sound.

Paul Weller came on at about 9 p.m. and proceeded to tear it up from the moment he hit the stage, opening with “White Sky”, the lead cut from his new album, Saturns Pattern – heavy and hard rockin’. He went immediately into “Come On/Let’s Go” – two songs later, he hit stride with “From The Floorboards Up” – the band was ultra-tight and on-the-one. No sooner than the crowd roared at the end of “…Floorboards”, he led the emotionally-charged “Town Called Malice”, which sounded even better than The Jam did when I saw them. The crowd sang – he gave way to the audience’s singalong fills and it brought down the house this early on. Other highpoints were “The Changingman” and “You Do Something To Me”, both from 1995’s landmark Stanley Road (Weller sitting down behind a Fender Rhodes to deliver this powerful ballad). A completely re-worked full electric band version of “That’s Entertainment” came shortly thereafter and again, the crowd knew every nuance of the song, which nearly had me in tears.

But it was the next two songs that got me completely – a dead-on perfect, fully realized version of The Jam’s “Start” (one of the three most influential songs in my own life and my 3rd favorite song in the history of peoplekind); admittedly, I was choked up in the best possible way (I’ve never played a gig where we didn’t do the song ourselves) – I think the crowd pretty much hit their emotional peak right there with a deafening roar – and I couldn’t catch my breath as they ripped right into “Peacock Suit”, which is one of my favorites from Weller’s solo canon and one of the ballsiest things he ever committed to tape. The one-two punch just knocked me out.

Keeping in mind that Weller didn’t offer up a lot of chatter and patter between songs; it was all just machine gun rock & roll, he was generous and served three encores after the main set:

White Sky
Come On/Let’s Go
I’m Where I Should Be
From the Floorboards Up
Town Called Malice
Above the Clouds
Saturn’s Pattern
Going My Way
The Changingman
Friday Street
Porcelain Gods
Broken Stones
You Do Something to Me
Long Time
That’s Entertainment
Start!
Peacock Suit
Whirlpool’s End

Encore:
Out of the Sinking
These City Streets

Encore 2:
Picking Up Sticks
Wild Blue Yonder

Encore 3:
Foot of the Mountain
My Ever Changing Moods

Say what you will; three-plus decades since Weller started his ascent on stage, with a band and three-plus decades later and he’s still finding new ways to make us all young and driven again. A stellar night.

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