Paul Weller at Berklee Performance Center, September 9, 2008
It doesn’t really matter what the performance is, or how awesome the performer: there’s always something great about seeing someone who is (or has been) big in the UK when he comes to Boston. At some point he’ll trot out some big hit, and whatever venue you’re at is transformed into a football (soccer) match right after the home side has scored the winning goal; everyone cheers and sings “la-la” and “na-na” along with his or her favo(u)rite song and all is right with the world.
A week ago Tuesday night, this moment came when Paul Weller played “Town Called Malice,” a hit by his old band the Jam. Never mind that this was the second encore after nearly two hours of almost nothing but solo joints from 1990 on (and no alcohol, since we were at Berklee), this crowd was singing and dancing as if it were last call. I’d never noticed how much “Town Called Malice” sounds like Billy Joel’s “Tell Her About It,” but the similarity makes sense — both songs crib early-’60s Motown posi-vibes.
Weller’s particular brand of dour-pop-via-early-R&B-with-some-delay-thrown-in is the blueprint for several generations of pub-rocking Brits, and at Berklee he dug deep into his extensive solo catalogue, opening with a psychy run-through of the mid-’90s album track “Out of the Sinking,” complete with some rad two-guitar jam action, and pausing for a mid-set acoustic interval that included the eerie Jam dirge/English folk ditty “Butterfly Collector.” Weller’s wounded yelp was never really a punk clarion call, and that’s why seeing him sitting on a stool crooning “All on a misty morning/I come to you with love” in between pulls on a cigarette didn’t feel like any kind of betrayal — this is an artist who can crank out competent pop/soul/rock for decades to come. “I could go on for hours/And I probably will,” he sings near the end of “Town Called Malice” — and though there was no further encore, you couldn’t doubt him.
: Live Reviews
, Paul Weller
, Billy Joel