BRITISH music icon Paul Weller kicked off his Australian tour in Fremantle last night with a rousing show that echoed the sentiment of his latest album Wake Up The Nation.
While he is best known as the angry young front man in ‘70s mod and punk outfit The Jam, the 52 year-old, who is often coined The Modfather, was regarded as a key influence on the Britpop movement that spawned bands such as Oasis and Blur.
Speaking backstage at Metropolis Fremantle ahead of the show, Weller openly expressed his concerns about Facebook and instant celebrity culture, some of the key themes of his Mercury Prize nominated new album.
“We’ve always had trash TV and that’s ok as well if its just entertainment but I’ve noticed on a cultural level that people accept the second and third best,” he said of internationally franchised singing competitions like The X-Factor. “I think for any kid – young kid – who aspires to be a musician or a singer or an artist of some kind. For that to be your standard is damaging I think.”
“That’s symptomatic of our times, in England anyway, that anyone can attain fame and fortune, you’ve only got to get your face in the paper or on TV. It doesn’t involve really working at it and really devoting yourself for years, maybe a number of years before you get to that point.”
A keen record buyer, Weller mentioned that he had become a fan of Perth psych band Tame Impala after being recommended the band by the staff at London record store Rough Trade. Discussing contemporary music, Weller said he tries to keep his performances as relevant as possible by including material from his two-decade solo career alongside some songs by The Jam, rather than play a nostalgic ‘greatest hits’ set.
“I think it’s laziness really,” he said of icons of his ilk that tour the world playing decades old material. “It’s a very easy way of satisfying an audience. Obviously that’s part of this job, that’s what it entails satisfy people, but I think it’s also to challenge people as well.”
The rocker’s Thursday night club performance was added to his Australian schedule after Friday night’s outdoor show at the Fremantle Arts Centre sold out. The extra show afforded devoted fans the rare opportunity to see Weller up close in a traditional and more intimate indoor rock venue.
The show featured a broad spread of material from his solo career as well as a scattering of Jam favourites including Pretty Green. A notable exception, however, was Jam hit Town Called Malice, which didn’t get an airing despite two tantalising encores.
A mid-set keyboard diversion into Broken Stones and You Do Something To Me was particularly well received, with Weller demonstrating the soul and r ‘n’ b styles he has explored throughout a genre-spanning career.
Disco-tinged Style Council favourite Shout To The Top also got a huge reaction from the dance floor, with Weller clearly enjoying playing material from a project that was critically maligned at the time.
While the artist’s last album 22 Dreams was a sprawling, psychedelic-inspired double album, Wake Up The Nation clearly has far more urgency and urgency and bite.
Backing up Weller’s desire to stay modern and relevant, current tracks 7 & 3 Is The Striker's Name and Fast Car / Slow Traffic were played with as much youthful intensity and snarl as any current indie band.
With this constant evolution, Weller’s 1995 hit The Changing Man proved an apt encore.
“As a kid I was a massive Beatles fan and I just looked forward to every release to see where they were going next,” he said before the show. “If it was the same record year after year I’d think it was just sort of taking the p*** a bit really.”