Of Jams and James

As you know by now, I had declared this year as my “Year of a Million Concerts”…so far, I think the rate I’m going at will indeed bring me close to a million shows by the end of this year…not only were the two shows I went to this week both at the same venue, the stories behind the performers and their appearances in Philadelphia were somewhat similar, too…

Sunday night saw the first Philadelphia appearance by former Jam and Style Council frontman Paul Weller in almost 15 years…during his tenure with The Style Council, Weller famously refused to tour America…back with a new (and really great) record, 22 Dreams, Weller and his band were in top form on Sunday night…many of the fans had been waiting to seem his since his days in The Jam, and greeted the “Modfather’s” new material warmly, which is more than I can say for some of the crowds I’ve seen at other performances of rock “legends”…as a matter of fact, I’ve seen many “elder statesmen” of rock, and their performances have fallen into two distinct categories which often carry over to their newer records as well:

  • those who surround themselves with a large band of young musicians to draw attention away from their deteriorated technical abilities due to years of drugs, touring and drugs…examples: Brian Wilson, Lou Reed (though, to be fair, if Lou didn’t have a huge band, I wouldn’t have seen Laurie Anderson in person)…
  • those who have aged more gracefully, remaining fresh and agile and, while they may have a large band, still show proficiency on their instrument…examples: Elvis Costello, Stan Ridgway, Paul Weller

Beginning with a few acoustic numbers (mostly from the new disc), Weller and his boys showed their grown-up side, even throwing in an arrangement of “The Butterfly Collector” from The Jam‘s All Mod Cons…as the stools and acoustic guitars were pulled aside, Weller seemed like he was itching to rock…highlights of the set included some of the standouts from 22 Dreams, “Have You Made Up Your Mind”, “Sea Spray” and the title track, and some older solo Weller tunes, like “The Changingman”, “Wild Wood” and a fantastic rendition of “From The Floorboards Up” from 2005’s As Is Now…for the last song of the encore, the band busted out ever the crowd-pleaser, “Town Called Malice”, which was given the sing-along treatment (especially on the “woah-oh” and “Struggle after struggle…” parts)…I got a setlist after the show, and they had apparently planned to end with another classic Jam number, “That’s Entertainment”…as much as I love that song, “Town Called Malice” was the perfect closer to a night of music from a man who completely deserves all the praise he’s gotten over his long career…

I could go on for hours and I probably will

Just like the people at the Weller show had waited very long to see their hero in concert, the crowd at Tuesday night’s James concert was equally anxious to see the recently-reformed group take the stage…

As I mentioned in my review of their lovely new album, Hey Ma, James has been out of action for about six years, and hasn’t played in Philadelphia for even longer…it was funny to see the band’s reaction to the crowd’s excitement…at one point, while the audience was singing the chorus to “Sometimes (Lester Piggot)”, lead guitarist Larry Gott took out his own camera and was videotaping the crowd from the stage…between many of the songs, the group’s iconic lead singer, Tim Booth, simply stood speechless at the microphone, surveying the audience with an awestruck look on his face as if to say, “I can’t believe that you’re all really here to see me and my band.”…well, believe it, because their set was one of the most energetic and enjoyable ones I’ve seen all year…spanning their whole catalogue, James brought out a lof of their hits, as well as some of their deeper tracks to an audience who was read for anything (well, maybe not for Wah-Wah in its entirety)…along with “Sometimes”, some of the great moments included “Upside” and “Oh My Heart”, both from the new album, the classics “Sit Down”, “Say Something”, and “Born Of Frustration”, in which Booth traversed the stage speakers and managed to get himself up into the Trocadero’s balcony, where, via wireless mic, he sang the tune (war whoops and all) from the back of the theater…of course, they ended the evening with their best-known track, “Laid”, where members were invited to dance onstage, resulting in madness of Carbon/Silicon proportions…

If I hadn't seen such riches, I could live with being poor

For me, seeing a band like James is one of the most enjoyable concert experiences…when they were together originally, they weren’t mega-superstars, and they’re obviously not reforming just for the money (though I’m sure that’s a factor to any band)…like the audience, the band was happy just to be there…between the great performance and a great new album, it’s like they never went away…

As always, more pictures from Paul Weller and James can be found here…my new camera is still taking some getting used to, but I think I may have figured out how to get better concert shots with it…

E.

Lyric of the Time:
I’m going to see you in a foreign land
I’ll pack my bags, oh lord
I’m a travelin’ man’s man

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~ by E. on September 19, 2008.

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