Sunday, 22 March 2015

Paul Weller

Edinburgh Playhouse - 22nd March 2015

Paul Weller has always been a serious musician. He writes serious songs, and tonight he seems pretty serious about the business in hand. No introduction, maybe just a quiet hello, he kicks of the set with White Sky, the single from the forthcoming album "Saturn's Pattern" due to be released 11th May.

The packed Edinburgh audience are on their feet from the first number and despite Weller's stated intention to exclude any hark back to the Jam or The Style Council, they are loud in their praise and stand throughout. With little chat between songs, Weller powers through number after number, mixing songs from the new album with older stuff, his band a well disciplined and top quality ensemble.

After 4 or 5 songs Weller takes off his jacket and says "It's nice to be back in Edinburgh, last time I was here in the Playhouse was in 1977 and they trashed the seats. I'm not proposing that you do that tonight though!" - a few of us remember those halcyon days, and cheer.

"Here's a song about boxers and fighters in general" - Empty Ring is a good example of his ability to create images with words and melody. The appreciative audience roar their approval. Above The Clouds is the first opportunity for the mixed age crowd to sing along, and they don't miss a word.

A man of few words, but beginning to warm to the very enthusiastic Edinburgh reception, Weller introduces Long Time as a "salute to Lou Reed". The Attic has a wonderful New Jersey carnival sound reminiscent of the early E Street Band. Porcelain Gods, from the Stanley Road album, is wonderful, but turns into a bit of a jam session.

Weller turns to the keyboard and says "This one is dedicated to our keyboard technician, I think that's what they're called these days, who got married today" and launches into a glorious rendition of You Do Something To Me. The couples in the audience snuggle closer together.

A problem with his guitar necessitates a change to the setlist, and one of songs normally reserved for the encores, Broken Bones, is next. The dancing in the aisles immediately starts in earnest. Peacock Suit and Whirlpools End maintain the dance momentum and the Edinburgh Playhouse is really jumping, but suddenly that's the end of the set. Weller thanks us and the band depart.

The noise is deafening as clapping and stamping ensue. The Playhouse audience want more. 

Weller takes his time, but returns after 4 or 5 minutes to perform a couple of relatively low-key numbers These City Streets and Foot of the Mountain. Then he and the band depart again.

The crowd are not having it, and we've all heard that Weller usually does 2 encores, so the stamping and clapping escalates until the Modfather returns - finally smiling. 

The 2nd encore is more like the thing - Picking Up Sticks is powerful and full of Weller on guitar. There's also a slightly superfluous drum solo, but no matter, The Changingman, one of his best know tracks is next. The aisles are full, the dancing is frenetic but finally it comes to an end. Weller, really smiling now, thanks us all and says goodnight.

We all know that "you never get 3 encores", and anyway the house lights have come on, the PA music has started up, and a third of the crowd are already headed towards the exits. Despite all this, the die-hard front half of the hall are still noisily demanding more

Much to my surprise Weller bounds back on stage alone, quickly followed by the other band members. "Thanks for being such a great audience. Here's one you might remember" and A Town Called Malice halts the exodus of non-believers in their tracks. 

A Town Called Malice
This is an very fine rendition by Weller and the band, if perhaps a little less polished than the previous setlist. I do believe that this is actually an unrehearsed 'extra' for a very enthusiastic and appreciative Edinburgh audience. Everyone goes seriously wild and we all pull out our best 1980s dance moves. 

Finally it is really over, the house lights come back on, but everyone goes home happy.
I'm glad I was there.

White Sky
Come On/Let's Go
Uh Huh Oh Yeh
I'm Where I Should Be
When Your Garden's Overgrown
From the Floorboards Up
Into Tomorrow
Saturn's Pattern
Empty Ring
Above the Clouds
Long Time
The Attic
Friday Street
Porcelain Gods
Brand New Toy
You Do Something to Me
Broken Stones
Peacock Suit
Whirlpool's End

These City Streets 
Foot of the Mountain 

Encore 2:
Picking Up Sticks
The Changingman

Encore 3:
Town Called Malice

The Support was:

The Merrylees

I arrive just as the lads are starting (bang on time). I was immediately struck by two things. Firstly they look like they've just stepped off the set of a 1990s teen nerd movie (think Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure) but carry it off with aplomb. Secondly, these guys can really play and sound very professional for a local band yet to release an album.
Touted as purveyors of 'Psychedelic Western Pop', the band members are Ryan Sandison, Simon Allan, Reuben Toy, Lee Brown, Kev Tierney, Craig Somerville - all from the Edinburgh, Glasgow area. 

The Merrylees 
Since their debut in 2013, The Merrylees have gained notable recognition and celebrity support. After hearing their music,  Richard Hawley produced their 2014 single “Forever More“, and the band were also nominated for “Best New Band” award by the Scottish Variety Awards. They've been gigging hard, supporting the likes of Paul Weller, Temples and Babyshambles and working on their debut EP.

With 3 guitars, a bass and a slide guitar on top of the punchy drums, The Merrylees really deliver a glorious sound. The introductory theme from Once Upon A Time In The West and the addition of a Mariachi style trumpet on For You makes me smile. 

The vocals and harmonies are good, and the soundmix is just right so the lyrics can be heard over the lovely guitar riffs.

Definitely a cut above the average support act, these guys are really worth hearing live. Will look forward to some headline gigs to promote the debut EP - hopefully soon.

Listen to the Merrylees on Soundcloud or Bandcamp


  1. I have never truly succeeded in taking to Paul Weller. The Jam, as all right-thinking poeplel agree were really special, but I have always found his dismissal of that period of his career slightly condescending - particularly when many of those Jam songs means so much to people. And his jettison of (and subsequent comments about) Buckler and Foxton I found, to put it mildly, disappointing.. The Style Council was naught but an ill thought out vanity project.

    But clearly he is a chap who is doing something right.

    1. I sort of understand his desire to move away from stuff he wrote with Foxton et al over 30 years ago, but IMO those are still the best written songs he's done. His more recent work has a few gems, but lack the rawness and immediacy of the Jam work. He did come across as a little serious initially, but nice to see that thaw during the gig.