How much fun was it to see the Modfather himself, the ageless Paul Weller, at the Enmore Theatre on Wednesday night? I haven’t jumped around in my chair so much since – well, since a gig at the Village Vanguard in February, and then the one at Sweet Rhythm in March. But they were jazz gigs, and this was something else entirely. (One doesn’t get out to pop/rock [what’s the right term these days?] concerts much anymore.) A former boyfriend once described Weller’s music as “Dad rock”, which I found highly amusing but ultimately reductive. Weller is that rare musician who keeps evolving. My late husband John loved The Jam, while I adored The Style Council; I guess we attach most intensely to the music we discover when we’re young, and John was that bit older than I. Weller’s last Sydney performance was in 1984, and yes, I was there – in all my awkward teenage enthusiasm, with my hopeless crush on this musician who featured both in my dreams and on my (dad’s) record player. “My Ever Changing Moods” remains one of my favourite songs ever. As a melancholy 15 year-old I played it over and over in my room as I read books and dreamed about going to New York.
On stage this week Weller explored the varied terrain of his songwriting career, and moved freely from instrument to instrument. He wore his musicianship effortlessly, in the same way that at 50 he has the casual hip of someone half his age. He proudly chain-smoked through the performance, tossing his cigarette mid-burn to the floor while he pumped out chords on the piano or one of his guitars – only to pick up the cigarette where he left off and take another puff. Now that’s cool.
It was amusing to see the different Weller “factions” in the audience. Some came to life only with his oldest songs, and I sensed that those audience members caused him slight irritation. If Weller is able to grow as a musician and songwriter as he grows older, why do the ears of some of his fans not “grow” with him? I guess that’s what separates the artist from the everyman, the leader from the pack. I hope I can keep growing older with Paul Weller.