Archive for October, 2013

Gig Review: Paul Weller, Hammersmith Apollo, 19 October 2013

21 Oct

Paul Weller and Ronnie Wood on stage @ Hammersmith

Paul Weller at the Hammersmith Apollo: a sell-out home town gig on a Saturday night, last show of the tour and Ronnie Wood on stage with him. That should have been a special gig but it just…wasn’t.

Cherry and I left disappointed so I’ll get the whining over to start with. Far too much mediocre paint-by-numbers rock, an overload of newer material, very little rapport with the audience and only playing for an hour and 40 minutes.

Do I feel better having got that out? No I don’t.

Weller is one of the quintessentially great British songwriters. The Jam’s back catalogue overflows with songs seared in the collective musical consciousness of the UK’s forty and fifty somethings.

Eton Rifles, Going Underground, Town Called Malice, That’s Entertainment, In The City, Strange Town, A-Bomb in Wardour Street, Start!…….the guy had a seemingly inexhaustible creative wellspring and his output with the Style Council and as a solo artist still impressed.

30 years after pulling the plug on The Jam and despite that 3 decade solo back catalogue , Paul Weller somehow failed to do it justice on Saturday evening at Hammersmith.

The last 3 records were plundered for this set and it sounded like he was going for a Radiohead vibe. Who’d have thought this was the guy influenced by the Kinks, the Small Faces and the Who…..

Patches and flashes were still there: ‘Peacock Suit had the place bouncing, ‘Sunflower’, ‘Changing Man’, ‘Wake Up the Nation’ and ‘Floorboards’ likewise – but 6 or 7 songs in an hour and 40 minute set just isn’t enough.

The middle section sagged like a cheap camp bed and looking round the audience I wasn’t alone in thinking that. Cherry said it felt like he was playing in his living room and he wasn’t helped by the sound, which sounded like it was strained through a sock.

Too much bass, minimal high-end, vocals obscure and excess echo and reverb. We were centre stage about 25 feet ahead of the mixing board so – Lord help us – that was the house mix we were getting.

Weller’s daughter appeared to duet with him (pleasingly) on Wishing On a Star and it was joyous seeing Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood on stage, but it wasn’t enough to lift things.

Yes the band were good, even with a percussionist serving no useful purpose, but overall the gig had a disturbingly mediocre feel about it.

And no Paul, playing Start! And a Town Called Malice wasn’t enough.

Who to believe: A war hero or a fascist rag?

01 Oct

Wear it with pride!Three things cry out for attention this week: the Daily Mail’s disgusting attack on Ed Miliband’s father, the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester and the shutdown of the US government by idiot Republicans opposed to healthcare being extended to ordinary Americans.

 They are linked only because knuckle-dragging conservative morons are involved in each; but either separately or taken together they form a big neon signpost that points in the wrong direction down a one way street.

 First of all, the Leader of the Labour Party and Her Majesty’s Opposition was dragged into a row with the UK newspaper that is a by-word for small-minded hatred and bigotry.

 And while I get why Ed Miliband wants to defend his father’s reputation, I’m reminded of the rationale for avoiding pig wrestling: ‘the pig will love it, and he’s already covered in his own shit’.

 The Daily Mail has been an active, eyes-open perpetrator of Tory propaganda for a century and Miliband’s appeals to common decency will echo unanswered round the empty head of Paul Dacre, and rattle round the moral void at the festering heart of Viscount Rothermere’s media operation.

 So the question for us here is a simple one:

Should we take the side of the war hero who fought the Nazis four years after he came to Britain as a teenage refugee?

 Or should we pay heed to the newspaper with a history of anti-semitism, which supported apartheid, which backed Oswald Moseley’s Blackshirts and once ran an editorial saying ‘the minor misdeeds of individual nazis would be submerged by the immense benefits the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany’?

 As for the Tory Party Conference, it is instructive to see it held in Manchester, England’s third largest city and a place where the Tories don’t hold one single council seat.

Neither the ring of steel and lines of outward facing police officers, nor pressurising the BBC to ignore the 60,000 people marching past to defend the NHS, hides the symbolism of a privileged, remote minority sitting in the midst of a hostile majority - like flies swimming round our coffee mugs.

The Tory conference message rarely changes and could have been written months ago in the usual, soul-destroying cliches: the poor are work-shy or benefit cheats, union members are the enemy within, rich people are job creators and sadly misunderstood, foreigners are evil, Europe is nasty, and things might be bad but Labour would steal food from your children……..

A concerted series of appeals to greed, fear, prejudice and mistrust, slavishly  relayed by a supine media.

 And talking of people who’d take us back to the 19th Century,  let’s hear it for the Republican flat-earthers.  The Tea Party idiots responsible for 800,000 American federal workers being forced to stay at home without pay from today until f*ck knows when, disrupting services as varied as national parks and the US space programme and at a stroke costing the US economy 1.25% of growth.


Well, these wing-nuts have a majority in the House of Representatives and have tried three separate attacks on the Affordable Care Act, known (by them) as Obamacare. This time, they’ve made an unrelated finance bill dependent on cuts, delays or repeal of ‘Obamacare’. And yes, you could call it blackmail….

No matter that Barack Obama won in 2008 with this specific promise; no matter that the ACA was passed four years ago; no matter that the Act was ratified by the US supreme court; and no matter that it was endorsed by voters in the 2012 presidential election:

No, the Republican Party in Congress are prepared to ignore all this democratic stuff and sacrifice the US goverment on the altar of neo-liberal extremism, trying to blackmail both the White House and the Senate into ditching or delaying the AC Act.

They see extending health cover to millions of vulnerable Americans as ‘communism’.  No, really.

 This has not been a good week for those of us looking to build a better society or to improve the quality of political and social discourse.

 But it does provide rich seams of evidence that the forces of organised wealth and the proponents of neo-liberal barbarism have a very active interest in dragging all of us into a deep swamp of lies, smears and propaganda.

 Our enlightenment, our hope, our resolve and our enduring aspiration that we can do better than this are their worst fears made flesh.

As Lenin put it more than a century ago: the great only appear great when we are on our knees: let us arise!

Stephen Smith: writer

Rants, rambles and other assorted thoughts

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