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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Paul Weller's Night in Harlem

Crowd waiting to enter the Apollo Theater.

NEW YORK, November 6 – As I rolled up from the A train onto the Harlem streets, I eagerly made my way down the block to the see the amazing Paul Weller at the Apollo Theater. There was no wind that night, but the air was a bit chilly. I pulled up the collar on my coat and soldiered on. The brisk November couldn’t deter me from this potentially awesome performance.

When I reached the legendary venue, I noticed a massive line of people. I quickly asked the last man in line about the crowd. He responded with a nod and assured me that this is the line to get into the theater. I was astonished at the large number of concert goers for Weller’s show. I took my place in the back of the line and waited in the cold with my fellow music enthusiasts.

After I was seated and the opening act finished, Weller walked onto the stage and proceeded to assault the audience with two straight hours of soul and mod music. This included two extended encores. Armed with a set list of new songs and old classics, he unloaded the tunes with his special brand of attitude and passion.

The second song of Weller's set was a long rendition of “Into Tomorrow”. Instead of playing it straight, he jammed through the tune with long improvisational breaks. His playing straddled between psychedelic rock and pop jazz. It was completely groovy.

When Weller started playing the opening chords to “Shout to the Top”, the entire theater seemed to stand up all at once. I would venture to say that there were quite a number of Style Council fans in the audience. They were dancing in the aisles and singing along with Weller. Some fans were leaning over the balcony going nuts. Did all the Style Council fans have a pre-concert meeting and decided to freak out at the same exact time? I guess I missed that inter-office memo.

As part of the encore, Weller performed a stirring cover of Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)”. It was interesting to hear him sing a Motown classic at the Apollo. It seems appropriate for a musician who has a deep grounding in classic R&B. It was definitely a pleasant surprise.

Although there were plenty of amazing moments, the highlights of the performance were “Into Tomorrow”, “From the Floorboards Up”, and “Sea Spray”.

During the show, I noticed a middle-aged bald guy dancing in front of the stage. Wearing a white dress shirt and tie, he was rocking out like a manic and gyrating his hand like Ian Curtis. I don’t think he sat down once during the entire performance. I guess he was just feeding off of the band’s energy.

In conclusion, Paul Weller was amazing with seemingly limitless energy. He rocked out with several bizarre musical tangents throughout the night. I enjoyed each exploration and stayed for the entire two hour ride. I left the Apollo Theater in total exhaustion and excitement.

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