What do you do when your musical hero plays in your hometown?
When he stands on a stage placed upon the very fields where you used to play?
Where he is singing the classic songs at the very place you used to sing them, and pretended to be him, when they were just songs and you were just a much smaller version of what you are now?
You go and see him, of course, and you take what seems like half of the town along with you as Paul Weller came to Delapre Abbey, Northampton. My Northampton. My Abbey. I can still see the tree where I had a rope swing from the stage. Well I would have seen it if half of the town weren’t blocking the view as they followed me to pay homage to a true musical legend. Still writing number one albums some 30 years after his first. I think that’s a reasonable use of the word.
It was a very warm and sunny day. Very appropriate, when you think of it, because those are the days you remember, and boy did we remember this one.
I’d met up with an old mate from school and was introduced to a brand new one. Also appropriate, I thought, as Weller mixes the old with the new. He sprinkles his classic tracks selfishly amongst his current work, just enough to keep us old ‘uns happy but not so much that his back catalogue is used to create his own tribute act. It’s probably not what his old fans want but then how else do you keep yourself current when you’re 55. A remarkable man.
I hadn’t seen my old mate, Russell, since Weller’s first band, The Jam, were the biggest group in the country. I hadn’t seen Weller live, ever. It was a nice coming together alongside 6,500 like-minded people in the sun. People with a passion for music. Middle-aged people, admittedly, but all sharing some of the musical passion that has kept Weller at the top of his game for decades.
We arrived in daylight having spent the afternoon touring the towns pubs and clubs, like you do when you’re young, but we were far from young, but if Weller could still kick ass some 30 years later then we were going to give it a bloody good try. The laughter and the memories flowed a little quicker than the beer yet neither stopped. I had arranged to meet other friends and go to the gig with them but taken over with folly, Fosters and refound friendship I decided to stay on tour.
Right at the front, we were. Leaning on the barriers drinking someone’s idea of beer from a yellow paper cup. I had never seen so many Fred Perry t-shirts in my whole life. Every colour imaginable yet strangely most seemed XL or XXL.
We bounced, we clapped and we cheered. I wasn’t 45 years old for an hour and 40 minutes, yesterday. I was younger. Everybody who was bouncing, clapping and cheering was younger, if only for an hour and 40 minutes.
Weller once wrote “But we seemed to grow up in a flash of time.” I know because I used to sing it in Delapre Abbey 30 years ago and that seems like yesterday. Then I realised I was in Delapre Abbey yesterday feeling like I did 30 years ago.
That’s the genius of Weller.