By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Though Weller shuns the "political artist" tag, his lyrics and interviews have long flashed left-wing leanings. Like many Brits who endured the Conservative Party regimes of the '80s and '90s, he was ultimately disappointed when the socialist Labor Party finally regained power in 1997. "We waited a long time," he laments, "just to find out that nothing's really changed. I think it's led to a kind of apathy for a lot of people, me included, where you just think, 'What's the point in voting?,' which is a dangerous outlook, because then you leave the door open for all these extremist nutters." Weller also feels detached from mainstream musical trends in the U.K., where — contrary to the folklore portraying a Radiohead on every street corner — the airwaves are dominated by generic dance music and manufactured teen acts. "[U.K. radio] is fairly unlistenable, like karaoke night in the fucking lap-dancing club or something! Awful!"
Weller views himself as principally a melodic torchbearer, despite the reams written about his bearing on British guitar music: "I only hear [my influence] in terms of a long line of English pop music going back to the Kinks and the Beatles up to the Jam and the Specials, the Smiths, the La's, the [Stone] Roses."
ON HIS CURRENT TOUR, WELLER WILL BE PLAYing Jam and Style Council songs with a band for the first time since their demise, a concession fans have bawled themselves hoarse for. So why now? "Because during that solo acoustic tour I was playing a lot of old stuff, and I think that broke a lot of barriers for me, helped me see that I can play the old stuff amongst the new stuff, and it's not like it jars at all." Weller's solo shows here two years ago summoned staggering reactions: Far from just 30-something English geezers yelling for Jam songs, diverse audiences poured out respect and nostalgia to the point where every tune received a virtual standing ovation. Weller himself was taken aback: "Because it had been so long since I'd been to the States, to get that depth of emotion from people nearly brought a tear to my old eye!"
Weller's ambitions for this tour are about fundamentals: "I would like [audiences] to walk away feeling good about what they've seen and inspired by it. And to add to the belief in music that we've all had, but that kind of diminishes at times." With a quality solo album on parade and a newfound willingness to embrace his past, Paul Weller's about to repay the patience of his U.S. fan base and remind us why he's one of Britain's working-class heroes.