The Modfather turned 50 in 2008. And for any Paul Weller fan looking for a fitting way to acknowledge that milestone, here it is. JUST A DREAM: 22 DREAMS LIVE is an attractively presented hardback bookcase that captures some of the highlights of Weller's resurgent year, which saw the release and multiple tours in support of the album 22 DREAMS. Before getting to the DVD/CD combo there are 36 pages of photos by Lawrence Watson showing Weller and his band in backstage moments, in rehearsals and during live performances. Good stuff.
(Side note: Amazon let me pre-order this months ago in a Region 0 format. It finally arrived this week - several weeks later than originally promised. I now notice it is no longer available here in the USA. But I digress...)
The DVD includes:
- A Live BBC 4 Session recorded in front of a smallish but enthusiastic crowd that features 21 songs and close to 90 minutes of footage. Weller's band includes Steve Cradock on guitar, Andy Lewis on bass, Andy Crofts on keyboards and Steve Pilgrim on drums (Steve White is "taking time off" from gigging and recording with Weller.) There are also a string section, a brass section and a few special guests, including Little Barrie, Graham Coxon (Blur), Gem Archer (Oasis) and the violinist Eliza Carthy who plays on two tracks. It's a very good show. 11 of the 21 songs Weller performs are from 22 DREAMS, but we also dip back into the songbook for such classics as "The Butterfly Collector" and "The Eton Rifles." There's only one weak song in the set, and that's "Echoes Round the Sun," the song Weller co-wrote with Noel Gallagher. Weller ribs the audience for not cheering loud enough when Gem Archer comes to the stage and after that things get thrown off. The crowd cheers again, but just as weakly. The vocals (as they do on the album) have trouble rising above the instrumentation and at one point Weller sets the microphone swaying, which gives the words even less chance to get heard. (Don't worry, you get three more chance to hear the same song in this package - and all are better than this.) One brief stutter aside, Weller closes strong with "The Changing Man," a crowd-pleasing "Eton Rifles," "Push It Along" and "Whirlpool's End," which serves as a better-than-I-expected closer to the show.
- Rehearsal sessions featuring 5 songs recorded for Channel 4, interspersed with some interesting Q&A with the man himself. The version of "Echoes Rounds the Sun" performed here - without Gallagher and Archer - allows the vocals to rise above the mix and was a nice surprise.
- Music videos for "Echoes Round the Sun" and "Have You Made Up Your Mind." The first presents the song as it was intended - with a psychedelic, special effects-laden video that matches the over-the-top swagger of the studio recording. Weller, Gallagher, Archer and Cradock could be 100% serious as they strike their supercool poses, but they might also be hamming it up. "Have You Made Up Your Mind" gets an intriguing animated treatments with ink blots, Weller still photographs, and animation that reinforces the pastoral themes and CD packaging of "22 Dreams."
- An extra bonus: a 5-minute interview catches Weller and the band backstage before the Brixton show last November (presumably the same show that is featured on the CD).
The CD includes: 13 songs, only 5 from the "22 Dreams" album, recorded November 2008 at the Brixton Academy in London. The set kicks off with crowd-pleasing stomper "From the Floorboards Up," includes extended jams of favorites like "Porcelain Gods," "Broken Stones" and Weller's "Wishing on a Star" cover. Dipping into the Style Council songbook, Weller and the band fail to do full justice to "Shout to the Top!", but the CD closes out in style with The Jam's "The Eton Rifles."
This is a limited edition keepsake that sums up a milestone year in Weller's amazing career. If you're a Weller fan, it's worth every penny.