Sunday, October 8, 2017

Wishing On a Star

The Modfather = marriage.

Allow me to explain. When you mention Paul Weller to a music-lover of a certain age, well, honestly most of them have no clue who he is.

But a few of the more musically savvy will recognize the man who burst on the scene in the '70s with the punky mod revival band the Jam, followed that with the blue-eyed soul of the Style Council, and then kicked off an exquisite solo career in the '90s.

For those people (and me), Paul Weller is forever the Modfather, a nod to his original band's sound and style of dress. These guys looked as good as they sounded.

But mention to me that Paul Weller is on tour and I can guarantee you one thing: on the night when he plays at the closest venue to me, I will be expected to be at a wedding. I kid you not.

About a decade ago, he was playing in D.C. and I was thrilled to think that I might finally get to see him after being a fan for decades. That emotion came to a screeching halt when my then-boyfriend reminded me that we were attending a friend's wedding the same evening.

Fast forward to this past May and one of my birthday gifts was a pair of tickets to see Paul Weller in D.C. with the gift-giver. I was over the moon to think that I would finally get to hear Paul's soulful British voice live.

So after waiting months for the show, I shouldn't have been surprised when I got a wedding invitation for that same night. To add insult to injury, the gift-giver also had a wedding to go to the same night.

It would have been funny if it hadn't been perfectly tragic. What does a woman have to do to see Paul Weller in the flesh?

My solution was simple and exhausting at the same time. I would drive to my sister's house in Maryland (a grueling 3-hours on soul-sucking I-95) to dress, then drive another 45 minutes to the wedding in Baltimore and leave after a couple hours to drive to D.C. to see the show.

To paraphrase Rhett Butler (who once told Scarlet, "I can't go all my life waiting to catch you between husbands"), clearly I couldn't go all my life waiting to catch Paul Weller between weddings. It was now or never.

The wedding was at Gertrude's, the restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art, a place I've visited for art exhibitions as well as for brunches and dinner. It's a lovely spot and this was the first visit to afford me the chance to stroll the sculpture garden, as pleasurable for the art as for the opportunity to stretch my legs after so much time in traffic.

Everything about the wedding was charming: the bride's ballerina length dress worn with blue kitten-heeled pumps, the ceremony taking place on stone slabs over the fountain, the easygoing charm of the online-ordained officiant (after both bride and groom said "I do," he responded, "Okay!").

But like Cinderella, I had a deadline so after the wedding, cocktail hour and toasts to the happy couple were raised, this fan was changing out of her wedding-appropriate dress ($4.50 at the thrift store) and into something more music show appropriate ($3) to make her way to her hometown.

Congratulations, have a happy life and I'll catch you later.

If you know me, it's hardly surprising that I immediately got turned around (despite printed directions) leaving the museum and drove around lost until flagging down a stranger who directed me south. The good news was that once I was in D.C., my lack of navigational skills were a moot point since it's a city I know and understand.

My parking spot was on the block with the theater, not obviously illegal and a miracle considering how late I was (too late to find anyone in search of a ticket since I had a spare). I'd expected to miss the opener, Lucy Rose, but Paul had already started when I got inside, too.

An usher assured me I'd only missed a few songs - a miracle considering how long I'd been lost in Charm City - and I could finally breathe now that I'd arrived at my long denied destination. All the seats seemed to be taken (it was hard to tell with so many people standing in front of them and dancing) while the aisles and sides of the venue were lined with those happy just to have standing room.

The theater was noticeably hot, undoubtedly a function of a sold-out crowd and a whole lot of shaking going on. I took off my little jacket, grateful my dress had an open back. This was a party.

I joined the hordes to worship at the altar of the Modfather, as he dazzled the crowd with so many good songs: an extended version of "My Ever Changing Moods," a horn-blaring version of Style Council's "Shout to the Top" and a shimmering "Above the Clouds," to name some highlights.

Fans - perhaps as long-deprived as me - weren't shy about calling out requests and Paul reminded them, "We can't do everything. I've got something like 150 songs!" I couldn't have been the only one who'd have listened to as many as he was willing to sing.

A guy named Demetri introduced himself and asked if I'd seen Paul before. I gave him the Cliff Notes version of my saga and he told me that although a long-time fan, the only reason he was there was because a buddy had bought him a ticket.

"This is a great show," he gushed. "It definitely goes in the storybook of my life." Maybe he meant scrapbook, I don't know, but I understood perfectly what he meant. I'd waited years to be here listening to this.

Wearing a fitted pale blue sweater over blue gray pants and white shoes, Paul looked every inch the aging Modfather and moved easily between guitar and keyboard duties while belting that soulful voice to the rafters and inciting butterflies in middle-aged women's psyches throughout the Lincoln Theatre.

Remember how we started on a summer's night
Too drunk to care about what might
You turned my head to kiss your lips
Time stood still as my heart skipped a beat

If I could, I'd take your hand and lead you off back to the past
I know a trail, a secret mile, better to cry than never smile...

Since I'd been tardy, I was thrilled he and his band did two encores, one that included "Hopper" about painter Edward Hopper from his album "Kindness Revolution" released this summer and the second that graced us with the Jam's "Start!" to bring it all full circle.

Driving home with the windows down listening to Paul Weller's eponymous first solo album (which a friend had told me in 1992 he could put on and listen to endlessly on repeat, a friend who Facebook said had been at the show tonight) as well as to his "Studio 150" album from 2004 (a gift from the same person who'd given me tonight's tickets and couldn't attend), I felt like I'd finally achieved the impossible.

Uh huh, oh yeh, I got to see Paul Weller perform and it only took seven hours on the road, $7.50 worth of dresses and 35 years of fandom to add the Modfather to the storybook of my life.

Shout it to the top: finally, no wedding was able to stop it.

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