Going to see a veteran musician can be a dicey proposition. On the one hand, it’s a chance to finally see a much-mythologized performer doing the set of your dreams, while on the other, it could be an embarrassing night out for everyone. Then again, there’s always the “why not?” factor. For me, the proposition of a night out with the Paul Collins Beat fell solidly into the latter camp. I would say that I’m at best a casual fan, but only a simp would deny the big influence Collins has had on the power-pop world. As a member of the Nerves, the Breakaways and the Beat, Collins’ fingerprints are all over the power-pop canon. And with his reconstituted version of the Beat back on the road in support of the King of Power Pop record, it was finally time to roll the proverbial dice.
Power pop is one of those genres that seem to only exist in the margins. While even ska has come and gone enough to merit the “wave” conversation, power-pop seems frozen in time. Part of that is due almost simply because of its conventions. Stylistically, it’s as if it’s not supposed to evolve because then it becomes something else all together. But it seems to comprise something for everyone, and the influence of power pop is seen in so many bands that it’s kind of odd that the original formula hasn’t yet gotten some revival love. Yet that didn’t deter the small, but steadfast, fanbase that came out to witness the self-proclaimed King of Power Pop.
Another X-factor in seeing acts past their initial popularity is fear at what type of set they’re going to bring to the table. Is it going to be mostly newer stuff to prove they’re still “relevant” or are they going to bring the hits? And with a gangload of records split between his current band, past bands and solo work, which Paul Collins was going to show up? Well, to the delight of the assembled, Collins was in retrospective mode. Playing about 20 songs spanning his catalog, Collins and his Beat doled out wave after wave of power pop with the emphasis on power. But beyond that he seemed to be in great spirits. When a fuse blew out early in the set, instead of grinding things to a halt, it seemed to loosen Collins up. While he could have just blasted through the tunes and called it day, he seemed to be having the time of his life and was very catty and joking between songs like the Beat’s “Let Me into Your Life” and the Nerves’ “Working Too Hard.” It was the type of show that satisfied the faithful and proved to even the casual fans that the hype was warranted.