*All Pictures by Alex Koutsman
Paul Collins, the self-proclaimed king of power pop, struggled for years with his vocal chords. I use to hear stories and watch videos on YouTube and kind of cringe and think to myself, “why do you keep doing it? If the voice is not there, forget about it and pack it in.”
But then, allegedly after he quit smoking, cut down on the boozing and went back and took some singing lessons, he was back in shape. And you bet he was. I saw him last year in Amsterdam and he was great. Sure he sounded a bit rougher and more vulnerable then back in the day, but it only added a certain charm and depth to the songs.
So I went to the last Tuesday’s gig in Utrecht with high hopes, also knowing that there might be a little bit more of a crowd for power pop there than in Amsterdam. While the crowd was a bit larger than in Amsterdam, my estimate would be around 60. He seemed to struggle with his voice again. My heart sank. The first two songs he was just kind of mumbling and going through the motions, but then on about the third song he let loose! And it only got better after that.
Backed by New Jersey’s Low Doses it turned out to be one hell of a gig! The Jersey trio played the songs with a mix of technical perfection and poppy groovieness, and nailed the vocal harmonies to a T. After he warmed up with those first few songs, Paul Collins was bringing it. The non-stop hit-o-rama was enriched by a few of his one-liners and stories from back in the day.
Like when he said the he wrote the next song while coming back from Max Kansas City back in 1977, and the tune was ‘I Don’t Fit In.’ The other time he was in the Chelsea Hotel in 1976 and he came up with one of his personal favorites ‘A Different Kind of Girl.’ There was also a nice introduction to one of the first songs he’d ever written, ‘Working too Hard,’ from his Nerves days. It was really cool to hear that even back in 1975 he was intimidated by the fact that he was in a band competing with two other genius songwriters, Peter Case and Jack Dee.
After close to an hour of pop-perfection they came back for the encore consisting of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Girl,’ ‘Don’t Wait Up on Me,’ ‘Kids are the Same’ and ‘Walking Out on Love.’ The man wrote so many unbelievably good songs! Perfect hooks, catchy choruses, with short melodic solos and just the right breaks. Too bad there’s not more of a crowd for power pop in these parts. For me at its best it’s one of the purest and ageless forms of rock ’n roll – just two to three minutes of pure popgasm.
Amsterdam bookers get off your ass and get this man a proper promotion and a badass venue he deserves.