There's no better place to see Paul Collins than in a small, crowded club. "We're offering the most exciting rock 'n roll experience there is," brags the frontman of long-lived power-pop band The Beat. "Everybody has a cow when the Rolling Stones are playing a club, and that same experience comes with any real rock 'n roll band. You're talking about a rock 'n roll experience that is about gone."
Paul Collins got his start back in the '70s when he, a drummer, guitarist Jack Lee and bassist Peter Case put together The Nerves, a power pop outfit that put out one EP of four great songs, including "Hanging on the Telephone," which was later covered by Blondie.
After continuing to write and perform with Case — their "Walking Out on Love" was included in Green Day's launch of its American Idiot Broadway musical four years ago — Collins formed his own group, The Beat, which would later become The Paul Collins Beat. The group appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, and contributed a song to the Caddyshack soundtrack.
On his current tour, Collins is offering an evening of entertainment that begins with a happy hour and record fair; a DJ supplies music and a local record store brings in a couple boxes of vintage albums. Then the music begins with top local bands as well as tourmates The Rich Hands before The Paul Collins Beat takes the stage.
The concept takes care of one of the big problems on shows like this: "At 8 p.m. clubs are mostly empty and the opening act doesn't want to go on," says the bandleader. "By the time they go on at 8:30, they've pushed everything back, and the headliner goes on so late that people have left or are leaving. Or they come to see the local bands and leave. You don't know how embarrassing and painful that is."
Collins also has a vested interest in perpetuating the community that supports garage rock, power pop or whatever other label is put on real rock 'n roll.
"We don't have the organized fan base like punk rock that comes out to the shows and buys up the catalog," he says of the genre and its adherents. "Our music is just as good, but we're unorganized and completely marginalized. They don't write about us in Rolling Stone. We're not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We can't get arrested."
Collins, who has lived in Spain and performs throughout Europe and Japan, has put out 15 albums, either with The Beat or as a solo artist. The most recent is the Jim Diamond-produced Feel the Noise, released in 2014 on Alive! Records.
"When you make a record, you never know what's going to work live," Collins says. "I can tell you now that 'Baby, I'm in Love with You,' 'I Need My Rock N' Roll,' 'Feel the Noise' and 'Walk Away' are killers. You need to come hear them. They get people dancing and the whole room starts spinning. It's rock 'n roll."