As usual with Paul Weller gigs, showing his support for bright young musical talent, the warm-up act was Nia Wyn, a soul singer from North Wales who worked with Paul at his famed Black Barn Studios – an experience she described to the public as F***ing brilliant! You can see why Paul cast Nia whose beautiful voice and guitar prowess, accompanied by an equally talented young bass player by her side, created an uplifting and positive mood heading into the main act.
Bouncing onstage, Weller cuts an energetic figure, still as slim as ever, but with his silver hair marking the passage of time from the changing man’s formative years as a black-haired mod, gracing the bedroom wall many teenagers (including mine!) as the lead singer of The Jam.
Surrounded by a strong band of Weller loyalists – guitarist Steve Craddock, bassist Andy Crofts, drummer Steve Pilgrim and second drummer Ben Gordelier, the band launched into two catchy songs from 2015’s Saturns Pattern album – a psychedelic rock track White Sky and more funky Long Time.
Setting the dynamic tone for the rest of the show, this was followed by the stomping floor From the Floorboards Up, rocking the crowd to the catchy beat of this popular classic from Weller’s first solo live album Catch-Flame! In 2005.
It was then time to return to the era of the Style Council and Headstart for Happiness inspired audiences to enjoy a much-loved trip down memory lane to the days of 1984’s Café Blue album. Style Council included the song from the movie soundtrack Absolute Beginners Have You Ever Had it Blue and the much-loved Shout to the Top! It would have been great to hear Speak like a Child, Solid Bond in Your Heart or Long Hot Summer, but we can’t be too greedy!
Jam fans had a little longer to wait before Start! emerged after a string of solo hits, from the catchy and uplifting Village (On Sunset) to the unmissable Stanley Road – the title track of Weller’s third solo album in 1995, named after the Woking road of his childhood ; those “summer nights that seemed so long” – also echo our own childhood memories.
Fat Pop – the title track from the album released in 2021 after being recorded during lockdown – sounds a little off with Weller’s usual vocals and style, sounding eerily like the late great Ian Drury with his pronounced Cockney voice. It’s catchy in a kind of 70s pop, but that’s the idea after all.
The song More from the same album brings us back to the vocal style we know and love from Weller, while Woo Se Mama picks up the tempo with that signature tune that gets the band up and running, clearly enjoying the moment as he rocks out with the crowd. .
Some much-loved classics are delivered after the first encore, including That’s Entertainment, which livens up the crowd after the sweet and beautiful tones of Broken Stones, You Do Something to Me and On Sunset. The enigmatic Wild Wood proves to be another obvious crowd pleaser and capping off the night with the encore, Jam Town classic Called Malice, which had the crowd jumping in unison.
The Changing Man is always a treat, as are the mystical china gods of Stanley Road’s halcyon days, which also headlined.
We were lucky to be right next to the front and what a privilege to see Weller and the band up close and personal. Weller shows no signs of slowing down, switching from guitar to piano in the blink of an eye and occasionally shaking his tambourine, clearly enjoying performing live after lockdown restrictions. Carving on stage a silhouette that is sometimes quirky, sometimes animated and bent over his piano, Weller is like a mad professor of modern music, released after being confined to his laboratory (Black Barn Studios) for two long years. The fruits of his labor are his well-received albums – On Sunset (2020), a personal savior for me during lockdown when Weller’s gentle vibes were balm to my soul on my long bike rides to escape home ! Fat Pop was also essential containment listening as well as an Orchestrated Songbook (both from 2021), bringing a whole new richness to Weller’s repertoire. These last three albums show that the Modfather is as fertile as ever musically and still has a lot to add to his incredible musical canon. The band’s love and enthusiasm is clearly evident and shows that the passage of time has built a strong bond between these longtime companions, all the more evident through their effortless, accomplished performance and true camaraderie on stage. . A truly memorable night as always and an absolute privilege to celebrate the diverse and musical journey of the changing man, whilst being thoroughly and movingly entertained with the soundtrack of our own lives.