This was a gig I couldn’t wait to see, the Man, the Legend, the Modfather, returning to his people like a messiah.
The venue was full of ‘Weller’s people’, all present in a show of a coming together of the ages in which Weller has been seen as the leading light.
It is clear that he has been missed by his very loyal fans, many of whom have followed Weller from day one with The Jam, through The Style Council days (where some may have questioned his musical direction) and into a solo career spanning nearly 30 years.
This tour very much feels like artist and fans are joined as one, Weller is evidently thankful for the love and adoration of his fans. He repays them with a 29 song set list lasting 2 hours, as he tells the crowd “This is gonna be a good night, we have a lot of songs to play so strap in!”
Weller and his band step on stage to a huge roar from the crowd, he raises his hands in applause before grabbing his Gibson and ripping into opening tracks White Sky, Cosmic Fringes and the powerhouse that is Peacock Suit, which still sounds as relevant and vibrant as it did when I first heard it some 24 years ago.
Always one to keep evolving and resist looking back, Weller’s setlist consists of only a handful of Style Council songs (My Ever Changing Mood, Shout to the Top & Down in the Seine) and two from The Jam (the ever classics That’s Entertainment & A Town Called Malice which as always bring the crowd to their feet) with the remaining songs all coming from his recent and back catalogue of solo albums.
Fans are treated to a sprinkling of early classics such as Hung Up, Above the Clouds and Into Tomorrow, whilst what is arguably Weller’s most successful solo album (Stanley Road) is represented with a five song section that includes Broken Stones, You Do Something To Me and The Changingman (one of my personal favourites which is absolutely brilliant live).
Still Glides the Stream, Testify and the wonderful Shade of Blue, all off of his most recent album ‘Fat Pop’, were played with Weller thankful to the the crowd for appreciating his new material. When he tells the crowd they will be playing some songs from his latest album and there is a cheer, he says“Thanks, at some of the recent gigs we have played nobody knew what the ‘F’ I was talking about!”
There was one very poignant moment during tonights gig, when Weller took the time to thank his fans for coming to the show and to say how grateful he was that everyone was ok following a testing & traumatic last 18 months. This felt very honest and was a touching moment between artist & fans, with a real sense of mutual appreciation & love.
As an artist Weller remains as relevant now as he always has, his personal style hasn’t changed over the years, as he once quoted “I’ll always be a Mod, they’ll bury me a Mod”, but his music is always moving forward and he released his fifteenth & sixteenth solo albums during lockdown! That’s the way he works, with a prolificness and drive that is as evident now as it was when he first stepped on stage in the 70s with The Jam.
Ever since the first time I saw Weller perform live at Finsbury Park in 1996 I have been transfixed by his stage presence and this was very much the case tonight. He holds the stage and the crowd in his hand, the setlist was indulgent for both artist and fans alike covering all angles brilliantly and as I left the venue all I could here was talk of “I loved that he played Into Tomorrow, haven’t heard that for years” & “Those new tunes sound great live”. Everyone was buzzing, not on cloud nine, they were ‘Above the Clouds’.
Weller was joined on stage by many of his ever present band, the stalwart that is Steve Cradock, Ben Gordelier, Steve Pilgrim, Josh McClorey and Andy Crofts.
Thank you to the guys at Strong Island & Chuff Media for allowing me to cover this gig (I still can’t believe it happened to be honest!)
This review is written as a photographer, a reviewer but most of all a massive Paul Weller fan.
Paul Weller is in the middle of his rescheduled 2020 tour with further dates in Nov & Dec, plus March & April 2022 which includes the Portsmouth Guildhall on 1st April and the Brighton Centre on 2nd April.
Photos: Mark Butler