With a back catalogue that most musicians would kill for, Paul Weller is hardly limited when it comes to setlists. With his solo career, however, stretching over twenty three years – nearly twice the combined total of his years in both The Jam and the Style Council – he may be justified in his reluctance to celebrate his non-solo past to the extent that some of his fans may wish for.
Despite the successes of his latter day albums, 22 Dreams, Wake Up The Nation and Sonik Kicks, there is a distinct expectation among some of the crowd for a greatest hits retrospective at the very least. More than a couple of people going so far as to holding old Jam records aloft during the set. What this means to Weller is unclear, but his comments that “obviously Sonik Kicks isn’t that popular in Ireland” and his moodier than normal demeanor suggest he isn’t that keen on obliging. But, as is the consumate professional and outright perfectionist, Paul Weller and his band still pack a serious punch. Featuring long-time collaborator and erstwhile Ocean Colour Scene guitarist Steve Craddock, along with Andy Lewis and Steve Pilgrim, the band ignite the nights fuse with ‘Sunflower’. ‘From the Floorboards Up’, and a punky ‘Wake Up The Nation’ are next before a brilliant version of ‘Fast Cars/Slow Traffic’ which possibly isn’t to everybody’s taste. ‘Foot of the Mountain’ from 1993’s Wild Wood provides an early highlight, though, bringing out the best of Craddock.
But, arguably the best of Weller himself surfaces when he is in foot-stomping, growling, soulful mode. And to countenance the dissenters among the less-than-capacity crowd, this tends to be absent during his newer material; or at least hidden behind less familiar elements of Weller’s writing. ‘Sea Spray’, an otherwise great song, just sounds ever so slightly lost behind ‘Foot of the Mountain’ and the silence turns to mild consternation for those wielding Jam vinyl. ‘The Attic’ and ‘Going Places’ herald a breathtaking version of ‘Friday Street’ from 1997’s Heavy Soul, and soul is what Weller gives us in buckets with ‘Above The Clouds’, adding strength to the argument that Weller’s best work might not have to be as experimental as his recent output, especially with his voice sounding as rich as it does tonight.
Retreating to stage left to man the keys once again, Weller gives us an underwhelming version of ‘Dragonfly’ before reclaiming his guitar – and the crowd’s attention – for ‘7 & 3 Is The Striker’s Name’ and the nights highlight, ‘Peacock Suit’ before waving goodbye. The encore brings a thrilling version of ‘Out Of The Sinking’ replete with improvised little call and response guitar lines from Craddock and Weller as well as an equally impressive version of ‘Picking Up Sticks’ from 2000’s Heliocentric. The final encore of the night, and bringing the most out of the crowd, is the classic ‘A Town Called Malice’ which sees Weller doing nothing more than going through the motions. Tonight might not have been his most inclusive of setlists, but it was certainly a vintage Weller performance nonetheless. With his voice and band sounding sleek, jazzy, powerful and tight in equal measure, Paul Weller reigns supreme yet again.