With a back catalogue stretching back as far as the 70’s you can always depend on Paul Weller to be innovative with his set. Sharply dressed as ever, his grey hair held back behind his ears, looking trim and tanned and seemingly unable to smile, tonight we get a thorough cross-section of his career but one which still only represents about 20% of it. Innovation springs unexpectedly and tonight we’re given flashes of it in abundance.
Opening with ‘Where I Should Be’ and ‘Long Time’ from this years excellent Saturn’s Pattern, the usually punchy Olympia sound is slightly muddied and the atmosphere, dare I say it, subdued. Wall-to-wall Mods can be relied upon to generate a raucous sense of occasion anywhere and anytime; but this time, and perhaps owing to opening with newer tracks, there is a sense of not so much elation, more expectation for the “hits”. Hits that we know are coming but can’t be sure of which ones exactly. Even if Paul himself is sick of being viewed as a dinosaur, and despite the expansive range of his new material, he will never outrun his past. And nor should he. That’s a testament to Weller’s legacy of songwriting which has given us myriad undeniable classics. ‘Eton Rifles’, ‘Shout To The Top’, ‘That’s Entertainment’,’Walls Come Tumbling Down’, ‘You Do Something To Me’ all excluded from the set and yet most of us will still feel like we got the greatest hits all the same.
Anyway, I digress, Steve Craddock, Weller’s near-permanent sidekick, looking exactly the same as he did 20 years ago, leads the charge with some defiant, foot-stomping, jaw-jutting chops on ‘From The Floorboards Up’ before the Jam’s ‘Boy About Town’. This is the beginning of a retro triptych including ‘Have You Ever Had It Blue’ and ‘My Ever Changing Moods’, both from The Style Council. Without skipping a beat and minus any sense of discord Weller jumps between albums. More importantly he jumps between incarnations and most importantly he jumps between styles. As any self-respecting Weller fan will know his latter day work has been about breaking molds since 2008’s 22 Dreams; actually, you could argue that he has always done that. But being able to blend the aggression of the Jam, the jazzy elements of the Style Council, the warm and soulful Stanley Road era tracks into one set without making it sound like a revue is some skill.
Finishing strongly with two encores featuring ‘These City Streets’, ‘Peacock Suit’, ‘Start’, ‘The Changingman’ and ‘A Town Called Malice’, this is vintage Weller. Vintage vintage Weller.