Paul Weller, Roundhouse | reviews, news & interviews
Paul Weller, Roundhouse
Paul Weller, Roundhouse
Middle-aged kicks with The Modfather, steering clear of his Jam/Council back catalogue
I had a terrible fright last week. While listening to BBC London DJ Robert Elms introduce a track from the new Paul Weller album, Sonik Kicks. What I heard sounded remarkably like Oasis. It seemed that the man who once influenced Noel Gallagher was now so bereft of ideas he was reduced to ripping off Noel Gallagher. To my relief Robert Elms followed the track with an apology. He had pressed the wrong button and had played a Noel Gallagher track by mistake.
If you've got enough hair to make it stand up at 53, why not flaunt it?
By contrast Sonik Kicks actually sounds fresher than anything by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. It is clear that Weller feels confident about the album. He started his gig at the Roundhouse last night by playing it in its entirety, despite the fact that most of the audience had probably barely heard it and had come along hoping he would be doing "Going Underground" or "Eton Rifles" instead. The Roundhouse was buzzing with a mixture of shouts for "some old school" and tweets about his hair. Now let's be frank about this latter issue. If you've got enough hair to make it stand up at 53, why not flaunt it?
Weller, in immaculate pinstripe suit, shuttled between keyboards and guitar, while a string section augmented the more pastoral tracks such as "Sleep of the Serene" and "By the Waters". One would have thought after all this time performing would be second nature to the former filling in the Jam sandwich, but there was still a nervous false start to the most accessible track, "That Dangerous Age", which does for the "All Day and All of the Night" riff what "Start" did for "Taxman". A female vocalist joined him for "Study in Blue" – presumably his wife Hannah, who sang on the album version. Elsewhere there were hints of Damon Albarn's soft vocals and an elegantly controlled dub excursion that was more Clash than Jam.
After Sonik Kicks Weller disappeared to slip into something more comfortable, a pair of slacks and black top, for an acoustic section. The crowd went positively bananas when he kicked off with "English Rose" from 1978's All Mod Cons. Hopes were raised of more Jam tracks only for them to be dashed as Weller worked through some of his more recent gentle ballads, such as the Tamla-tinged "No Tears to Cry". His voice was in pretty soulful shape, but this unplugged experiment was an undeniably odd interlude. When his four band members, including Ocean Colour Scene's frontman Steve Cradock, joined him on stools they resembled a boy band on their umpteenth reunion tour.
Eventually he announced that "the night is young" and it turned out that the fun was just starting as he decided to let rip. No Jam, no Style Council, but I'm not sure if anyone cared as he cherry-picked some of the juiciest fruits from his lengthy solo career. "From the Floorboards Up" laid bare his love of Dr Feelgood, with Weller jerking around the stage like a mullet-haired Wilko Johnson. "Stanley Road", probably the starting point for his latest creative rebirth, motored out of the blocks before "Foot of the Mountain" went all psychedelic. Weller might look every inch the ageing mod, but his music has regularly gone way beyond the punky R&B template.
Where Weller might have been forgiven for winding down towards the end of his two-hour set, he chose to crank up the energy level higher than ever on the home stretch. "Changing Man" received the largest roar of the night, "Wake Up the Nation" saw the singer stomping as if it was going out of style, while "Fast Car/Slow Traffic" was a clatteringly angular mix of punk and Bowieisms. There was no stopping him now as he gave his guitar a veritable thrashing on his collaboration with Noel Gallagher, "Echoes Around the Sun", which proved that when he does work with younger musicians they clearly raise their game. And then it was time for "Whirlpool's End" before disappearing, presumably to fold his suit neatly away. A thrilling gig to make anyone’s hair stand on end, not just Paul Weller’s.
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