Paul Weller at the Barrowlands on Monday night was terrific. The opening night of his ‘One Night Only‘ tour, this was Weller’s way of gathering up the best bits of his back catalogue and playing them with a renewed effervescence and vigour that could shame a band with a combined age less than half his 55 or so years.
Not that we knew it at the start. A Paul Weller gig without an album to promote always puts the needle into the red on the old apprehensionometer – this might’ve meant a set of brand new material to endure, with a couple of greatest hits flung in at select moments to appease a restless crowd. Not a bad night out maybe, but not really what you want on a Monday night. From the off, though, when a free from fanfare and flashing lights Weller strolled on at the unfashionably early time of 8.30pm, all perma-tan and tight, tight trousers, and fired into Sunflower, it was clear he was here to entertain. Earlier on, the DJ had played a not entirely inspired selection of 60s and 70s 45s. You won’t need me to list them for you. Stuck somewhere in the middle was Bowie’s Golden Years – a wee clue to how the night would proceed. Not for PW a cosy pipe ‘n slippers run through of his earlier past triumphs, this was going to be a back catalogue cherry pick through his own golden years, played for us like the Angry Young Man from Woking he once was.
The set was given a modernist (no pun intended) twist thanks to the liberal sprinklings of sonic stereo swooshes and panning vocal effects that were in equal parts druggy and dubby, but especially due to the use of a piercing Telecaster for half the songs. This gave the band an angular, angry, post-punk sound; aggressive yet arty, taut yet trippy.
Third song in was From The Floorboards Up, and even more so than the recorded version, it was total Wilko Johnson. From the opening slashed chords onwards, Weller channeled his inner Dr Feelgood. Not many would’ve noticed, but for this track PW ditched the plectrum (just like Wilko!) strummed with open hand (just like Wilko!) and perfected that thousand yard stare (just like Wilko!) Between a couple of verses he even had the nerve to do that spasmic, wired-to-the-mains electrified stagger across the stage – aye, just like Wilko! Tonight Matthew, for the next three minutes, I’m going to be Wilko Johnson. And he was. Never before have I seen such an obvious ‘we’re not worthy’ episode of hero worship. Did anyone else spot it?
The set thereon in was inspired. The Style Council’s My Ever Changing Moods was a surprise early addition, fuelling an unspoken frenzy amongst 1800 souls that he might dare to play a couple of (whisper it) Jam songs. He did. A punchy, punky Start! received almost the biggest cheer of the night, and even the inability of Weller to hit the high notes of his youth couldn’t dampen things. I don’t know what Weller thinks of this – he’s clearly comfortable playing these old songs that mean so much to so many, but his own, more recent back catalogue is sounding sensational in its current form – Dragonfly, Andromeda, Sea Spray, Wake Up The Nation, Come On Let’s Go, 7&3 Is The Striker’s Name. They are equally as deserving of that same roof-raising cheer – a roof-raising cheer that reached delirious levels of excitement when the group walked out for the second encore and the bass player thudded into the opening Motownisms of A Town Called Malice. Weller, on joint tambourine and Telecaster duties looked like the happiest man on the planet. And given that 1800 people had just spontaneously combusted in total delight, that’s really saying something.
Disappointments? None really. The above set list shows He’s The Keeper and Out Of The Sinking, neither of which he played, for whatever reason. I did think, early on, when it was clear he was here to entertain, that we might get Into Tomorrow. But no. And it’s possible to create your own brilliant set from the obvious tracks he didn’t play – Brushed would’ve sounded great in this set for example (as would Out Of The Sinking for that matter), and I’d have liked to hear Starlite, the forgotten single released between the last two LPs, but really, you can’t complain. A just-short-of two hours set with tracks from all eras fizzing off the stage like welders’ sparks is a good night out, is it not?
This is, I’m certain, the most fired-up and relevant Weller I’ve ever seen in concert. If you have a ticket for one of the shows, you’re going to really enjoy it. If you don’t have one, do everything you can to get one.
My ears are still ringing, by the way…..