Still the ace face 45 years after the Jam released their debut album, Paul Weller continues to uphold the principal tenets of the mod movement: abjure nostalgia, and be the snappiest dresser in town. Tonight he’s in mod’s spiritual stamping ground, Brighton, crackling through a set that endows Jam, Style Council and early solo material with the same implacable ferocity that marks his 21st-century songs. On the snappiness front, he’s done himself proud: white jeans and a slim-fit racing-green cardigan over a navy polo shirt. His silver bob swishes glossily as he shuttles from guitar to piano. Chronologically he’s an elder statesrocker; mentally, he’s as engaged as ever.
Weller should have been here in 2020, touring his then-new On Sunset album. Eighteen months and two rescheduled dates later, there’s an even newer record, Fat Pop (Volume 1), represented tonight by its thrilling whomp of a title track. The delay has generated a craving to reconnect with a live audience; he and his five-man band march on at 8.30pm and don’t come up for air until 10.30. (“It’s a long set,” he promises/warns at the start.) Occasional remarks are slotted in – the Jam’s That’s Entertainment is preceded by a self-deprecating “If you know this, join in. It’s got a lot of verses and I’ve forgot” – but the gig is mainly devoted to making up for lost time.
And he hasn’t forgotten a word of it, or of anything else. Despite a group that includes two drummers and longtime guitarist/foil Steve Cradock, Weller himself does much of the heavy lifting. He can slip into just-one-of-the-guys mode at will, getting his head down for a sultry middle section composed of 2017’s Woo Sé Mama, The Style Council’s It’s a Very Deep Sea and an acoustically strummed Rockets. But he’s most effective up front, vocals grainy, attaining lift-off through sheer passion for the music. Weller has no truck with fancy stage rigs – the only “visuals” are Ukrainian flags on the drumkits and amp, and (presumably sardonic) glitterball lighting during the swoony You Do Something to Me. That’s immaterial; what he offers is part firebrand, part sage, and needs no embellishment.
At King George’s Hall, Blackburn, on 4 April. Then touring