Live Review: Paul Weller @ The Bath Forum

Paul Weller by Sandra Vijandi

Paul Weller by Sandra Vijandi

As we’ve learnt over the last couple of years, it’s so easy to take things in life for granted.

Some things are just there, omnipresent throughout one’s life, barely noticed by some, like the company of a friend or a well-cooked meal. And Paul Weller.

During the lockdown he released his fifteenth and sixteenth solo albums, at least one of which is a worthy contender for his best solo effort. Such is the man’s prolificity that there were few eyebrows raised. It’s just what he does.

That’s as maybe, but with the cancellation of the On Sunset tour (last year) and the addition of the songs from Fat Pop Vol. 1, this lifelong touring musician was sure to feel the loss more than most, so this tour is largely about making up for lost time.

Weller’s response? A 35-song set spanning his solo career, sprinkled with some select cuts from his pre-1990 work. Or, in his own words: ‘We’ve got so many fucking songs to play you.’

Never one to look back, Weller plays only a handful of Style Council numbers (including My Ever Changing Moods to open, and a rapturous Shout To The Top!) and two from The Jam, rounding out the second encore with That’s Entertainment and Town Called Malice, which obviously and reliably brings the crowd in the stalls to their feet. Otherwise it’s a sojourn through his solo career, with the set broadly divided into sections comprising tracks from specific albums after a whistle-stop opening.

On Sunset is up first, and one can almost feel the tension easing from Weller (resplendent, as ever, in a sharp black suit and white shirt) and his band during the dubby More, the swooning Village and the stoic, watertight brass-led Old Father Tyme.

The fuller sound of the record deserves a large ensemble, and throughout the set there’s never less than 7 musicians onstage, with two drummers frequently bolstering the sound. A real musician’s musician, Weller darts from acoustic guitar to piano to electric, and his band-mates follow suit.

Drummers Ben Gordelier and Steve Pilgrim offer additional percussion or backing vocals when required, while the brass (and flute on Still Guides The Stream) is entirely handled by Jacko Peake, notwithstanding a guest appearance by Stone Foundation’s Steve Trigg for a couple of tracks.

Formerly of The Strypes, Josh McClorey is covering for Andy Crofts on this tour ably, and Steve Cradock continues to stake his claim for the most underrated guitarist of his generation, although the man himself keeps the slicing riff of The Changing Man for himself. It’s a joy to watch the effortless simpatico between the members, all contributing something but never anything more than what the song needs.

Arguably Weller’s most successful solo album (Stanley Road) is represented in its section with a hefty five tunes (including singalong hits Broken Stones and You Do Something To Me), the tender beauty of True Meanings forms most of the first encore (entirely acoustic) along with rare B-side Dusk Til Dawn and, ironically as his most recent album, there’s only room for four tracks (once again, out of 35) from Fat Pop Vol. 1. No fool, Weller maintains the balancing act of giving everyone what they want, while pleasing his band and himself, well.

The beautiful surroundings (formerly an art deco cinema, and with towering acoustics) suit the event well. As raucous as the crunching White Sky or the rollicking The Changing Man are, they are offset by the tenderness of Aspects or Gravity and so on. One is reminded that the list of songs he can choose from is becoming endless, and Weller could select an entirely different set which would be equally thrilling.

Because he’s never gone away, it’s easy to forget the influence and significance of this 63-year-old man. Two-and-a-half hours of music may perhaps test the audience, but if anyone deserves a bit of self-indulgence, it’s him.

Nights like this are a welcome reminder for us all to cherish Paul Weller.

Richard Bowes

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