Paul Weller doesn’t come to Liverpool often as he himself admitted, so it was no surprise to see queues of eager fans forming well before doors opened for Sunday’s sell out show. Many of the older crowd would have been hoping for a nostalgic evening packed with classic tunes from The Jam, The Style Council and the rest of Weller’s impressive back catalogue, yet this gig combined old with new in more ways than anticipated, with mostly positive results.
This mixture began with support act Mollie Marriott, whose powerful voice drove some classic rock tracks alongside a few gentler ballads such as A Million Miles, and the funkier Truth is a Wolf from her upcoming album by the same name. Playing with a tight five-piece backing band, she saved the best until last with a cover of a Aretha Franklin song Baby I Love You followed by new single Control. Having interviewed her before the gig I learned that the latter was written about the problems she has encountered dealing with “beautiful women” in the music industry, and both these songs were delivered with a fire and conviction that suggests Marriott is one to watch out for.
Indeed, her strong stage presence came as no surprise given she is the daughter of Small Faces and Humble Pie frontman, Steve Marriott, and had grown up alongside legendary musicians all her life. Another of which happened to be the main act for the evening – Paul Weller.
While a large proportion of the audiences’ haircuts hadn’t changed since the Modfather was a true style icon, his set list certainly had. Alongside the best of his solo work Peacock Suit, Wild Woodand You Do Something to Me were Style Council hits My Ever Changing Moods and Have You Ever Had it Blue?
Best of all we were treated to The Jam belters Man in the Corner Shop and Start!
Photo Credit: Vicky Pea
Yet anyone’s list of songs-they-were-hoping-to-hear will still have several favourites left on them, even when acknowledging this was a Paul Weller gig rather than any of his previous bands. Musically gifted enough to master a variety of sounds, his set focused a bit too heavily on slower, more ballad numbers. Perhaps with an arena tour coming next year he saw this smaller gig as an opportunity connect more intimately with his audience, and while at times this worked – Above the Cloudsbeing a highlight – at other times it felt like crowd energy and momentum were lost.
It must be tough even for songwriters as gifted as Weller to stay fresh throughout a near 50 year career and not become yet another heritage act, and credit to him for continuing to add to his repertoire of songs and genres, and for writing important and relevant music.
Photo Credit: Vicky Pea
He performed the beautiful Your Balloon is Rising which was dedicated, alongside ticket sales, to the long suffering people of Syria – a typically classy and generous touch made with a minimum of fuss that was met with strong support from the crowd. Other newer songs such as Saturn’s Pattern and She Moves with the Fayre seemed to capture the audience; yet other moments were less crowd-pleasing such as the more left-field song choices over the course of three encores.
Weller and his five piece band performed with energy and precision for two and a half hours, and local lad Steve Pilgrim got to perform an impromptu homecoming solo piece, which was the best received dalliance from Weller’s stellar arsenal of songs. On the other hand Weller’s version of John Lennon’s frankly sappy Love felt like a wasted opportunity – the ‘Taxman’ bassline ‘Start!’ was by far the best nod in any Beatles’ direction on the night.
No doubt however, that Paul Weller’s legendary status is absolutely assured, and his stagecraft and musicianship were as polished as one would expect. If the show felt a little bloated then perhaps it was down to one too many slow jams, but given his magnificent career Weller is entitled to play whatever songs he likes. After all, he plays everything with passion and meaning, and of course it must be remembered – the public wants what the public gets.