Paul Weller - Cambridge Corn Exchange

Everyone has this conversation before a gig: what would be your preferred set list? What songs would you definitely like to hear? With an artist like Paul Weller, who has a long and impressive back catalogue, the conversation could go on for a while. Tonight, however, he plays (apart from perhaps one or two tracks) my perfect set list.

This is the kind of gig you read about and become envious of the people who attended it. Tonight everything was just right, even the sometimes grumpy Mr. Weller himself seemed suitably up for it. This was the second time I've seen him play and I thought he was good the last time I saw him.

Kicking the evening off with a storming opening set of songs including Sunflower and Weaver it was a set that not only looked to the future to promote his new record, but also to reappraise his past. He played many tracks from his previous solo records and also songs he'd recorded in his previous guises.

I was never a fan of the Style Council but tonight the versions of You're the best thing, Long hot summer and Shout to the top sound fresh and without the soft-jazz music that made them slightly indigestible first time around, they sound like real, pure slices of pop genius.

The sound is augmented by his backing band who are incredibly tight. Steve White, in my mind one of the most under-rated drummers in popular music, drives things along with a pace and a passion that can only be transmitted to the other people on the stage with him. Steve Craddock is also an impressive guitarist but will play second fiddle to Weller when the need arises.

Another eye opener this evening was The Jam songs - I never thought I'd hear In the crowd live, it's one of my favourite Jam tracks, but out of the blue, here it is! The crowd respond hugely and this seems to knock proceedings up another gear. An acoustic style version of That's entertainment another highlight - it's a song that never seems to age, the lyrics still poignant and relevant today. The icing on the cake was an inspired version of Town called Malice as an encore - I don't think there was a member of the crowd who wasn't singing along.

The obviously problem you may now be thinking is can his solo material stand up to this? It can and does. The set list is well paced with slower numbers like Broken stones, You do something to me and The pebble and the boy interspersed with Hung Up, Peacock Suit and new single Come on / Let's Go (which gets one of the biggest cheers of the night).

Of course, how you react to this is hugely dependent on your view of the man himself. The Modfather (which he must get sick of hearing by now) has been around long enough to not really care what the critics think of him and if you're not a fan, this isn't really going turn you into one. The set list is panders to the fan and he revels in the adulation he receives from the crowd. And why not? Whilst his rebirth continues after rekindling his interest in music (after his solo acoustic shows which made up the excellent Days of speed record) and he's writing songs of a high quality then he deserves it.

The fact that his entire back catalogue can sit so easily together and take in nearly 30 years is a testament to not just his staying power but his song-writing ability as well. Highly recommended.

Pictures from Paul

Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:08:11

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