Paul Weller in The Olympia Theatre, Dublin, on November 17th 2015
“Bit quiet for a Tuesday night, no?” It’s a sold-out Olympia Theatre that houses Paul Weller tonight, but the man seems to detect some reticence in the crowd during the front end of his set. Weller’s previous Dublin visit was last year’s outdoor gig at IMMA, where he was coasting on the success of a number one record in ‘Sonik Kicks’. This time around it’s ‘Saturns Pattern’, an album that didn’t quite manage to hit the same spot. Weller remarked at that Kilmainham show that ‘Sonik Kicks’ was “obviously not that popular in Ireland” after certain tracks didn’t receive the attention warranted, and you get the feeling he’s equally chagrined about the reception to the new album’s songs.
‘Saturns Pattern’ is well accounted for through the set, and I’m Where I Should Be opens things up with airy, harmonised ease before the sextet take things down a more rock-oriented path. Weller cuts a dapper figure, dispensing with his suit jacket and loosening up for Boy About Town, stamping two-tone brogues from side to side as he dances at the mic through Waterslide. The Style Council’s and The Jam’s tracks are now a staple of the Weller setlist – it’s just a matter of anticipating which ones he’s going to play. A lovely rendition of the latter’s Ghosts nestles in well amidst the heavy rock and easy soul of the night’s selection, while in true Weller contrariness the end of the main set is heralded by Start!
The trio of Style Council tracks seem to take precedence tonight, though, with the mid-set one-two dig of a wonderfully soul-injected My Ever Changing Moods, flourishing from its percussive intro, and an equally dance-oriented Have You Ever Had It Blue. Weller takes residence at the organ stage-left for Long Hot Summer (named “very inappropriately”) while a storm named Barney rages outside, and the ensuing Starlite kicks things firmly into dancefloor overdrive.
Guitars squeal from the stage as strobes flare off before Porcelain Gods, with both Weller and Steve Craddock taking their turn to dispense the solos; Weller’s a more workmanlike counterpoint to Craddock’s wah pedal flair. Weller hangs back in the shadows to let Craddock fly on Into Tomorrow, before the two drummers spread over two kits at the rear embark on a dual solo, one man full-steam-ahead tom pounding, and the other taking care of the fizzier embellishments.
“If you don’t know this song that is your fault and your problem” Weller says before Going My Way, a surly acknowledgement that the new album may not have been assimilated as much as the rest, and Craddock’s attempt to ignite a handclap at the coda fails to take hold. Things are of less interest when the band gets into the more indulgent heavy rock affairs, and the encore gets off to a turgid start with Pick It Up. The subsequent listless and plodding These City Streets falls flat, but The Attic and Come on/Let’s Go act as a much-needed slap to the arse and defibrillator before the band exit once more to the swirl of the organ’s undulating drone.
More successful is the two-track finale of The Changingman, more muscular here than on record, and Town Called Malice, the latter signalling a triumphant end to the first of a two-night run on Dame Street. The crowd is in one voice and the balcony upstanding, as Weller hammers a tambourine with his fist and The Jam’s classic draws things to a storming blue-eyed soul conclusion.
It’s when effortlessly reinterpreting funk and soul that Weller is at his best, less so on the more lumpen rockers, and tonight’s set is patchy as a result. Weller remains as uncompromising as ever, though. If you don’t like the setlist, or if you haven’t given due consideration to the latest record, you can fuck right off.