Paul Weller in The Olympia Theatre, Dublin, on February 14th 2018
There is a case to be made for Town Called Malice being the pivotal song that hammered the final nail into the coffin of one of the greatest of all UK bands. The lead single from 1982’s ‘The Gift’ signalled Paul Weller’s intentions to leave The Jam behind and move in a more soulful direction, one that broke from the musical confines of a power trio. That’s a debate for another day, though.
Since The Jam went their separate ways, Weller has tried, with varying degrees of success, to shake off the albatross of their legacy through his partnership with Mick Talbot in The Style Council and subsequent solo career. It’s been a prolific one that has seen Weller releasing music practically every couple of years, and even up to last year’s ‘A Kind Revolution’ it seems that he’s still refining his own explorations of soul music.
Weller has travelled far from his punk roots, but Derry trio Touts come directly from that same place of pent-up frustration and boredom that kicked off Weller’s career in ’77. Bassist Luke and guitarist Matthew hold a side of the stage each, meeting in the no man’s land in the middle every so often to exchange a smile or a headbutt, or closing ranks and facing Jason on drums as they race through a dozen songs with barely a breath.
From the second they bound onto the stage it’s a blitz of riffs and reminders of the greats that the band wear on their sleeves – Sold Out’s nod to Bad Brains; No Name’s scuzz rock’n’roll in the New York Dolls tradition; the self-explanatory Go Fuck Yourself; Bombscare picking up right where Stiff Little Fingers left off with Suspect Device. Weller must have had some flashbacks over these last three nights in The Olympia.
Tonight is the final show, a Valentine’s Day special, although the only hint of its infiltration is during You Do Something To Me – a song for the lovers, to be sure. It hits the mark, with some extra soul punch than the original, and the same is true of tonight’s entire selection. On this visit, Weller has dispensed with any semblance of the sludgier rockers that peppered his previous 2015 visit, instead delivering a lean and fluid selection – “new songs, old songs, all sorts” – steeped in soul.
Within that, though, the influences that shaped Weller’s career are as evident as Touts’ were earlier, if woven more subtly into his songs. Nova glistens with psychedelia, while The Style Council’s Have You Ever Had It Blue flirts with calypso. The Ballad Of Jimmy McCabe treads a folkier, acoustic path. Broken Stones, with Weller on piano, is assuredly low key – sustained in tension yet restrained in execution – born from a lifelong education in Otis Redding.
The man himself is as chilled as the setlist, even if the legendary Weller humptiness bubbles to the surface as he tells of the influence of Celtic music on All On A Misty Morning (“Shut up mate, for fuck sake!”) The Jam days are accounted for by ‘Sound Affects’ Man in the Corner Shop, with Steve Craddock taking the high register vocal. Craddock’s son joins the band on guitar duties through Start!, That’s Entertainment sparks the requisite audience reaction, and Town Called Malice makes sure the night struts to the crescendo it’s been building to.
Weller often falls back to the row of Marshall amps and jams with the band on the set’s instrumental passages, the unquestionable bandleader but fully aware that this current incarnation of his band are the ones that give the songs that soul injection; the thing that marks this set apart from Weller’s previous live shows. On that front, he’s at the top of his game – consistently reaching for the bar that Steve Marriott set and, tonight at least, coming up with the goods.