Paul Weller at Trinity College, Dublin, on Thursday 4th July 2019
Paul Weller’s ever changing moods are one of the things that keep his live shows so interesting. Which Weller we are going to get on any given night can depend on any number of unspoken reasons known only to the man himself, but based on his last handful of visits his chagrin seems to focus on the knowledge and reception of the crowd to his newest material. Tonight at Trinity, last year’s ‘True Meanings’ record doesn’t even get a mention. Tonight at Trinity, there is no grumbling; no head-shaking; no chastisement. Tonight at Trinity, a casually turned out Weller in is Good Form.
From The Jam through The Style Council, and over a prolific but patchy solo career, Weller has accrued a formidable roster of songs to draw from. In recent years, his sets have tended to focus on the more soulful aspects of his ouevre, and even the more leaden cuts from his solo albums have become infected by the same soul bug that a teenage Weller caught early on. As a result, his songs are increasingly reinterpreted with a funk soul hue – not always as successfully as you would like, but infinitely more interesting than the heavy rock drudgery of certain of his ‘90s material.
Tonight though, Weller seems to treat the early ‘90s as a bygone era, to be revered almost. “This is something from way back in the ‘90s…fucking way back, man” he says as he straps on an acoustic for Wild Wood. Guitarist Steve Craddock receives nodding, pouting approval from Weller during the track’s brief wah-wah solo. Later in the set Craddock introduces Hung Up, a single from those halcyon days. “It should have been on Wild Wood,” he recalls. In hindsight, leaving it off was probably the right call.
In an electric heavy set, when the acoustic remains on it’s a sure-fire sign that a heavy hitter is on the way, and an invigorated That’s Entertainment even has Weller hopping at one point. A pairing of The Style Council’s Have You Ever Had It Blue and Shout To The Top prove an invitation for the crowd to get moving, with the immediate audience reaction to the latter eliciting grins from the players stage.
Every so often Weller abandons his guitar for the keys at the side of the stage, wandering off for a smoke during Can You Heal Us (Holy Man) before returning to his stool to join the wig-out. It’s when Weller is at the organ that the instrumentals stretch out that bit more, leaning heavy on the second organ sound that Weller adds and the band’s two drummer set-up. A dual drum solo during Into Tomorrow isn’t so tortuous given its syncopated shuffle, and it mutates nicely back into the band’s noise to bring the funky coda to a close.
Under a darkening sky, Weller again takes his stool side stage, but the encore doesn’t really fire up until he’s once again upstanding and The Jam dominate. Start! and Precious come in quick succession. Precious becomes increasingly percussive and tribalistic, and then more and more Hammond heavy until the chords start to knit together into a familiar sequence and it shimmies seamlessly into Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up. Town Called Malice is a now-standard celebratory end to a Weller set, but tonight, coming off the back of Curtis, its soul lineage is galvanised.
Maybe it’s the sunshine, or the good-time crowd that comes out to play, or maybe he’s just still buzzing from running into Nick Cave at a random service station last month, but Weller and his band are on it tonight. This is as good-humoured as we’ve seen him. Tune in next time to see if he’s just giving us a chance to learn the songs from the last record.