Paul Weller at The Olympia Theatre, Dublin on November 16th 2010
Undergoing somewhat of a renaissance lately due to his Mercury Music Prize nomination, The Modfather was in good spirits as he took to the stage in front of a sold-out crowd for the open night of his Olympia residency on a stormy, Tuesday night. With no backdrop for the band reflecting his back to basics attitude, and only a piano decorated in the recent album Wake Up The Nation’s artwork and a mod-themed amp, it was a hint at the set to come which took into account each aspect of his impressive career.
Opening with the funky ‘Aim High’ from his most recent album is a brave move which could have backfired amongst his older fans who have followed him across his past 40-odd years in music. This fails to happen, however, as the whole crowd seems in a trance with the stage presence of Weller and his impressive band. He doesn’t mind letting his band show off their skills either, by going guitarless and using only a tambourine during the song. His eccentric-behind-the-kit drummer, Steve Pilgrim, is the backbone to this song, adding an impressive live aspect to what is already one of the best songs on the recent album.
‘Into Tomorrow’ from his debut solo album follows this up. A song Liam Gallagher could only wish he could write (instead of a lacklustre fairground tune), the band gets even tighter now, with Weller playing an impressive solo which has his young and old fans rocking heads with joy at seeing their hero in the flesh performing as well as any band proclaimed to be the best live act in the world could. Weller’s voice sounds as good as it does on any of his past records. It’s perplexing that despite all the critical acclaim that Weller’s songs are not as well-known in the modern era, as they are top quality.
I am in no doubt of this when he rocks into third track ‘The Changingman’, another song from his 90’s revival. The crowd instantly recognises the intro riff, and a sing along ensues. It slowly develops into a gig where you feel sorry for the people sitting in the stalls (unless you’re the one guy who was dancing to every song regardless – fair play but the way!) because it’s the sort of music you that compels you to move. Weller and his band’s charisma is something which can’t be taught. Already a song thought to be a Britpop classic (a word Weller himself detests) it is even better live When sometimes instrumentals can seem too long and forced, ‘Changingman’ brings the complete opposite to the equation. I looked to the right of me at the crowd in the pit and people cannot stop smiling at how impressive Weller is tonight.
Weller changes guitar and launches into the bluesier ‘Porcelain Gods’ for his next song, and by ‘Moonshine’ his top is off and he means business. This gets the crowd moving do-doo-dooing along to the band again. It’s two songs later however when the crowd fully erupts and the camera phones come out as he begins to play The Jam classic ‘That’s Entertainment’. A roadie goes out to refill Weller’s plecs conveniently place along his microphone. Weller smiles and gives the man a hug whilst playing on, showing that as well as being a true legend of music, he’s not a bad fella either. The song is one of the highlights of the night, with the tempo of it slightly slowed down to give it a different feel to what was expected. The crowd eats it up; the older members looking back to their younger years and the younger ones in awe of a true great onstage.
‘Up The Dosage’ prompts an exodus to the toilets for a lot of people before Paul proudly introduces his first ever Irish number one, the emotional ‘No Tears To Cry’, written about the passing of his father last year. This song seems to keep the interest of the younger members of the crowd more, who probably propelled it to that position in the chart. Weller then plays his only Style Council number of the night, which he jokes was written in the last century. ‘Shout to the Top’ has almost the opposite effect on the crowd as the older crowd begin swaying and grooving, whilst some of the younger members seem to be taking the time to text. The song itself has stood the test of time and still sounds relevant today, something which cannot be said about a lot of songs from the 80’s.
The crowd then lulls slightly with the introduction of songs from 22 Dreams and Wake Up The Nation getting the crowd restless. When ‘Pretty Green’ begins there is a distinct change in the crowd from the past few songs as excitement returns and the band are back in their stride, with the crowd loving every second of the song. ‘Wake Up The Nation’ shows despite his age, there is still rebellion in Weller even for first time listeners to the song (which a few people admitted beside me) it was up there with ‘That’s Entertainment’ as song of the night. Weller finishes of the part of his set with ‘Come On/Let’s Go’, another modern song of his which seems timeless, before abruptly leaving the stage. The crowd clap and cheer but don’t even bother chanting for more songs, as they are expected.
The expectation is answered after a few short minutes as the band return to a rapturous reception. Paul takes place behind the album-themed piano in the background of the stage and begins to play the emotional and gospel-like ‘Broken Stones’. As religious as the song sounds, Weller is God at this moment and engages the crowd in a clap along with impressive drumming once again towards the end.
One of the funnier moments of the night happens next. As a drunk in the crowd is shouting and yelping whilst he is trying to introduce ‘Pieces of a Dream’, he is shut up by Weller exclaiming “Shut up mate, I’m talking!’ to laughter and applause from the crowd. There’s an arrogant swagger in this song, something which reflects his previous comments quite well. He changes from piano to his guitar and then back to piano in the song, seeming to focus more of the attention to the band which has supported him through the gig. Slowly the light dims and the spotlight focuses on Weller. He then introduces Andy Crofts to the stage for a punky finish to the encore, with The Jam’s ‘Art School’ and ‘Scrape Away’ which gets the crowd bouncing and nodding and feeling like the seventies has returned. He brings out a megaphone for ‘Scrape Away’ for the bass player to talk into, and the french words sound more sinister than they do in the studio version. The encore ends abruptly, as once the last note is played by the bass player, Weller says “That’s all, goodnight!”, and confusions ensues as to leave or not. At last the crowd begin chanting “We Want More!”.
And more we do get! ‘Peacock Suit’, a lacklustre studio track, comes across so much better in all its live glory, and the gig finishes with the apocalyptic ‘Whirlpool’s End’. The song ended what was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to this year. I was expecting Weller to put on a competent live show, but this is far above that bar. If you get the chance to see this man live do not pass it up. He is genuinely that good. That an established artist can use their newest album and not their older, more well-known songs as the pillar of their set it shows how impressive and relevant Paul Weller still is today