Paul Weller at the Hammersmith Apollo
To the sound of thousands of cheering fans and against the backdrop of a cavernous, minimalistic layout bedecked in white and gold lights, it’s surprising how nonchalant Paul Weller seems as he takes his place on stage. Not for him the grandstanding, tension building, sound and light show introduction, nor opulent stage decoration and elaborate outfits; jeans and a t-shirt will suffice. There is nothing to distract from the music itself and, as he and his band launch into their first tracks I’m Where I Should Be and Long Time, it quickly becomes clear that Weller needs no assistance or embellishment to make his presence known in the theatre.
He presses on through selections from his extensive discography, ranging from the mellow Above the Clouds and the awesomely foot-stomping From the Floorboards Up to tracks from his latest album, including White Sky and the eponymous Saturns Pattern. The audience doesn’t seem quite so enthusiastic about this newer material, but it’s well balanced by a couple of old The Jam and The Style Council standards (Beat Surrender is disappointingly conspicuous in its absence). Impressively, the band keeps up at every twist and turn, with each member getting the opportunity for a spine-tingling solo. Nobody would complain if Weller kept the stage to himself, but being willing to relegate noodling duties to others makes him all the more likeable as a performer. With the addition of refreshingly unusual vocal and instrumental sounds, the lengthy set breezes by.
Weller and his band indulge in two encores, an extravagance that might be frowned upon in the context of other artists, but in this case it feels earned. With such an extensive musical history, Paul Weller has enough material to carry on for hours and with such sheer, boundless energy it’s easy to believe that he could. For a man now in his late fifties, he impressively displays all the power and presence of a rocker half his age. When the set finally ends with classic showstopper Town Called Malice, the impassioned audience singing and clapping along enthusiastically, there can be no doubt that Paul Weller is very much still in the game.
Photo: Andy Croft
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Watch the video for Saturns Pattern here: