Paul Weller at the Forum: “A testament to the Modfather’s undiminished prodigy as a singer, lyricist, guitarist and, above all, showman”
Last night was the very long-awaited gig from Paul Weller at the Kentish Town Forum, as “The Modfather” himself made a point of highlighting: “Thanks to those who’ve had tickets for two and a half years…well we’re here now aren’t we?” His was one of those concerts that got caught in the crossfire of the dreaded pandemic, with some fans having to wait patiently until now to finally see the set they had bought tickets for way back in 2020. The sense of anticipation was palpable – but it also arguably gave the evening an added sense of delight.
As Weller bounced onto the stage at the packed-to-the-brim North London venue, he cut a strikingly youthful figure. With his slender frame clad in a fitted navy jumper and jeans, set off by bright white trainers and an incredible slick silver bob, he looked like he could easily keep pace with the latest generation of musicians rather than be resigned to the category of an old rocker of yesteryear. The only giveaway to his seniority was the average age of his devoted audience, many of whom looked like they had been following his career since it took off in the 70s and 80s, fronting The Jam and the Style Council before carving out his solo career in the 90s.
And that youthfulness was proved to not only be superficial: this was a set of relentless proportions, him and his band pausing only just long enough for guitars to be switched through an onslaught of 29 tracks, offering a motley mix of new and back catalogue. Plus his between-song chatter still had a brilliantly punchy, irreverent edge, the British punk pioneer admonishing the audience at one point for a lacklustre response to him announcing Hung Up as the next number, asking in his distinct accent: “Are there are only ten people who’ve heard of this song? Are you fucking kidding me?!”
It was a high-energy opening with the likes of 2015’s bluesy White Sky and 2005’s From the Floorboards Up. But it was when the songs went slightly downtempo there was more space for his still-phenomenal gravely voice to breathe and reverberate through the venue, and his renowned storytelling lyrics to really hit home. Latest album created in lockdown Fat Pop made an appearance with the title track and electro-rock-infused Cosmic Fringes, while from 2020’s On Sunset we heard Village and Rockets, mixed in with Style Council’s Shout to the Top and 1996’s Peacock Suit.
Like this writer has to admit, there was a sense at times the crowd was also holding out to hear the most iconic of his songs, which, as is the done thing, were left till last. It was therefore the closing third that had the whole crowd alight with the likes of singalong The Jam classics That’s Entertainment, Town Called Malice and Start!, plus The Changingman, Wild Wood and Broken Stones. But the absolute highlight undoubtedly had to be 1995’s You Do Something to Me, a pretty much perfect song that has lost none of its spine-tingly effect, Weller’s vocals soaring out from the top of his piano: “I’m dancing through the fire / Just to catch a flame / Feel real again”.
The closing might have left one hankering after a few more of his most loved numbers, such as You’re the Best Thing. But you have to respect this artist’s dedication and ability to keep producing high-quality music rather than rest on the laurels of his established material, and this gargantuan set was testament to his undiminished prodigy as a singer, lyricist, guitarist and, above all, showman.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
For further information and future events visit Paul Weller’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Fat Pop here: