REVIEW: Paul Weller, Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

Paul Weller
Paul Weller

It says much for the loyalty of Paul Weller's fans that many of them have stuck with him throughout his long career in the music industry.

It's a remarkable 38 years since he made his recorded bow with The Jam, with whom he became one of the spokesmen of his generation.

With bassist Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler, he made six albums in as many years, before splitting the band at the height of their popularity, when he was just 24.

He formed soul-pop outfit The Style Council with keyboard player Mick Talbot, and spent the next few years moving in a very different musical direction.

The end of the '90s saw them come to an end, too, and the beginning of Weller's solo career. And he has gone on ... and on, and on ... with no signs of his songwriting well drying up.

He's released 12 solo albums in all, and it speaks volumes for his abilities as a songwriter - and his fans - that every one has made the UK Top 10, a formidable achievement over such a long period of time.

Four of those records made the top spot, something which eluded his latest offering, Saturns Pattern, which 'only' reached No 2 on its release in May.

This tour - his second major UK jaunt this year - was to promote that album, and even though it's been out six months, and the gig was a month before Christmas, the Arena was still respectably-full, with maybe 5-6,000 punters flocking to see the man who used to be known as 'the Modfather'.

Now 57, he needs no such labels, and is simply respected as one of the elder statesmen of the British music scene.

Here, he gave us a masterclass in pulling out pleasant surprises from a back catalogue which now extends to almost two dozen albums.

The latest one was a big part of the proceedings, with seven out its nine tracks featuring in the setlist, with highlights including White Sky, Pick It Up and These City Streets, with the latter two forming part of a six-song encore.

Just three tunes in, he teased us with a taste of what was to come, pulling out Boy About Town from The Jam's 1980 Sound Affects album, and although it didn't quite have the bite of its heyday, it was still very welcome.

Although he's point-blank refused any notion of The Jam reforming, he's quite happy to treat fans to a little bit of what they fancy, and also dusted off In The Crowd, from 1978's All Mod Cons, the 1980 No 1 Start!, which got the biggest cheer of the night, and Ghosts, a beautiful, under-rated song from their final album, The Gift.

The Style Council were represented by a trio of songs; My Ever Changing Moods, Have You Ever Had It Blue and, curiously for a cold November night, Long Hot Summer.

The mellow sounds were perfectly suited to the show, as Weller is not so much about performance nowadays, but as a master of his craft.

With 25 years of solo material to choose from, it's easy to forget how many good songs he has written. Into Tomorrow, Peacock Suit, From The Floorboards Up, The Changingman and Broken Stones were just a few of the solo-era gems he pulled out.

While only a handful of them got people up out of their seats and dancing, Weller was in good voice all night, and showed his skill as a guitarist, which has never been in doubt.

His five-piece band, featuring Steve Cradock, Andy Lewis, Andy Crofts, Steve Pilgrim and Ben Gordelier, were as good as you'd expect, and just as adept at handling jazzy pop as heavy psychedelia.

All in all, an enjoyable evening in the company of a modern-day legend, and one who's not nearly finished entertaining us yet.