×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Concert Review: Paul Weller Wows With Career-Spanning Set at Royal Festival Hall

The veteran British musician focused on his acoustic-based new album but also played deep cuts from The Jam and The Style Council.

For reasons both understandable and not, Paul Weller is a prominent member of what we’ll call the Cliff Richard Club: Artists who are revered career superstars in Britain but cult artists in the U.S. While the default explanation that his music is “too British” is valid in some ways, Weller — a 40-plus-year soulful rock veteran, founder of The Jam and the Style Council — has recorded many, many songs that don’t sound particularly British at all, and he’s created a remarkably consistent catalog that covers several different styles while retaining the melodic flair, incisive lyrics and ‘60s influences that brought him to prominence in the first place. Whether he’s channeling The Kinks, Curtis Mayfield or Traffic — or presenting a series of acoustic-based songs embellished with strings, as he has on his latest album “True Meanings” — he still always manages to sound like Weller.

Something else about Weller is that he’s adored with an almost unsettling fervor by his fans, and two shows this week at London’s Royal Festival Hall — which found him performing acoustic, string-accompanied versions of most of the new album as well as songs from across his entire career — were packed to the brim with them. He responded with a set that was clearly aimed straight at them, presenting not just the bulk of “True Feelings” but also deep cuts reaching back to his days with The Jam and The Style Council — albeit in dramatically revised arrangements — as well as his earliest and more recent solo material. He didn’t bother with the hits that the fans had presumably heard many times: There was no “Town Called Malice,” “My Ever Changing Moods,” “That’s Entertainment,” “Long Hot Summer” or “Changingman.” Weller recently turned 60, and he’s said that contributed in part to the reflective nature of “True Feelings.” In many ways this set was a compliment to that album, being both introspective and retrospective in nature. (The shows were recorded and filmed, although future release plans were unclear at press time.)

Some six months in the making, this show will only be performed twice — Thursday and tonight — and since Weller is not taking it on tour, he went all in. Along with his usual five-piece band, there was an 11-member string section led by conductor/arranger Hannah Peele; a four-piece horn section; a harpist; a flautist; and for “Books,” the group was joined by three Indian musicians playing sitars and violin, as well as the evening’s opening act, British singer Lucy Rose. At two points during the show, 26 musicians were onstage (and they weren’t even all the same musicians); at others, there were four acoustic guitar players.

Oddly, despite the vast number of accompanists, the acoustic-based nature of the music meant that Weller’s vocals were much more prominent and exposed than they would be with a more rock-based (or at least louder) accompaniment, placing a much bigger focus — and pressure — on his singing. He rose to it and was in stellar voice on Thursday night: Strong, clear, powerful and subtle as the occasion demanded, stumbling only a couple of times on the knottier lyrical twists during the sprawling 25-song set.

Opening with “One Bright Star” from his 2008 album “22 Dreams,” Weller dipped into the new album before jumping way back to 1980 and The Jam’s “Sound Affects” album with a slower, dramatic take of “Boy About Town,” and then a jazzy take on the Style Council favorite “Have You Ever Had It Blue.” And so it went for the next 90-odd minutes: Mixed in with many songs from “True Feelings,” were deeper cuts like “Wild Wood,” the Style Council’s “Man of Great Promise” and The Jam’s “Tales From the Riverbank” and “Private Hell.” The latter was the oldest song performed on this night and in some ways the least successful: While the new arrangement was strong, the song, a story of a housewife’s unhappy life, seemed coarse in the context of the more refined rest of the set, and in that way showed how far he’s come.

Which, in a way, was the entire point of the evening. Weller’s never stayed in one place for long and obviously is no fan of nostalgia, but with these shows he’s moving forward while still allowing himself to take a brief look back.

 

More Music

  • Endeavor Sued Over Idaho Country Music

    Endeavor Sued Over Idaho Country Music Festival

    A former county official in rural Idaho sued Endeavor on Wednesday, alleging she is owed more than $190,000 in unpaid loans arising from a troubled country music festival. According to her complaint, Bonnie Layton was the economic development director for Elmore County, Idaho, when she came in contact with the organizers of the Mountain Home [...]

  • 2019 Variety Predictions

    2019 Predictions: What's in Store for Film, TV and Music Next Year?

    It would be hard to top the drama of 2018. From media mega-mergers to the rise of Time’s Up, it was a year that had more than its fair share of twists and turns. Leslie Moonves resigned in disgrace, AT&T snapped up Time Warner, Disney inched closer to subsuming Fox and “Black Panther” shattered box [...]

  • Tencent Music Raises $1.1 Billion for

    Tencent Music Raises $1.1 Billion for IPO, Much Less Than Expected

    China-based music streaming company Tencent Music Entertainment Group said it raised nearly $1.1 billion in its U.S. initial public offering, according to Reuters. Earlier this year, the company was expected to be valued at as much as $30 billion and raise $4 billion for its IPO, but those estimates were slashed in September. he IPO [...]

  • Justin Tranter and Katie Vinten Partner

    Justin Tranter and Katie Vinten Partner With Warner Bros. for New Label

    As previously reported, hit songwriter Justin Tranter and Warner/Chappell Publishing’s Katie Vinten are launching a new label in partnership with Warner Bros. Records, the company announced officially today. In her new role, Vinten, most recently the company’s co-head of A&R, will also serve as an A&R Consultant to Warner Bros. Records and will continue with [...]

  • Ella Mai

    Ella Mai Signs Worldwide Deal With Sony/ATV Music Publishing

    Singer Ella Mai, who is enjoying a worldwide smash with her song “Boo’d Up” and was nominated for two Grammy Awards last week, has signed a worldwide deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing. The song peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has been streamed more than 650 million times in the U.S. [...]

  • Phylicia Fant Shawn Holiday

    Shawn Holiday, Phylicia Fant Named Columbia Records' Co-Heads of Urban (EXCLUSIVE)

    Columbia Records has named Shawn Holiday and Phylicia Fant Co-heads of Urban Music, it was announced today by the label’s chairman and CEO, Ron Perry. The two will each hold the title of Co-head of Urban Music. Previously, Holiday was Senior Vice President of Urban A&R for Columbia, while Fant joins Columbia from Warner Bros. Records, [...]

  • BTS puma collaboration basket sneakers shop

    BTS Escape Injury After Tour Bus Accident in Taiwan

    Korean boyband BTS have escaped injury after a collision that involved three of their tour buses, according to news reports. The superstar pop band were on board the buses after having performed a gig at the Taoyuan Baseball Stadium in Taiwan. At least seven vehicles were involved, according to local reports, but no one was [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content