Paul Weller performing at Sherwood Pines, Edwinstowe on Saturday 14th June 2014.
Known equally for his grumpiness and his music, it is generally not easy to tell what kind of mood Paul Weller is going to be in when he comes on stage. A couple of hints point to a sunnier disposition at the start of one of five gigs that he is doing as part of The Forestry Commission’s Forest Live Programme. To start with we see ‘love’ emblazoned across the bass drum skins of both drum kits that sit on the platform at the rear of the stage in the grassy field of Sherwood Forest. The second hint was that when he came onto the stage he actually smiled!
Since he found fame with The Jam in 1977, Paul Weller has been everything from so called “spokesperson for a generation” to Modfather of Britpop, with changing haircuts to match. Today the 56 year old is sporting a silver, slightly longer version of his punk-era mod cut. Cutting a casual figure as the six piece band appear, decked in his smart blue blazer, with Andy Lewis on bass and long serving Steve Craddock (Ocean Colour Scene) at either side of him, and whom were both suited and booted.
Piling into each song with barely a pause for breath, Weller looks so mean, edgy and hard that you suspect that were he not on stage, he would be doing something to attract the attention of the police. Straight off the bat with a serving of soul with Sunflower; it is that soul and R ‘n’ B lineage that Weller has absorbed over a forty year career that permeates the entire 90 minute gig.
The five way harmonies and percussive additions to Sea Spray rattled around the venue nicely as dusk fell. Songs like Fast Car, Slow Traffic, which nodded to his days with The Jam, was a particular crowd pleaser. Then there was the more soulful sounding That Dangerous Age from the more recent Sonik Kicks album, and Going Places which gave the performance a mellow, start of summer feel to the gig, especially in these lovely forest surroundings.
As he played My Ever Changing Moods, the only outing for The Style Council, Weller seemed to inhabit the material more than ever; his voice giving the band a more refined air. He cheerfully applauded Craddock’s playing on Foot Of The Mountain, whilst the soul just kept rolling to the funkier styling’s of Peacock Suit and Porcelain Gods and the main set closer, Start.
Coming back onto the stage to finish with The Jam’s Town Called Malice, the crowd waited with baited breathe for The Changingman, which disappointingly was left off this set list. Despite this omission, this had largely been a solid set from Paul Weller, now ladling freely from the bucketful of soul he seems to keep close by these days, energising that earlier solo material and informing the new.