Paul Weller, Wembley Arena, London
(Rated 2/ 5 )
Reviewed by Enjoli Liston
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Boasting a rich career that started with mod-punkers The Jam more than 30 years ago, Paul Weller struck gold again this year. Delirious reviews welcomed the Modfather back to the UK charts in April with his 10th solo album, Wake Up the Nation, a short, sharp and striking work of fresh experimental hits nominated for the Mercury Prize. It’s this new material that dominates Weller’s set on the last night of his UK tour at Wembley yet, surprisingly, his performance massively misses the mark.
Despite a crisp, smooth and self-possessed rendition of “Have You Made Up Your Mind” from 2008’s acclaimed album 22 Dreams, flashes of feedback and incompatible levels undermine Weller’s efforts. On the new record, “Aim High” is soulful and uplifting. Yet on stage, overbearing electronic effects result in a bizarre but inescapable (and probably very unwelcome) vocal comparison to an “In the Air Tonight”-era Phil Collins, before plunging Weller’s lyrics into a muted, indistinguishable blur.
Next up is a guest appearance by Weller’s son Natt on guitar for “Echoes Around the Sun”. It’s unremarkable, and the fans are unmoved.
“You’re pretty quiet for a Friday night in London, aren’t you?” he jibes, challenging his motionless fans to prove him wrong. But Wembley doesn’t rise to it until Weller stokes up a classic from The Jam archive (one of only two) – “The Eton Rifles”. More than three decades after the song was first released, Weller still delivers with biting energy and just enough nonchalance for appearances. It’s a hit with the crowd, but sadly the newfound passion doesn’t last.
Weller’s five year-old son, Mac, makes an unsurprisingly shy entrance onstage as tambourine-player for newbie “Up the Dosage”, before a distinctly wet “No Tears to Cry”. The usually exciting musical mixture of folk, psychedelia, honky-tonk and pop in “Trees” jars together, the title track from the newest album falls surprisingly flat, while a rendition of “Fast Car” (featuring grime rapper Devlin) feels try-hard. Weller’s new material may retain an innovative edge when recorded, but onstage, “That’s Entertainment” and Nineties ballad “You Do Something to Me” are still the stars of the show. Judging from this performance, the Modfather has become a dad-rocker.
From The Independent
Wembley Arena, London
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 12 December 2010 22.00
Paul Weller said something curious during his Wembley set, the last show of a year that has seen him applauded for getting his oomph back with the Mercury-nominated album Wake Up the Nation. Noting that the place was quieter than he’d expected for a Friday night, he said: “Spandau Ballet and the Thompson Twins will be on later, don’t you worry.” Invoking fellow early-80s chart denizens got a laugh, but it was an oddly dated jibe from someone who’s remodelled himself into a vital, forward-looking artist.
At any rate, the audience were more enthusiastic than he acknowledged, repaying the effort he put into two hours and over two dozen songs. Any artist in the fifth decade of their career can count themselves lucky to have fans who greet new songs (and he played plenty, from the current album and 2008’s 22 Dreams) with only a touch less pleasure than cornerstones like The Eton Rifles.
It wasn’t just that Weller sounded re-engaged and forceful on tunes you’d thought were incapable of drawing another breath, such as dad-rock staples Peacock Suit and From the Floorboards Up; he also poked his nose into new and different areas with verve. Introduced as “a sort of psychedelic tango thing”, the haunting One Bright Star was just that, and on the uncharacteristic, metal-influenced Fast Car/Slow Traffic, he was full of the spirit of punk alongside a torrent of peeved-sounding syllables from grime MC guest Devlin. He delivered part of Trees, a kind of ambitious song suite, through a megaphone.
Two of his sons lent a hand on separate tunes, with the award for sangfroid going to toddler Mac for rattling a tambourine with impressive ennui. Mac’s dad, by comparison, looked like he was having the time of his life.
From The Guardian