A review by Kelly Jackson
If you think of Paul Weller, the “Modfather”, the Royal Festival Hall is probably one of the last places you would expect him to do a performance. I have to admit – I was intrigued. My Mum was a Mod, so I have always been exposed to Mod music and had an interest in bands like THe Jam and The Style Council. Although I wouldn’t call myself an active, dedicated Paul Weller fan I’ve always enjoyed his music and was certainly looking forward to seeing him with a live orchestra, something a bit different. Unfortunately, the miniature mod in me had to be tamed, as my friends Dad informed me that he rarely sings The Jam or Style Council songs, but you can’t moan at having great seats at a wonderful venue to watch a musical legend on a Thursday night you would have usually used to watch Kardashians reruns and eat crisps.
Paul Weller’s new album, “True Meanings”, lent itself incredibly well to back up from an orchestra. Thankfully, Weller, of course, sounded significantly like Weller, even playing an acoustic album with an orchestra. I was grateful for this fact considering I was surrounded by Mods who looked fairly calm but also like they could go from 0 – rowdy in ten seconds. Paul opened with a very familiar sounding song that I saw many in the audience singing along to, and then when it kicked in I realised it was “One Bright Star” from Paul’s solo album 22 Dreams. The dreamy element to the track was fully backed up by the orchestra, and about half-way through it really hit me how lucky I was to be witnessing such a unique performance.
There are a lot of events that are utilising the sudden popularity of a live orchestra at the moment, but Paul Weller’s soulful guitar melodies really do just “work” with this style. During the first part of the set, I especially enjoyed some of his older songs I knew well – like Wild Wood and Strange Museum (as you can tell my Paul Weller era is 90s Paul Weller). The great pull about Paul (see what I did there), is that he really does appeal to people of all ages. In fact, I could probably have guessed what Paul Weller era was people’s favourite by their attire.
One of the main elements to the show was for Paul to promote his new album, True Meanings. Aside from some very quick Spotify research in the lead up to the concert, I have to admit I hadn’t heard many of these songs. One of my favourite songs from True Meanings was Gravity. This song really made use of Weller’s “smoother than silk” voice and the backing of the orchestra made it truly magical. “White Horses”, Wellers fake end song before the encore (Sorry if there are spoilers there but surely everyone knows artists do this), is actually a wonderfully modern ballad that could have easily been performed by an artist that is out now, like Kodaline. “You do something to me”, again from Weller’s 90s solo days, saw him get behind the piano for a powerful “second from last song” performance.
I was actually struck by the number of people in attendance who were around my age. If there was any doubt that Paul Weller could still attract new fans at the age of 60 they were alleviated for me about three songs into this concert. Not only is he still selling out popular venues like the Royal Festival Hall, but his decades-spanning career doesn’t look set to be slowing down any time soon!