Paul Weller’s recent performance at De Monfort Hall, Leicester, in light of his newly released A Kind Revolution album, was not in the essence of ‘The Changingman’: the British music icon maintained his soulful and raw energy in a timeless three-hour retrospect.
Amidst a crowd of Weller devotees: mod roundels, beer cups and Fred Perry wreaths stormed the grandiose 1913 music hall. The atmosphere was lively and eager for the return of the Modfather. The five piece support act, up-and-coming Brighton based White Room, treated the crowd to some of their original material, a personal favourite being ‘Think too much’, their new release that had a flavour of The Jam, Britpop and rock as well as undertones of psychedelia. White Room’s performance was innovative and stylistic and enhanced by the energetic stage presence of lead vocalist: Jake Smallwood. The new faces of White Room played a small set before the legendary Weller himself made a very flash and climactic entrance onto the stage. White Room were a particularly effective support act, a clearly talented group of fairly new musicians, with their youthful and loud energy which was reminiscent of Weller’s beginnings in The Jam. Weller’s first performances consisted largely of his more recent material and the contrast between the two performances seemed to capture a sense of chronology.
While the fifty-eight-year-old had silvered gracefully, Weller’s physical presence on stage, musicianship and vocals proved to be dynamic and engaging throughout. With a freshly cut mod-top hair style, tailored grey cigarette trousers, slick brogues and coloured socks, the classically sharp image certainly looked iconic and was aligned with the sophistication so pivotal to Weller’s artistry.
Opening strongly, with ‘White Sky’ from Saturns Pattern, the band rocked the stage and sparked the crowd’s enthusiasm. The first section of the concert was crafted with a range of upbeat and strong performances. From ‘A Kind Revolution’, ‘Woop Se Mama’ and ‘She moves with the Fayre’ to The Jam’s ‘Have you had it Blue’, ‘The Style Council’ and ‘Man in the Cornershop’. There was a part of Weller for all fans from the start.
Of particular notability were Weller and his band member’s intensely skilful musicianship. Weller played numerous solos, working with his instruments to produce sounds that brought his work to life. The percussionist Bruce Foxton was certainly exceptional, infusing energy into the louder songs whilst fabricating subtle beats in the mellower, acoustic songs more present in the second half. This was apparent in a personal favourite ‘Wild Wood’, a piece the band played to introduce the second section that combined a steady beat, with warm acoustics, mysterious synthetisations and Weller’s gritty and textured vocals.
There is something to be said about the variety performed on the night. In a forty year bustling and full career, the concert’s set list consisted of handpicked crowd-pleasing classics and quirky lesser known material. Variety did not come just in the form of a Weller timeline. It was impressive to hear a multitude of musical performances as he moved around the stage from one instrument to the next with panache.
After the animated and spirited show the band delivered in the first section, enhanced by lights, electric guitar solos and bustling noise, the softer acoustic guitar numbers that opened the second section were certainly an interesting change of mood. The performance of ‘The Ballad of Jimmy McCabe’ had the crowd swaying to the sentimentality of both musicality and lyricism. Likewise, Weller’s cover of John Lennon’s ‘Love’ was beautifully nostalgic with his performance of its simply human lyrics. This gentle atmosphere made way for Weller’s strongly emotive performance of ‘Wildwood’ that he played as a dedication to Syrian victims of the conflict. Weller has been involved in Google music’s project with The Orchestra of the Syrian Musicians where he has collaborated on two pieces – ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Wildwood’- combining sounds of Syrian and Arabic music in an effort to create “an epic paean to their lost homeland.” Weller’s involvement in such a powerful cause that he incorporated into his performance was very much inspiring.
The finale of the concert was furnished with catchy classics – sleek and at the zenith of Weller sophistication, including ‘The Changingman’ as the closing number. The performance of ‘These City Streets’ from Saturns Pattern was particularly memorable: upbeat and full of electrical experimentation, such energy and innovation brought no sense of career closure but sparked a sense of excitement in the new wave of Weller.