It’s ironic that a pile-driving, performance of ‘Peacock Suit’ brings the Liverpool Olympia to life early on in Paul Weller’s near-three hour set, as one look around this famous old building reveals everyone is here to be seen. Harrington Jackets and Fred Perry shirts are everywhere as the Scousers come to pay homage to one of their own. Woking is where Weller was born, but his heart has always been in the city: cities like Liverpool, London and anywhere else working class tribes gather to sing, shout and sup.
It’s Friday night and the ale is flowing, bodies are froing and arms are flailing as Weller and his big band (including two drummers, two keyboards and a big horn on this tour) sell their psychedelic soul stew to a wild West Derby throng. The atmosphere dips a touch on the five songs from latest record ‘Fat Pop (Volume One)’, a shame as ‘Shades Of Blue’ and ‘Still Glides The Stream’ (the latter featuring a gorgeous vocal from local hero and Weller drummer Steve Pilgrim) are proper highlights – but solo and Style Council classics such as ‘My Ever Changing Moods’, ‘Shout To The Top’, ‘Hung Up’, ‘Into Tomorrow’ and ‘Wild Wood’ bring the temperature back up.
Longtime guitarist Steve Craddock’s playing is colourful and creative, and white noise from stacked organs and stabs of brass gives the full sound a modern edge, but it’s Weller’s melodies and singing that remain from the top table. The latter, in particular, is fantastic. Like a fine wine Weller’s pipes just get better and that his voice remains the cherry on the top of such a racket at 63 is testament to his dedication to the craft. ‘Above The Clouds’, ‘On Sunset’ and ‘Testify’ (remember, Weller’s had two records in the shops since we locked down) bring the healing as the night takes an emotional turn with slowies such as ‘Broken Stones’ and ‘You Do Something To Me’, before ‘Can You Heal Us (Holy Man)’ and ‘Friday Street’ get everyone hot under the buttoned-up collar again.
But, wait! We’re nearly three hours in and not a note of The Jam has been aired. Cue a dedication to Liverpool (“I love you, you’re the last bastion”), a Beatles/La’s-esque rattle ‘n’ roll sing-a-long of ‘That’s Entertainment’ and the written-in-England-but-not-of-it national anthem that is ‘Town Called Malice’ and the lights are up, tears are drying and one hundred lonely pub landlords clutch empty pint glasses to their hearts. They won’t be empty for long.
by Alan O’Hare