Paul Weller – The Lighthouse, Poole, April 4, 24

Heading towards 66, and as thrilling and spiky as ever

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Paul Weller is not going gently into that good night. On the cusp of turning 66 – the title of his upcoming album – the ever-changing mod-rock godfather remains an edgy, bristling, wired presence onstage; still fired by youthful belligerence despite that sleek silver swoop of hair. Kicking off a short British tour in Poole, Weller keeps his stage banter genial but spare, giving little away. A Palestinian flag hangs behind him, a reminder of his long legacy of political statements. With barely a lull across two frenetic hours, he plays even gentle folk-pop ballads like he is itching for a fight. 


Powered by a muscular six-piece band, including two drummers, this Poole show mostly sticks within Weller’s boisterous, high-decibel comfort zone. There is doubtless an element of playing to his geezer-rock heartland here: the public gets what the public wants. But all this burly clobbering risks underselling the subtle beauty of songs like the soulful, intricate “Mayfly”or the wafting, perfumed “Above The Clouds”. Even so, there are softer sonic textures in the mix, notably when honking tenor sax player Jacko Peake switches to pastoral flute and plaintive melodica on more introspective tracks like “Glad Times”. Weller may be naturally pugnacious, but manages to rein himself in for a smouldering “You Do Something To Me” and a broody, anguished “Wild Wood


This tour is also a tentative live teaser for Weller’s 66 album, due in May. Continuing his late-career purple patch, his 17th solo collection is a classy affair awash with grainy-voiced, sumptuously arranged, Albarn-meets-Bacharach balladry. We only get three new cuts tonight, including the revved-up bluesy stomper “Jumble Queen” and the wistful rumination “Nothing”. The sole familiar inclusion is recent single “Soul Wandering, a hymn of spiritual hunger built around twin acoustic guitars and Peake’s pealing saxophone licks. It’s lovely, graceful, autumnal work.

Weller has always had more colours in his musical paintbox than most of his one-dimensional acolytes ever seem to realise, but his recent run of albums have been his most kaleidoscopic yet, leaning heavily into orchestral lushness, experimental soundscapes, wide-ranging collaborations and increasingly overt Bowie homages. He named one of his sons Bowie, after all, which is both sweet and hilarious. There are certainly Bowie-ish moments in this set, from the glam-adjacent bombast of “Hung Up” to the gorgeous lullaby “Rockets”, a dreamy cosmic voyage from South London suburbia to the stars, a regular live highlight since its 2020 release. 

As ever, Weller is stingy with the Jam and Style Council tunes, throwing in just two of each, three of which have been live fixtures for years. An evergreen classic of Britpop social realism, “That’s Entertainment” never fails to tug the collective heartstrings, and predictably becomes the biggest mass singalong of the evening. Likewise “Start!”, wearing its brazen Beatle-isms proudly, sends a surge of adrenaline through the crowd before the group switch almost seamlessly into Weller’s similarity terse “Peacock Suit”.


From the Style Council years, a Springsteen-sized big-band arrangement of “Shout To The Top!” is a pure dopamine rush, and “Headstart To Happiness” a giddy early taste of summer. Weller’s steadfast refusal to become a greatest-hits heritage act feels commendable on one hand, but obstinately self-limiting on the other. Imagine having a dozen killer anthems the calibre of “Going Underground”, “Man In The Corner Shop” or “Walls Come Tumbling Down!” in your back pocket and choosing not to deploy any of them during a two-hour, 29-song marathon.

All the same, this was an impressively rich and high-energy performance, a banquet of music from a spiky elder statesmen who remains rightly wary of embracing his national treasure status. Weller’s stylistic range may have broadened with age, but this roaring, ear-bashing show suggests he will not be mellowing any time soon.

Setlist – The Lighthouse, Poole, April 4, 2024

Rip The Pages Up
Cosmic Fringes
Soul Wandering
That Pleasure
All The Pictures On The Wall
Above The Clouds
Stanley Road
Glad Times
Fat Pop
Hung Up
Shout To The Top!
Jumble Queen
You Do Something To Me
That’s Entertainment
Wild Wood
Friday Street
Peacock Suit
Headstart For Happiness
Amongst Butterflies
Old Father Tyme
Broken Stones
The Changingman


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