It’s been a great year for Paul Weller. ‘Wake Up The Nation’, his latest album, can be found in the higher reaches of many end of year polls and his live gigs have been generating a number of positive reviews. This rich creative streak shows no sign of abating as he sits on a bunch of songs ready to roll for next year.
Given all these factors, the subdued nature of tonight’s gig was surprising. It was a strange gig in some ways; as ever he was the usual bundle of energy on stage and he could not be accused of going through the motions, but the night lacked a certain something. One of the issues may have been the sound, which seemed a little muted as it bounced around the half-full arena.
When an artist such as Weller gets to this stage in their career there is a tendency for some fans to hope that he will just stick to playing the hits, but much of Wake Up The Nation gets an outing tonight.
Given the significance of the day musically for Liverpool, and the influences that he has worn on his sleeve throughout his career, you would expect a Lennon reference at some point in the proceedings.
He opened with Love, with an image of Lennon projected on to the backdrop, this was impeccably observed by the band, but a slightly subdued opener to the other more obvious choices that he could have picked from. The unmistakably Lennonesque Come Together followed, before he launched into Wake Up The Nation.
The opening numbers highlight one of the problems with the set list tonight; it may have been a case of the right songs, in the wrong order. This was true of the middle of the performance.
Porcelain Gods and Out of the Sinking were impeccably observed but probably in the wrong place. When you see the Weller clones milling about at the back facing away from the stage you know something is not right.
Even Weller noted the passive nature of the crowd when he commented how quiet the audience was, before launching onto two unreleased songs – Around the Lake and the psychedelic Paper Chase.
All points of his career were covered. Shout to the Top is a more forceful rendering live these days than it is on record. More songs from the Jam are creeping into the set – which will keep the diehards happy. Eton Rifles is always great to hear live – with lyrics that probably remain as true today, as when they were written back in 1970s.
As a longstanding fan it was a gig with some merits, it just needed that something else. It would be great to see Weller playing somewhere like the Philharmonic in the future.
• Images courtesy of John Johnson