Royal Albert Hall, London
The Royal Albert Hall is many things. The regal cavern is where The Proms are held – classical music, flags, plastic Union Jack bowler hats and all. It’s also where, since 2000, the Teenage Cancer Trust have held their annual series of concerts. One thing it’s not, however, is an easy room to play, as Palma Violets quickly discover. A couple of songs in, the majority of Weller fans are still milling around at the bar as the band flounder, perhaps dazed by the scale of the room. However, they dig in and by the end of their half-hour slot they’ve turned things around, even managing to draw scores of 50-year-old pot-bellied feathercuts away from their beloved lager. Still need convincing that Palmas are one of the most exciting bands in the UK? Witness ‘Step Up For The Cool Cats’ performed in this famous venue and have your doubts quashed.
One man who doesn’t need an introduction – but gets one anyway, from his friend and this year’s TCT organiser Noel Gallagher – is Paul Weller. No words from him, though. Judging from his jog to the stage, he hasn’t a moment to waste. First up is old Jam tune ‘Private Hell’, unexpected in anyone’s book but a welcome treat nonetheless. Save for a trip through The Style Council’s ‘My Ever Changing Moods’, an encore of ‘Just Who Is The Five O’Clock Hero’ and a second return to the stage for ‘That’s Entertainment’, Weller has little time for looking beyond his solo career. The set is heavy on ‘22 Dreams’, ‘Wake Up The Nation’ and ‘Sonik Kicks’, brimming with adventure and energy that make accusations of dadrock levelled at him seem as stupid now as it might’ve done to imagine this sort of artistic regeneration in 2000.
When he does delve into 1995’s ‘Stanley Road’, it’s ‘Porcelain Gods’ and ‘Whirlpools’ End’ that come out, rather than the more obvious ‘The Changingman’ and ‘You Do Something To Me’, while even ‘Wild Wood’ gets a meaty makeover more in keeping with Portishead’s ‘Sheared Wood’ remix than the original.
“He shoulda fackin’ played this a bit earlier,” says one fan as Weller returns for ‘That’s Entertainment’, clearly upset that his idol hasn’t played a batch of 30-year-old hits. But given that Weller broke up The Jam at their 1982 pomp and has continued to do whatever he wants ever since, the ever-faithful should be used to having their noses put out of joint by now. On this form, long may Weller continue to aggravate.