Photo Credit: Ken Leanfore
Opera House, January 27
Paul Weller carries himself like a boxer. Not the thick-browed, arm-dragging pugilist always on the ready for a brawl you see in Liam Gallagher et al, but rather the quick on his feet, lithe, and at ease in his ability to handle himself if he needs to, type.
More Sugar Ray Leonard than Mike Tyson, more Ali than Liston. And that is not insignificant, as this two hour, 40 years-spanning, show proved.
Consider in the ring the man nimble musically but perfectly comfortable going in hard and heavy when necessary – take as an opening round, the swirling thunder of White Sky set against the punchy soul pop of Shout To The Top, or Into Tomorrow, which shows why it offered welcomes to the Britrock crowd even with a classic rock guitar solo, contrasting with the understated grandeur of the folk-rich Wild Wood.
Weigh up the Woking boy retaining a streak of aggression alongside an inquiring mind – take his only semi-joking introduction to the newish, punchy psych rock Long Time, “which you won’t know because you haven’t bought the fucking record”, alongside the splash of cocktail and bachelor pad moves inside the light-stepping Have You Ever Had It Blue, or the barrio claps tweaking Woo Se Mama’s big stepping glam that swung instead of stomped.
But always the relocated Londoner, slim, stylish, with fabulous silver-grey hair, still connected to the discomforts of a never-quite-an-insider youth – putting a bit of muscle and slightly faster tempo on My Ever Changing Moods (to make it more a Northern Soul mover than originally), while closing in the feel of That’s Entertainment in the gig highlight acoustic first encore, and then opening up the funk inside innate Britishness in She Moves With The Fayre.
Weller was preceded on stage by the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows, the most appropriate song. Not just because the Beatles, the 60s, and psychedelic rock all are factors in the Weller background, but because from being a Mod amid punk, and switching to being a sweater-over-the-shoulders, jazz-soul man when powered pop was making his name, to explorations of Krautrock and electronics, folk and rock in the past 20 years, it has always been true that tomorrow never knows what will pique his interest next, from where the next musical punch will come.
So there were surprises perhaps in the frequency of Jam songs, from the early doors jump of Eton Rifles and (slightly too slow) Start!, through a contemplative Man In The Corner Shop and bucolic English Rose, to the show ending, foot stomping, Town Called Malice.
Photo Credit: Ken Leanfore
But also adjustments were made for the frequent double drum kit wallop (especially strong in the three-song power bracket featuring Peacock Suit), the trippy folk-meets-hard pop of Saturn’s Pattern (which had Weller at the keyboards) and inducements to dance in the Van McCoy-ish Broken Stones (which grooved nicely).
Anyone expecting a slowdown or a drop in quality after four decades? On the evidence so far, Paul Weller doesn’t need a grizzled man in his corner telling him to keep moving, keep punching, keep wanting this: he’s going the distance.
Paul Weller plays the Sydney Opera House Sunday, January 28, and Monday, January 29.
Images by Ken Leanfore