A chance to see a British rock ‘n’ Roll icon in a forest was not to be ignored…
Date: June 20, 2009
Venue: Sherwood Pines, Sherwood Forest
While modern music finds itself in a state of flux some things never change. Paul Weller’s hairstyle, for example, is one constant you can rely on. His music is another, and while the current music scene is saturated with androgynous kids playing icy synths over Nintendo-aping backing tracks, Weller continues to invalidate the perceived doctrine that you can’t possibly evolve as an artist without tampering with your music’s DNA for every new album.
He has his own distinct sound and he’s sticking with it through thick and thin. It’s classic rock forged from a love of R ‘n’ B (classic R ‘n’ B that is, not the insipid chart rammel) and soul, deemed too pallid for staunch fans of The Jam when first attempted with The Style Council, but subsequently embraced wholeheartedly by his legions of devotees.
Take Peacock Suit, the set-opener. It’s characteristically Weller: a brooding, soulful swipe of vintage Rickenbacker, instantly lighting the blue touch paper. From here it’s a nomadic wander through his unfaltering yet gilded back catalogue.
A reverberating Into The Sinking ushers in 22 Dreams – the first track to be played from his latest record of the same name – while the clanging guitar jangle and meandering solos of The Changingman are an instant mosh-pit pioneer. And although Sea Spray – from 22 Dreams – is not an obvious choice by Weller, it connects well with the audience nonetheless.
On the subject of the audience Weller attempts some reverse psychology, complaining that they’re “a bit quiet”, and that his recent forest gig in Cheshire was much livelier in comparison. It’s a brave denunciation by Weller, and one which, thankfully, seems to work, as the picnics are packed away, tops are screwed back onto flasks and chairs are folded, making way for a huge soily dance floor.
And what better way to keep the punters happy and motivate a crowd than pull out a proper classic? Quite simply there is no better way, and when Eton Rifles is plucked straight from the iconic lineage of seminal mod records and given a rollicking 2009 lick of gloss, no one is chomping on their scotch eggs anymore.
It’s one of three all-time classic songs he plays from The Jam’s influential vaults. That’s Entertainment and the majestic show-stopper A Town Called Malice are the other exhibits, showing that, unlike many of his peers, he’s not afraid to cherish his past brilliance and dip into his rich heritage to please his audience.
While the gig is largely triumphant it doesn’t all go to plan. While One Bright Star (from 22 Dreams) might prove he can deviate from the classic guitar sound as it tangos along to a Spanish guitar-driven groove, it doesn’t quite work. It severely fails to ignite the senses and comes across a bit, well, lounge. It’s the one weak link in the entire set. Fortunately though, Push it Along’s bass-heavy bullishness follows and the mood improves tenfold.
Elsewhere we’re treated to one of his most underrated tunes, Porcelain Gods. Epic, echoic, shifting and strident, it deserves to exist on a higher pedestal, while the transcendental You Do Something To Me is achingly beautiful.
As the night sky slowly descends, there can be no better song to soundtrack the transition of day and night than the lazy, hazy organ-frazzled Wild Wood, with its swaying opulence and evocative charm. And even a mic fail can’t dampen Broken Stones’ soulful wonder, and adds weight to the theory that if all else fails bring out the tambourine.
After A Town Called Malice ends proceedings having almost ripped open a similar woodland clearing to the one on which we stand by virtue of its colossal might, Weller has once again defied his critics and substantiated the popular belief that he’s inherently rooted in British musical ancestry.
10,000 people will have flocked through Sherwood Pines Forest Park by the end of tonight (Saturday) when McFly continue the Forestry Commission’s annual party. The 6,000 or so that were here were in the presence of a true God-like genius. Beat that McFly.