Now into his very well-preserved sixties, Paul Weller has long since moved on from the days when reinvention seemed to be his stock-in-trade.
Paul Weller, Edinburgh Castle ****
Once upon a time he flitted from the spiky punk of the Jam to the pavement café soul of the Style Council and the mature, Traffic-like emotional reflection of his days as an elder statesperson – while still only in his late thirties, unfathomably – of Britpop, and of Oasis in particular.
After some fallow years in which he seemed keen to emulate the style and success of 1995’s much-loved Stanley Road to ever-decreasing returns, the Paul Weller of the 2010s’ songs are everything a fan of his might wish for; strident, bluesy homages to such steely resolve, pastoral explorations of his own emotional depth and nostalgia, and the occasional playful experiment with genre.
So at such a cornerstone performance as an Edinburgh Castle concert, Weller is an artist very much in command of his entire output, even though his style and the personnel around him has moved on significantly from his youth in the Jam. In the midsummer sunshine – the promised thunderstorms helpfully having disappeared for the evening – it was hard to tell whether his flowing hair bore a gold or a silver tint, but there was something Gandalf-like about him, all right.
He sat at the piano for some of those more reflective numbers, for example the butterfly-light psychedelia of Strange Museum (“a song off my first album that came out hundreds of years ago,” joked Weller, clearly enthused by the sunshine and good vibes), the prowling judgement on evangelism Can You Heal Us (Holy Man) and the tender romance of You Do Something to Me. For the rockier escalation of the show’s latter period he strapped his guitar back on, bolstering the band’s sound amid Friday Street, Into Tomorrow and Peacock Suit.
It’s worth paying tribute here to guitarist Steve Cradock, also of Ocean Colour Scene, who’s playing is always catchy like pop but clear and emotionally expressive. “It’s a personal favourite – not that it matters, but . . .” he smiled by way of modest introduction to Hung Up.
The best of the Jam songs played were the most idiosyncratic, That’s Entertainment’s bittersweet tones more suited to contemporary Weller than Start!’s bluesier arrangement, although the Style Council’s Have You Ever Had it Blue and Shout to the Top remain undated.
The Stone Foundation string section joined in on certain songs, and the closing trio of the Jam’s Precious and A Town Called Malice sandwiched around Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up was an energetic finale. “Peace and love, f*** the politicians, power to the people,” growled Weller by way of farewell – and this was clearly him in a deserved good mood.