As I watched the wiry, silver haired Modfather introduce jazz-funk number after number from the new album, I began to wonder about the Sales of Goods Act (1979). Yes, I know, but bear with me…
Having forked out a hefty thirty-eight quid to see what I hoped was going to be a mix of the old and new, judged by the ambience inside the venue, I was not the only punter wondering if he had been sold a dummy.
If you’re going to showcase a new album then at least be honest about it; call it the “new album tour” or something. That way, I, and many others, could have stayed at home, saved our money for a tribute band or Bruce Foxton's incarnation.
For me and many others, following the break-up of The Jam back in ’83, the lad from Woking somewhat lost his mojo. Beatles’ fans are often divided into two camps: those who prefer the pre-1966 mop-top era and those who prefer the kaftan, waccy-baccy inspired stuff that followed.
Likewise, with Mr Weller it seems to me there are those who prefer the angry, stabbing sound that was The Jam and those who prefer the lush, mellow sounds that have followed ever since.
When Mr Weller introduced yet another “new song” the atmos within the arena - already a mite unsettled - threatened to go awry. “When’s he going to play a good song?” enquired a voice somewhere behind me. Okay, so where he said "good" probably he meant "familiar." But I know where he was coming from.
“You could just fuck off, go and have a cup of tea,” snapped Weller in reply to some wag stage front who had apparently made the fatal error of making a similar suggestion, but within earshot of the former Jam front man. Hmm.
A few songs later and the arena erupted to the opening bars of the Jam classic, The Man in the Corner Shop. Suddenly, the Guild was rocking, and not before time. For the first time this evening, we were able to sing-a-long, take part – the whole reason why some of us go to gigs. Bliss.
However, it couldn’t last. Soon enough we returned to the “new” stuff. Folk started fidgeting. The chap in front of me stopped pogoing and went back to checking his I-phone.
Call me old fashioned, but should not an entertainer provide the punters with what they want, rather than what he/she wants? Is that too much to ask? Judged by the amount of grey hair and crow’s feet, Mr Weller’s crowd remember those glorious years tween 1978 and 1983 all too well. Why not just give ‘em what they want?
A little more Jam, a little less spam. But seriously, if you were a soccer manager you'd hardly keep Messi and Ronaldo on the bench if you had 'em in your squad. I mean you just wouldn't.
I guess it all comes down to ego. Hell, when you have a back catalogue as good as Mr Weller’s, why not play it dammit? It doesn’t mean you are not a serious artist, it just means you are considering the poor sods who have forked out their hard-earned cash. If they want to travel down memory lane for an evening, then ruddy well let 'em.
That's entertainment, well innit?
After all, there are much worse things they could witness on stage these days; Michael McIntyre or that seven foot giant ‘comedian’ so beloved of the Dave television channel. But I digress.
Later, during the encore, we were treated to a rendition of ‘Start’ and once again the place came alive, as if jolted into action by a thousand volts. Audience feedback, pure and unadulterated.
That is not to say the new material has not merit, I’m sure it does. There's certainly some very interesting stuff going on here, not least a gnarling, snarling guitar that you'd swear had been loaned from Electric Ladyland. Perhaps it's just a case of bedding in.
I wish Mr Weller would blend old with new more, perhaps rework some of those classics if he wishes to avoid the tag of heritage artist. That band he used to front back in the day were, after all, rather good, so celebrate it!
Sorry Paul, although it pains me say it and I'm probably in a minority here, last night’s gig was a bitter pill to swallow.