The Guardian review - Royal Albert Hall
Thursday June 3, 2004
There was a T-shirt on sale in the foyer that read "Weller: Hardcore Since '77". If "hardcore" implies a manly stoicism in the face of progress, then Paul Weller is as hardcore as they come. As the first of three sold-out shows illustrated, he hasn't budged an inch from the guitar-rock middle ground he's inhabited all his adult life. Almost separate from the punk generation, he has neither mellowed nor succumbed to pleas to reform his old band. It's impossible, moreover, to imagine him in the John Lydon role on I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! This lack of sentimentality - hardcore or just curmudgeonly? - keeps fans stuffing venues year after year.
You know where you are with Weller, who was backed by the same band of borrowed Ocean Colour Scenesters he has used for years. He's always going to look natty, move with the litheness of someone half his 46 years and drive the set on with guitarry rock-outs that probably satisfy him more than the audience. There's rather more salt than pepper in his hair these days, but the long show seemed to invigorate him. As he encored with Rose Royce's Wishing on a Star and Sly Stone's Family Affair (his next album is a collection of soul covers), he looked as if he could have carried on for a few more hours. What was lost in the midst of the full-tilt rock assault was the nuances. He's capable of sweetness, and expressed it on an acoustic version of the Jam's Liza Radley, but in the main he ploughed through the post-1990 solo albums as if he were rounding up cattle. Peacock Suit and Changingman withstood it pretty well, but other bits sounded like dad-rock porridge. Still, his solidly English style is having one of its period bouts of fashionability at the moment thanks to bands such as the Libertines, so at this gig the unchangingman had the last laugh.
· Ends tonight. Box office: 020-7589 8212.