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03 Jun

The Times review - Royal Albert Hall

The Times review - Royal Albert Hall By Lisa Verrico Pop Albert Hall PAUL WELLER's post-Jam career has been a rollercoaster ride with more ups and downs than even his Dad can probably count. There have been spells when Weller was without a record deal the last one little over a year ago and times when his solo albums shot straight to No 1. At the start of his Style Council days, the public loved him and critics sneered; during Britpop, he was revered as one of the elder statesmen of British rock; then written off for being boring. Now 46, Weller is hoping to stage yet another comeback. An album of covers is due out in early autumn; an introductory EP, featuring versions of Gil Scott-Heron's The Bottle and the Lovin' Spoonful's Coconut Grove, is released in a fortnight; and two shows at the Albert Hall launched a month-long tour that, oddly, includes a series of performances in English forests. Neither sounds particularly cool, but Weller and his loyal band of fans don't care. They're just glad he's making music again. Indeed, the crowd cheered enthusiastically at the start of every song in the Albert Hall set, although it was obvious some weren't to their taste. Has My Fire Really Gone Out?, an aptly titled set opener taken from Wild Wood, Weller's first successful solo album from more than a decade ago, was definitely a favourite, as were Hung Up and Out of the Sinking. A handful of Style Council songs, notably My Ever Changing Moods, proved they had stood the test of time and seemed to suit the singer more now than in his immediate post-Jam days. But there were so-so sections of the set too. Several tracks taken from Weller's late-1990s solo albums sounded terribly pedestrian. On There's No Drinking after You're Dead the band (made up mainly of Ocean Colour Scene members, who may be younger than Weller, but had half his energy) rocked out without any passion and even the old Jam fans at the front looked disappointed. Weller wasn't surprised "That's from an album called Heliocentric," he said. "Not many people liked it. In fact, I think I was the only one." There was enough goodwill in the audience to allow him the odd blunder. It helped that Weller continues to look good; he's skinny as a rake, still smartly dressed and fond of his trademark jerky dancing. He was superb on the piano, particularly during a duet with guest Carleen Anderson, and he was clearly enjoying himself. Another successful comeback? It's hard to say, but you suspect he'll have a fun time trying.

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