Duffy and Paul Weller, Royal Albert Hall, London
Monday 14 April 2008
The Dusty Springfield comparisons are a red herring. Duffy's material – apart from her perky, Martha Reeves-influenced single "Mercy" – reeks of that of a soft-rock chick in the Bonnie Tyler mould. The former Wawffactor (the Welsh equivalent of Pop Idol) contestant possesses a formidable screech, and tonight her brief seven-song set, all from her deliriously successful debut album Rockferry, slipped by unobjectionably. You could picture the 23-year warbler from Gwynedd going down a storm on cruise ships.
And then we got the Modfather. This one-off acoustic gig was for an extremely decent cause: the Teenage Cancer Trust sponsored by Gibson. But the mercurial 49-year-old from Woking delivered an infuriatingly dreary and self-indulgent set of lesser known solo songs. No "Going Underground", no "Down at a Tube Station at Midnight", "Town Called Malice", "Wild Wood"... it was an endless list of no-shows. Weller, accompanied by Steve Cradock, Ocean Colour Scene's guitarist, strummed through a set of lazy, easy-listening cod-soul ballads, many of which touch on spirituality but none of which feel uplifting.
A glint of hope emerged mid-set when Weller announced: "We're going to play an old Jam song now." Thank the Lord. "It's a B-side." Oh. Thankfully, it was "Liza Radley", which contains the gorgeously melancholy lyric, "Then she kiss my face and says love means nothing at all". But it was only a brief respite from the solo dirge. We would have taken the Style Council – once memorably described by Melody Maker as the "the Don Estelle and Windsor Davies of supine albino funk" – let alone the Jam.
In all, it was a mind-numbing performance befitting a figurehead of the rock establishment. Introduced tonight as "The General" by Roger Daltrey, Weller has embraced such uninspiring outfits as Dirty Pretty Things and The Enemy; the young tyro who penned the acidic "Eton Rifles" and yelled, "What a catalyst you turned out to be", is now lauded by old Etonians like David Cameron. The sensational vitriol and punchy punk that made Weller so compelling has been replaced by an earnest spirituality and tiresome geezer schtick.
However, his mellifluous voice has grown better with age, and his guitar playing is immaculate. And with many Mods in the audience starting to leave considerably before midnight, Weller ended with his crowning achievement, "That's Entertainment". It was sensational, but too little too late.
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