First Night: Electric Proms, The Roundhouse, London

Weller Jams on to ignite old spirit in the pogoing throng
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The Independent Culture

When rock was mad, bad and dangerous to know the Roundhouse had its hey-day. The fabled London venue, has now reopened as the centrepiece for a week-long BBC branded and broadcast Electric Proms Festival taking place at a selection of venues around Camden.

When the Roundhouse closed in 1983 tonight's headliner Paul Weller was embarking on the second stage of a career now into its fourth decade.

While the Roundhouse has laid for years in a state of disrepair, rock culture has changed immeasurably. The Electric Proms tag alone indicates how much it has become a heritage industry.

It is only when The Magic Numbers hit first-album-favourite "Love Me Like You" that the crowds' stupor is lifted.

If anyone summons the determination to make rocks heritage breathe anew it is Paul Weller.

With his silver-haired feather-cut and vigorous on-stage strut he immediately noted the commercial advantage offered by the occasion, welcoming listeners from around the globe. It is in the live domain that Weller has maintained his unique grip on an audience and from the off it was evident the very idea of the Electric Proms had him energized.

With its boisterous glam backbeat new single, "Wide Blue Yonder", signalled his recent career up-swing remains in rude health.

A terrific porcelain doll, with its nod to the Beatles' "Come Together" and an aching chorus it is an early highlight. The extended jam didn't quite invoke Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd at the Roundhouse improvisations but it was well-intentioned. The peppy and bucolic "Above the Clouds" provided a necessary respite. And "Savages", with its valiant guitar storm and trippy "Can't You See The Love Coming Down" cry, was marvellously rich.

Right on cue Amy Winehouse, with a jet-black bouffant not dissimilar to that sported by celebrity audience member Russell Brand, appeared. A suitable muscular duet on "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" was followed by a pairing on "Don't Talk To Strangers".

With Weller swapping guitar for piano the song invoked the pair's respective jazz periods. "You Do Something To Me" sounded almost symbolic.

Cigarette and pint in hand Carl Barat, the frontman of Dirty Pretty Things, arrived for a knock-about duet on "Peacock Suit". Then, for what Weller said was the first time in 30 years, he struck up the stuttering chords of The Jams' "In The City": instantly the crowd became a massive throbbing pogoing throng.

While undoubtedly a thrill to see the normally stoical Weller play a song that seethed with contemporary relevance it did suggest that nothing ignites the old spirit quite like the old songs. It was an impression further strengthened by the reaction to Jam favourite "That's Entertainment", performed with Hard-Fi's Richard Archer.

Maybe rock is no longer mad, bad and dangerous to know. But tonight Weller's strength and solidity will just have to do.

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