Walking down the corridor from hall to auditorium in this respectable seated Clydeside venue, the building trail of pint beakers strewn by the wall would convince you, had you walked in unawares, that only one of Britpop's lad-rocking holy trinity could be performing: that's Paul Weller; Oasis; or Ocean Colour Scene... the father, the son or the "holy hell, that's bad".
But once you reach the doors and can make out the familiar terrace chants being repeated all over, you know precisely what - and who - is in store. Much like Underworld's "Born Slippy", the shout of "Well-ah" has a brutal simplicity about it that transcends simple recognition of the man on stage and smacks more of a kind of lairy, primal mob rule.
Yet to discard Weller as the pin-up of wannabe football hardmen and unimaginative musical recessives, as is the fashion these days, is to grossly misunderstand the muse of an artist who has - with as many notable exceptions as you might expect in a career spanning nearly three decades - invested passion, principle and a fairly large slice of his heart in his work.
The Jam are still referred to, even now, as "angry young men" for a reason; the Style Council - while seen by many, then and now, as a self-indulgence on Weller's part - were simply an honest effort to represent his own tastes at the time; the first three early-Nineties albums of his solo career were minor classics - the heartfelt effort of a man out of step with critical thinking to rediscover the roots of why he felt that he and music belonged together in the first place.
Consider the two decades that preceded the last one, and there can be no doubt that Weller is an honest-to-God artist first and a laddish busker pretty far down the list - except that playing gigs like this doesn't really present much evidence to the contrary. Flanked by his regular band-members Steve Cradock and Damon Minchella, of Ocean Colour Scene, and with an occasionally too-schmaltzy four-piece horn section in the mix, Weller presents the fullest greatest-hits set he has probably attempted: rich solo material such as "Wild Wood" and "The Changing Man"; a very welcome turn for the Style Council's "Shout to the Top"; his own retake of Sister Sledge's "Thinking of You"; and revived Jam standards "That's Entertainment" and "A Town Called Malice".
But whereas the last one was delivered in a gratifyingly impassioned bark, the rest seemed just a little too slick, a little too orchestrated. A certain spark is dimming, and Weller seems like he's trying to please us now, rather than pleasing himself as we always loved him to.
The legend persists to this day of a Paul Weller record entitled 1990: A New Decade in Modernism, an attempt at presenting his own spin on house music that he recorded - and had rebuffed by his record company - in the titular year. I hope I speak for many when I say it would be great to see it finally released... not because it will point the way ahead in any sense, but because his rich past seems to be the only future Weller has left.Reuse content