Paul Weller, Koko, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

He may not break musical boundaries any more, but Paul Weller's career can still take unexpected turns close to its 30th year. That might explain his lairy behaviour at a filmed gig. "I ain't been here in 20, 24 years," he exclaimed, gazing around Camden's theatre venue. "And I won't come again."

Hard to say what upset the Modfather so much. Muddy sound, perhaps, or officious backstage bureaucrats, for in the main this was a joyous, exuberant performance of compelling variety, from long-winded guitar wig-outs to a delicate turn at the piano.

Weller is celebrating such vitality with a double CD to mark his Alexandra Palace shindig last December, his third live release in 12 years. Tonight's sweaty set showed why we should maintain interest, though he did take a while to build momentum. Indeed, Weller apologised for a stilted start under the glare of TV lights.

There was a step up in intensity once he launched himself into the night's token Jam cover. Not the oft-heard "That's Entertainment" or "A Town Called Malice", but "Running on the Spot". Its police-siren guitar line and snappy lyrics were perfect to rouse the crowd.

From then on, Weller was on fire as he spun around a, by his standards, tiny stage. He bumped into guitarist Steve Cradock and matched his younger bandmate for high kicks, with a boyish grin that belied his grumpy old man reputation. Even better was his vocal performance. Since his return to the stage in 1991, he has striven to find a more soulful timbre and this he has achieved with authority.

Best were the vulnerable "Wild Wood" and a coruscating "Sunflower". Weller's latest studio album, As Is Now, may be a more hit-and-miss affair, but he was back to his best form of recent years on the party tracks "From the Floorboards Up" and "Come On/Let's Go".

Other recent material substituted twiddly bass runs for melodies. Even worse was when his band became mired in extended jams. In recent years, Weller has seen fit to sugar such pills with choice pickings from his back catalogue. As well as Jam numbers, he has even spruced up memories of his Style Council days. None was forthcoming this evening, to leave us at the close slightly bewildered. Then again, it proved the iconoclast still plays by his own rules.

T in the Park, Kinross, Scotland ( www.tinthepark.com), 8 July

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