Paul Weller, Roundhouse, London The Osmonds, Regent Theatre, Ipswich

Paul Weller has had several incarnations in his long career, but with a fine risk-taking new album to promote, there's no time to raid the vaults

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The Independent Culture

Paul Weller has been making the wrong people happy for the past 20 years, and in his heart he knows it. Oh, they've turned out in droves to his Roundhouse residency, pig-like and complacent in their button-down maleness. But the Paul Weller who fired my imagination was the Weller who preached revolution in the Style Council and took what remains rock's greatest career risk by splitting the Jam at the height of their powers.

After the Style Council bombed, Weller appeared to realise that his core fanbase was not interested in the "ernism" part of "modernism". So, in a spirit of "OK, if this is what you want, have it", reinvented himself as the elder statesman of Brit-rock, making exactly the kind of rockist records and pulling exactly the kind of rockist poses against which he once so bravely stood. And very lucrative it was, too.

Belatedly, however, something's stirred in his fiftysomething soul, and Weller's in the mood to take risks again. Sonik Kicks, which draws on influences ranging from krautrock to dub reggae, is the third in a run of fine albums which are challenging the expectations of the porcine geezers he's acquired as fans.

The first half of the show consists entirely of Sonik Kicks. Wearing the same suit he's wearing on the cover, he sometimes enlists a string quartet, sometimes plays piano and sometimes blows into a melodica. It's good, but the lads chatter through it, craving only the familiar.

They get their wish. "I'm gonna take you way back, now, to the heady days of the Nineties," he jokes before "Stanley Road". But he knows which side his bread is buttered and, save for the Jam's "English Rose" during the mid-show acoustic set, we go back no further, and the Style Council are written out of history. I'll clutch my dog-eared copy of Café Bleu, and carry on dreaming.

Imagine The Osmonds' dilemma every time they draw up a set list. What do you do with "Crazy Horses"? You've got this one monumental tune, completely atypical of the standard showbiz cheese of your oeuvre. Do you start with it, and risk the rest of the show being an anti-climax? Do you end with it, knowing people will yell for it throughout? What they do, in fact, is play it twice: once at the start and an instrumental reprise at the end. But nothing catches fire, apart from a few dormant crushes in matronly bosoms.

I've always wondered what sort of kid, in 1971, would opt to follow the Osmonds. But millions did, and the Ipswich chapter are out in force, no longer schoolgirls but dinner ladies, screaming at their idols. Well, some of their idols. Nowhere in the publicity material for The Osmonds Up Close and Personal: The Final Tour does it mention that only three members are involved.

The most famous is "Little" Jimmy Osmond, who has the weird look of someone who'll be 13 years old till they die. Now 48 and the youngest and twinkliest of the trio, the thought of the Milf tail he must get offered boggles the mind.

Elder statesman is the snowy-haired Merrill. During "Rainbow's End", he has a senior moment and forgets the words. Lastly there's Jay, whose big moment is a strobe-lit, stick-twirling drum solo during "Hold Her Tight", their audacious bubblegum remake of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song". John Bonham it ain't.

The missing members include Alan, who is suffering from multiple sclerosis, and Wayne, also unwell. The most notable absentee, however, is Donny who is in Vegas. His face frequently hangs overhead on the screen like a fearsome disembodied deity, the Wizard of Osmond.

The screen is used to illustrate an Osmond history lesson. The two eldest brothers, we learn, were born deaf, so the next seven siblings began performing to raise money for their hearing aids, and were discovered doing so at Disneyland.

The stage banter has the odd surprise. Strict Mormons they may be, but they know their rock'n'roll. Merrill says, "On a scale of 1 to 10, you guys are an 11", to which Jimmy replies "That was very Spinal Tap..." And they do take requests, to a point. When Jimmy starts "Puppy Love", Merrill mock-admonishes "That's not a good song..." He does, however, eventually accede to calls for "Long Haired Lover from Liverpool", albeit a clodhopping, jaunt-less version.

It's easy to loathe "Love Me for a Reason", but it's far from a terrible song. Pause for a moment and imagine it belonging to the Stylistics.

The biggest screams come whenever Donny's face appears, suggesting that the chant of "We want the Osmonds!" before the encore carries something of a double meaning.

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