Everyone has an opinion on Paul Weller; ever since he strutted out of Woking in 1976 with a clutch of Who and Kinks albums under his arm, he has aroused rage and rapture.
Now in 2005, the debate centres on whether he is a pop genius, or an old lag trying to rekindle past glories for ageing fans. But in Edinburgh's Usher Hall, his performance suggests that both genius and indulgence flecks his salt-and-pepper mop top.
Weller's songs are woven into the fabric of British pop culture, but to paraphrase the man himself, it's a bitter pill: without Weller, there might have been no Blur, The Streets or The La's, but equally we'd have avoided some truly average Britpop records. His influence is still felt; the faux mod-isms of Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand borrow heavily from Weller's aesthetic.
Post-The Jam and The Style Council, Weller released a trio of quality solo albums but he's been locked into a groove of good album, bad album for a decade now and he's admitted that last year's woeful covers album, Studio 150, was merely designed as a break from songwriting. On the evidence here, the break has done him the world of good.
If Weller acknowledges his past, he seems reluctant to dwell on it. He's gleeful thrashing through The Jam's "In The Crowd", but the only other Jam song is "That's Entertainment", which has grown men leaping like spring lambs.
Despite his substantial cache of solo hits, he focuses heavily on tracks from his new album, the robust and low-slung As Is Now. "From The Floorboards Up" and "Savages" have the thrust and pace of yore, recalling The Jam in spirit if not quite in energy, while the acoustic "The Pebble And The Boy" and "The Start Of Forever" illustrate his song-craft.
Every time he begins to test the audience's patience with one extended coda or unfamiliar album track too many, he delivers. Whether this is the righteous stomp of "Into Tomorrow", the surprisingly fresh-sounding "Long Hot Summer" or "Wildwood" (which remains one of his most affecting songs), he gives enough to keep the majority hooked.
The Weller of 2005 is evidently more comfortable in his skin than the awkward teen scowling his way through "Eton Rifles" in a Heinz ketchup apron on Top of the Pops, but there's still fire in his belly at the most vital moments.
Tour continues to 5 December ( www.paulweller.com) A version of this review appeared in some earlier editionsReuse content