REVIEW / No mod cons, thanks: How to go from mod to hippy in a little under 15 years - Jim White watches Paul Weller wow the Royal Albert Hall

According to the biographical notes in his glossy 'Match Day' programme, Paul Weller suffered several years of total creative block after he turned 30 in 1989. Four years on, the prose suggested, he had emerged from the darkness a wiser, stronger, more mature performer. When he popped, with minimum fuss, on to the Albert Hall stage it was immediately clear that one thing. at least, had changed. The Weller hair, on which hours of creative work had been lavished over the years, had been left to its own devices. From the darkness it had emerged as a naughty schoolboy mop with, apparently, a total block on shampoo.

As the subdued coiffure implied, this was to be a no-nonsense Weller. Dressed down in a long-sleeved grandad shirt and nondescript brown jeans, he came accompanied by an Opportunity 2000 group: women on bass and keyboards balancing men on acoustic guitar and drums. In the middle, Weller, all elbows, collar-bone and Peter Beardsley jaw, chopped angularly at his guitar.

This tight fivesome immediately embarked on the great swathe of material Weller has written since his crisis. All of Wild Wood, the splendid new album, was to be performed, together with half-a-dozen as yet unrecorded new songs. And no matter how hard the lad in the nostalgic front-of-stage scramble shouted for 'In The City', there was to be no looking back.

In his Style Council days Weller seemed to be a man searching for a musical identity, trying on forms as a snappy dresser might jackets in a tailor's shop, to see if any fitted. Here he looked snug in his new harmonic outfit. Almost everything he tried worked: the French boulevardier shuffle during a blistering version of the title track from Wild Wood, the Carlos Santana guitar licks, even the trippy version of 'Magic Bus' performed in strobe lighting as an acid bubble light- show played on the back-cloth. At this point the thought occurred that, while it took The Who three years to transmogrify from mods to hippies, Weller has taken five times as long to cover the same distance.

Fortunately, despite the occasional Quo- style mega-ending which would have benefited from acquaintance with the pruning shears, he has too much cool to take the next step into progressive self-indulgence. Everything he did was underpinned by a dynamic rhythm driven by bassist Rowanda Charles and drummer Steve White, who, wisely on a night as chilly as this, came wrapped up in an Alf Garnett muffler. And you can't play Rick Wakeman with a unit as neat as that behind you.

To complement his song-writing maturity is a new voice. The fury and violence that used to stalk the back of the Weller throat, and which he had to physically restrain with a clenched jaw, have gone. If he had sung a ballad called 'Amongst Butterflies' in the old Jam days, he would have sounded as if he wanted to tear the creatures wing from wing. Now that he no longer sings through teeth and a wad of chewing gum, his voice has been released from its angry chrysalis to emerge a wonderful thing: adaptable, smooth, at times almost moving. When he brought on his partner DC Lee (oddly wearing a matching his-and-hers hair-style) to help him through a couple of numbers, she didn't show him up, which is quite a testament. He showed his respect for her larynx, incidentally, by waving his pint pot in her direction when she departed.

What gain he has made in the voice, however, seems to have been at the expense of lyrical power. Writing about violence on public transport, small-town pettiness or how to solve problems in the judiciary, Weller was the sharpest social observer of the New Wave. Now he has gone all poetic, inhabiting a Woodstockian world of natural phenomena. Here we had 'Above The Clouds', 'Shadow Of The Sun' and 'Like A Dream On An Ocean.' Next thing, he'll be joining Sting in a crusade against mahogany.

But whatever he was singing about, and he had enough spanking new work to keep it up for nearly two hours, Weller made compelling viewing. Even when he turned his back on the audience to address his piano, the sight of the back of his barnet bobbing was strangely magnetic. At one point during the encore, as he was hammering away at the keys, a dancing Noddy glove puppet popped up over the back of his instrument, prompting something no one ever thought they would see: a big Paul Weller grin.

During the second encore, an Albert Hall jobsworth switched on the house lights as a hint that time was up. Everywhere you looked, the audience was on its feet, applauding. These were people who would have donated blood for a quick run-through of 'Going Underground', 'A Town Called Malice' or 'You're The Best Thing'. Instead, they were treated to nothing that was more than three years old. And they loved it. Their reaction suggested that, for once, the programme notes may not have been marinated in hyperbole.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
    Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

    Stolen youth

    Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
    Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

    Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

    He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
    Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

    Made by Versace, designed by her children

    Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
    Anyone for pulled chicken?

    Pulling chicks

    Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
    9 best steam generator irons

    9 best steam generator irons

    To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
    England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
    ‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

    ‘We knew he was something special’

    Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York