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)

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness