12 October 2018 (gig)
Paul Weller is showcasing his new album True Meaning’s and chose London’s Royal Festival Hall in which to perform them in. This elegant home of London’s philharmonic orchestra was both big enough to accommodate Weller’s fan base and intimate enough to let them know they were in for something a little different from the recently turned sixty Mod father.
Swapping the thrashing sound of Rickenbacker’s and Fender’s for acoustic guitars and orchestra Weller performed song’s both new and old -“ very old” Weller pointed out at one point. Opening the night with the 22 Dreams track Bright Star set the tone and atmosphere for an evening that was without the pogoing and chanting but still filled with passion and energy. The second he started singing” I only want you- I only want you” it started to feel like Weller is finding an even deeper and more soulful voice with which to express himself than ever before.
Weller looked relaxed within himself and confident that what he was about to deliver was going to be very good. Weller singing and playing acoustically is nothing new but accompanied by a full orchestra is and it was a masterstroke. The new songs from his latest release are as powerfully soul baring as they are melodic. You cannot say that this is a return to form for Weller, he is rarely off form, but this is definitely another high point of a career filled with them. True Meaning’s was also an apt title to apply to the reworking of some of his back catalogue. With orchestra backing skilfully arranged by Hannah Peel, Weller also found a new depth to songs such as Boy About Town, which was almost unrecognisable at the start, but was non the less just as driven as the original and Private Hell was gut wrenchingly haunting. It made you think he could rework a greatest hits album and they would sound fresh and new.
However, it is the new songs that really shone last night. The sitar led Books is out of this world and Gravity and Old Castles were mesmerising in their performance. The crowd were suitably sat in referential hushed silence not wanting to break the spell. Many words have been used to describe Weller's gig’s over the years but beautiful has probably not been overused in describing his own particular blend of fire and skill but this night was exactly that. “We were going to do Town Called Malice on banjo and washboard” said Weller smiling just before closing the night with May Love Travel With You.
On this form he could probably get away with that as well.