WATCHING Paul Weller rip through a 24-song, two encore set in less than two hours it is hard to think that The Jam’s first single was released back in 1977.
For 38 years on from In The City’s release, onstage Weller is still much the same wiry, energetic figure with the distinctive haircut, though with an undeniably broader musical palette.
Throughout his career he has never been afraid to try new musical directions, from the razor-sharp punk of The Jam to The Style Council’s jazz and soul-pop to the diverse offerings of his solo output.
His twelfth studio album, Saturn’s Pattern, is released on May 11, which has provided him with the perfect excuse for a tour of some of the venues which he says are “often missed” by touring bands, ahead of an arena tour at the end of the year.
Several songs from Saturn’s Pattern, which Weller recently described as one of his best records, got an airing at Saturday night’s show at Portsmouth Guildhall.
Although Weller rarely plays material from his two earlier bands, he does have 23 years’ worth of solo material to pick from.
So while no-one at the Guildhall would have minded the odd Jam track thrown into the mix, he has built up such an impressive catalogue of solo material that it certainly didn’t feel as though anything was missing from an energetic and comprehensive performance.
Ably backed by a well-honed backing band featuring long-term collaborator Steve Cradock on guitar, he makes a blistering start to the gig, opening with Kosmos before blasting through Uh Oh Oh Yeah, a particularly punchy Come On, Let’s Go and new track White Sky before the pace eases with another new one, the piano-led title track from Saturn’s Pattern.
While much of the set was typified by the sharp, guitar-led rock of From the Floorboards Up or Peacock Suit, it also demonstrated the breadth of his solo material through the soulful leanings of Above The Clouds or the piano-heavy groove of Brand New Toy, while the reverb-heavy Porcelain Gods displays is almost prog-esque in its extended instrumental noodling.
Weller is a charismatic figure on stage without saying much other than the occasional thanks to the crowd – the one time he does speak is midway through the gig when asks if there are any sailors at the show.
Met with silence, he jokes “well that’s ruined that, we had a song lined up for you” before launching into Empty Ring.
The first of two encores features new track These City Streets and Wild Blue Yonder before the band hasten offstage, only to return again minutes later.
Broken Stones is followed by an extended Stix, featuring a pummelling drum solo from the powerful Steve Pilgrim, and a bracing and all-too-brief evening, even at an hour and three-quarters, is finished off by firm fan’s favourite The Changingman.