A substantial crowd braved the cooling temperatures of Singleton Park, Swansea on Sunday evening to see Paul Weller. The ex-Jam and Style Council frontman and his five-piece band, which included two drummers, burst onto the stage and the evening got off to a great start with White Sky and two other ‘rock’ numbers.
Weller announced that the set would be a long one, with a lot to cover from old to new. This reviewer, a fan of The Jam in their heyday, anticipated a clutch of hits from that era. But despite a promisingly rocking start, the first hour became rather subdued: many newer songs took a jazzy, experimental tack, and it wasn’t until the poppy chords of The Style Council’s Shout To The Top! rang out that the atmosphere lifted. Previously restless crowd members were now dancing, yet such jollity was short-lived, with the band promptly leaving the stage – wasn’t this supposed to be a long set?
After a minute’s absence, an encore followed, naturally, comprising four old favourites: That’s Entertainment, You Do Something To Me, The Changing Man and – ending the evening on a high – Jam classic A Town Called Malice.
A gig of two halves, perhaps: the first was sadly lacking, not in musical prowess – Weller’s voice still has that gospel edge to it, while his band were on form – but in entertainment value. Singleton Park, too, is an excellent venue, its sloping grass banks allowing for a good view of the stage wherever one is seated – yet a universal problem with large venues, particularly open-air ones, is a tendency for the audience to feel disconnected from the performers, especially if the music doesn’t carry well (there were times when Weller’s vocals were distorted).
To invert the younger Weller’s own words from Going Underground, the public didn’t get what the public wanted – even if it’s easy to understand his reluctance to rely too heavily on Jam songs with the associated risk of becoming his own tribute act. After almost 50 years in the business, Paul Weller is still moving forward, and for that, he can be commended.
Singleton Park, Swansea, Sun 31 July
words LYNDA NASH photos NADINE BALLANTYNE
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