Artists who can boast a 40-year career in the notoriously fickle music industry are few and far between.
But then Paul Weller’s not your average artist.
Four decades after he was catapulted onto people’s record players with new wave icons The Jam, The Modfather still manages to attract a disciple-like following, one which can still see him draw thousands at arena venues, without a huge marketing campaign.
It’s easy to spot a worshipper from the church of Weller, all tailored trousers and side boards.
Never shy of reinventing his sound, he is indeed a changing man, and it’s a sound that’s always been firmly rooted in British culture. No surprise, therefore, that he’s proved almost as influential on wardrobes as he has on radio waves.
Standing on stage at the Arena he still looked every inch a star with his mane of silver curtains and perfectly-fitting grandad shirt. The shirt style was the only thing old about Weller, however.
The tour comes on the back of his latest, and 13th, studio album, last year’s A Kind Revolution. It would be easy for a singer songwriter of his stature to rely on nostalgia for ticket sales, but he’s an artist who lives in the present with a thirst for change, as such our ears were filled with a range of sounds, from the jaunty rhythms of The Jam to the more recent almost lullaby-like Gravity.
Its a shift in sound from his Britpop days - you’d expect nothing less from him - but latest album tracks such as Woo Se Mama and its rousing RnB tones blended seamlessly in his set list which plucked its way through the genres.
Weller’s a man of few words when it comes to audience interaction, he lets the music speak for itself, but he knows how to captivate a crowd with his ever-changing tempo, from the punky Eton Rifles of The Jam days to the soulful pop of Shout to the Top from the slick The Style Council era and on to the hauntingly-beautiful Britpop anthem You Do Something To Me and the wistful blues of Wild Wood.
I hadn’t expected him to do quite so much of his old material, such as the classic lament of English Rose, but he certainly gave his devotees their money’s worth with a two hours and 45 minute set of his kaleidoscopic sound.
The crowd soaked it all up and it was refreshing to be at a gig where the audience weren’t watching it through a phone: they were appreciating the music too much to be distracted by technology.
Particular highlights were, of course, That’s Entertainment which had the bulk of the mature crowd feeling they were 20 again and the infectiously upbeat Town Called Malice for his final number.
He was backed by a five-piece band, including long-term guitarist Steve Cradock of Ocean Colour Scene fame, who put in a flawless, tight performance with a level of musicianship way above your average arena gig. Now, that’s entertainment.