Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Paul Weller - All Live Recordings

Live albums from Paul Weller reviewed so far are:-

Live Wood (1994)
Live In Victoria Park (1998)
Live At The Royal Albert Hall (2000)
Catch-Flame (2006)
Find The The Torch, Burn The Plans (2010)
and Other Aspects: Live At The Royal Festival Hall (2019)

Scroll down to read the reviews chronologically.

LIVE WOOD (1994)

1. Bull Rush/Magic Bus
2. This Is No Time
3. All The Pictures On The Wall
4. Remember How We Started
5. Above The Clouds
6. Wild Wood
7. Shadow Of The Sun
8. Can You Heal Us (Holy Man)
9. 5th Season
10. Into Tomorrow
11. Foot Of The Mountain
12. Sunflower
13. Has My Fire Really Gone Out?

Paul Weller's first live album and possibly his finest. It has a superb bassy, full, powerful sound. It features material from his first two solo albums.The songs from the debut album are just sumptuously beautiful at times - the romantic Remember How We Started, the soulful Above The Clouds and the rocking opener Bull-Rush, which mutates briefly into The Who's Magic Bus.

This Is No Time has some great drum/keyboard rhythm and features first some Spanish guitar then a storming electric guitar solo at the end. Weller's original band are tight as a gnat's chuff on this album. Although it is taken from a few different shows on the same tour, it plays like a full set list.

All The Pictures On The Wall is powerful in that early seventies Traffic-influenced way, and, of course, Wild Wood is just wonderful and atmospheric. The extended workout of Shadow Of The Sun is awesome. Weller attacks each song with a real unbridled enthusiasm, particularly this one. Sunflower has a great drum sound and some searing guitar too. There is a real energy to this album.



1. Into Tomorrow
2. Peacock Suit
3. Friday Street
4. Mermaids
5. Out Of The Sinking
6. Heavy Soul
7. Wild Wood
8. Up In Suze's Room
9. Can You Heal Us (Holy Man)
10. The Changingman
11. Porcelain Gods
12. Sunflower
13. Broken Stones

Released as Disc Two on the Deluxe Edition of the Modern Classics compilation, this is a raw, rocking, guitar-driven live performance, featuring the heavier vibe of the Heavy Soul album. This intense guitar/drums attack is even given to tracks from the first album, like Into Tomorrow, which actually sounds now as if it should have been on the Heavy Soul album. Heavy Soul itself, the track, is excellent. Really strongly played. Only a few live cuts exist of the track, so its inclusion is most welcome. Can You Heal Us Holy Man is punchy and strident, with a great guitar solo. Broken Stones and Wild Wood are played with a thumping power and The Changing Man just bristles with vitality. The sound quality is also outstanding too, throughout.

Paul Weller approaches every live show he does with an impressive intensity, so you can't go wrong with any of his live recordings, to be honest.



1. Peacock Suit
2. Friday Street
3. He's The Keeper
4. Back In the Fire
5. Dust & Rocks
6. Out Of The Sinking
7. Heavy Soul
8. Time & Temperance
9. Frightened
10. You Do Something To Me
11. The Changing Man
12. Porcelain Gods
13. Ain't No Drinking After You're Dead
14. As You Lean Into The Light
15. Broken Stones
16. Picking Up Sticks
17. Love-Less
18. Woodcutter's Son

Some of this live album features a backing string orchestra, which was somewhat unusual. It suits the material, however, and provide a different tone to the sound. The sound quality is excellent too - very full and warm. Tracks like Love-Less are considerably enhanced by a string backing and Weller's vocal delivery is powerful too. The whole thing is quite impressive.

There are quite a few tracks from the laid-back Heliocentric album that come across well, like Picking Up Sticks and the rhythmic, catchy Theres No Drinking After You're Dead. Similarly, the rarity that is Dust And Rocks. The intense He's The Keeper sounds good, and is great to hear too. These songs are not found on any other live album, so this is a treat. The rocking Porcelain Gods from Stanley Road is augmented by strings too, which is certainly different. Even Heavy Soul has some sonorous cello "riffs" in the background. This is a Weller live album with a twist.



1. The Weaver
2. Out of The Sinking
3. Blink And You'll Miss It
4. Paper Smile
5. Peacock Suit
6. From the Floorboards Up
7. The Changingman
8. Savages
9. Going Places
10. Up In Suze's Room
11. Porcelain Gods/Walk On Gilded Splinters
12. In The Crowd
13. Come On Let's Go
14. Foot Of The Mountain
15. You Do Something To Me
16. Wishing On A Star
17. Wild Wood
18. The Pebble And The Boy
19. That's Entertainment
20. Broken Stones
21. Long Hot Summer
22. Shout To The Top
23. A Town Called Malice 

An excellent, rousing live album with great, bassy sound quality,  covering many years of Paul Weller's career, concentrating around the "As Is Now" album. Check out Come On Let's Go for live vigour and verve. There is a great "live" gig atmosphere on the album too. Indeed it is one entire gig from London's Alexandra PalaceWild Wood is played quite straight on here, but is enhanced by a beautiful violin. Tracks like Peacock SuitThe Changing Man and The Weaver burn with the flame of the title. I can never get enough of Broken Stones, either. There is a great crowd reaction during the bass, drum and organ interplay at the end. Weller certainly is on fire on this recording, but then he always is. He never gives a poor show. He feels it is his duty to give his audience his best. You have to admire him for the fact that, even if he is in a bad mood, it usually spurs him to an even better performance.

The Jam's In The Crowd gets an airing too, complete with a Steve White drum solo! From The Floorboards Up just rocks with a manic, riffy intensity. You also get The Style Council's Long Hot Summer and Shout To The Top, which are certainly interesting to hear.



1. Andromeda
2. From The Floorboards Up
3. 7 & 3 Is The Striker's Name
4. Into Tomorrow
5. Aim High
6. Moonshine
7. Echoes Round The Sun
8. Up The Dosage
9. Trees
10. Wild Wood
11. The Eton Rifles
12. That's Entertainment
13. Fast Car/Slow Traffic
14. Start!
15. Sea Spray
16. Strange Town
17. Broken Stones
18. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
19. No Tears To Cry

This live album is notable because it includes material (seven songs) from 2010's Wake Up The Nation album and, without exception, the tracks sound a million times better than they do on what is, in my opinion, an incredibly badly-produced album. Here, a grating, sonically irritating track like Andromeda sounds like something approaching a decent track, and 7 & 3 Is The Striker's Name has that typical Weller live power - full and bassy, loaded with attack. Great versions of old standards Into Tomorrow from the debut solo album and the rousing, crowd pleasing, riffy From The Floorboards Up are interspersed with the new tracks. Weller's band are on top form too. Potent, vibrant and confident.

Aim High is superbly funky, full of rumbling bass, weird keyboard swoops and Weller's detached, far away-sounding voice. It is twice the song it is on the original album - so much fuller in sound. Moonshine just bristles with verve and vitality. Its general sound is quite intense but here it really rocks and doesn't sound nearly as tinny as on the studio album. It is also a bit longer than on the studio album, giving it more personality as a song. The grungy Echoes Round The Sun from 22 Dreams is punchy, with a thumping bass, but Weller's voice gets lost somewhere along the way, for some reason. The effervescent Up The Dosage is delivered with considerable attack, once again improving upon the studio version. Trees has never been a favourite of mine (although I admire the sentiments behind the song). It still sounds a mess to me.

Wild Wood is given a far more obvious, pounding drum beat and some electric violin, giving it a really appealing makeover. It even has a reggae bit in the middle. I love this version of the song. Kelly Jones from The Stereophonics joins Weller for a barnstorming Eton RiflesThat's Entertainment is given the full band treatment. Fast Car/Slow Traffic is a frantic end to the collection.

At the end of the album, you get five tracks from sessions at the BBC Radio 2 Theatre, all of which are excellent in performance and sound quality.



1. One Bright Star
2. Glide
3. The Soul Searchers
4. Boy About Town
5. Have You Ever Had It Blue
6. What Would He Say?
7. Wild Wood
8. Country
9. Aspects
10. Strange Museum
11. Amongst Butterflies
12. Old Castles
13. Gravity
14. Where'er Ye Go
15. A Man Of Great Promise
16. Mayfly
17. Private Hell
18. Tales From The Riverbank
19. Movin' On
20. Long Long Road
21. Hopper
22. White Horses
23. Books
24. You Do Something To Me
25. May Love Travel With You 

If I am brutally honest, I have to admit that I was not expecting an awful lot from this Paul Weller Live album when I read the promotional blurb about it - Weller sitting on a stool at The Royal Festival Hall back by a full orchestra. Hmmm. While I like his acoustic, bucolic numbers and enjoyed his latest album in that style - True Meanings, I wasn't sure I wanted to hear him do twenty-five numbers from his back catalogue in the same fashion, (admittedly, eleven of the songs are from the latest album). I also worried that the orchestra may "overblow" things a bit - giving songs big sweeping string backings when they don't need it.

I have to say that I am most pleasantly surprised by the album. It is a revelation and works perfectly. Weller and his many musicians have got this just right. It is an absolutely superb live album. It is obviously different to his many other live performances but it is up there with his best. Firstly, the sound quality and musicianship is breathtakingly good. The bass and drums are excellent and the orchestra contributes all sorts of different instrumental interjections, not just strings, augmenting the songs in fine style. Secondly, Weller's voice is most impressive, showing considerable versatility and musicality.
The first song, One Bright Star, from 22 Dreams sets the tone for the album, employing an adventurous tango-style beat, some excellent instrumentation and a fine brass solo at the end. Glide and The Soul Searchers from the latest album are delivered beautifully, possibly even better than on their original studio versions. Glide is sung in a less shaky voice than on the original. There is a lovely subtle bass from Andy Lewis on both. Then it is time for a Jam cover - the sixties, mod-ish romp of Boy About Town from 1980's Sound Affects is given a jazzy big band-ish arrangement. Surely this won't work. But it does, for me anyway, giving the song a completely new lease of life. This jazzy style would suit some of The Style Council material, I am thinking to myself, and what is up next? The gorgeous Have You Ever It Blue, which is just sumptuous, full of the rhythmic swing of the original. Great stuff.

What Would He Say? from the latest album has a Bacharach horn solo and a delicious laid-back rhythm. Weller's vocal is more than acceptable too. The audience seem to be eating this up. Weller's fans would appear to accept what he does with steadfast loyalty. Whether they truly like it is open to question, but I certainly do. It casts new light on old numbers and gives us the new numbers in a way that enhances them from their studio versions, in my opinion.

Wild Wood, that old bucolic favourite from 1994 has Weller joined by another male vocalist and features some nice flute. and subtle jazzy guitar. The enticing summery, sleepy feeling of the original is not lost. Country from the Wild Wood album is resonant and atmospheric. The contemporary Aspects continues in the same gentle, acoustic/strings fashion. It really is performed beautifully. I cannot stress that enough, and probably have done already, but this is top quality. In so many ways this is Weller reaching a real peak in his artistic career. Who would have thought it back in those sweaty, raucous Jam gigs in 1977? I was there and I certainly wouldn't.

This brief, acoustic part of the set comes to an end, as some funky, shuffling drums introduce Strange Museum from his debut solo album. Brass, piano and sixties-style organ add even more to it and it is another track that sounds even more impressive in its new clothes. Weller's vocal is deliciously soulful too. The punchy horns introduce Amongst Butterflies from the same album. I always liked this one and it is given a more brassy makeover here. Then it is back to the beguiling, smoky jazz feel of Old Castles and the acoustic, tender tones of Gravity. Lyrically similar is Where'er Ye Go from 22 Dreams. The two songs complement each other, sort of like two parts of the same song. The latter features some nice violin backing.

The Style Council return once more in the catchy but sad groove of A Man Of Great Promise. It is slowed down in pace ever so slightly from its original. Beautifully nostalgic. Mayfly, from the current album, has a solid, soulful beat to it and slight hints of Broken Stones from Stanley Road in its organ backing. The audience start clapping along. Odd to imagine a Weller crowd, sitting in their Festival Hall seats, politely clapping their hands in tune. They will have been pleased with the next one - the acerbic Private Hell from The Jam's Setting Sons is given a haunting, bassy slow pace overhaul. Again, you wouldn't think that this would work, but once again it does, very well. It becomes a brooding, mysterious and almost spooky number. Some Stax-y horns punch in at the end too. The last Jam song of the night is Tales From The Riverbank and it is given an intoxicating performance. It always was a good song and the full band/orchestra treatment suits it perfectly.  Mightily impressive.

Now it is the beginning of the final home straight. The infectious rhythms of Movin' On, the soul of Long Long Road and the brassy attack of Hopper. On the latter, Weller whoops, almost Van Morrison-style. As is often the way with Weller live shows, though, after a lively song, he then does a very subdued one, and he does so here with the quiet, thoughtful White Horses. It does end on a full orchestra, plus drums finale, however. A rousing, stately way to end the main part of this uplifting set.  Encores come with the slightly Eastern and Celtic-influenced and folky Books, then 1995's loved-up classic You Do Something To Me and finally, the elegiac, Van Morrison-esque May Love Travel With You.

I am sorry to have blathered on for paragraphs, track by track, causing you to lose your will to live. If you have skipped that, just read this bit - I have all Paul Weller's live recordings and, in many ways, this presents a very strong case to be his finest. It is the product of an artist who has got where he has always wanted to go. Not that Weller will see it that way, as he always strives for further perfection. No need. He has achieved it.