You can hear Paul weller and his gang a good few minutes before seeing them. But then again, in an otherwise empty Wimbledon industrial area in mid-November, there isn’t much competition noise. Itinerary on a text message – for now only Weller texting is more prolific than his music output – won’t be necessary. “The oblique of the world,” grates a voice that few British ears could mistake. “It’s Saturn’s turn / Clean cut / The pattern is good”. If there are better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than a (almost) private glimpse of Weller first gigs for over two years, then Uncut can’t recall them right now. Dressed in a brown merino sweater, blue jeans and brown loafers, Weller and his gang are one-third of the way from an ensemble whose oldest song, “It’s entertainment”, entered the UK ranking the same week as Talking heads’ “Once in a lifetime” and “Shaddap You Face” by Joe Dolce.
A few minutes after his famous staccato intro, a flammable interpretation of “Scream at the top” is blown into the blue by a stellar saxophone solo from Jacko peake. In 1993, it was Peake wood ornamentation on the Wild forest album that highlighted comparisons between the Weller revival and folk-soul legends such as Terry callier and Jon lucien. Indeed, these are the names that most easily come to mind when Weller takes his band to the contemplative terrain of his recent albums: 2018’s True meanings, 2020s At sunset and this year’s acclaimed lockdown jobs Big pop tome 1. As Weller sings “Aspects” – a song from the first of these records – your gaze is somehow alerted to the sight of Weller former veteran tour director Kenny Wheeler. Now the only survivor of the Jam year, Roller is completely transported by the acoustic reverie played by the singer who was still a teenager when he started working for him. The spell is broken for all by the words that resonate with Weller mouth on the song’s concluding chord.
“HAUT PETE!” He yells at me from 50 feet away. “HOW ARE YOU ?! THERE ARE SANDWICHES IN THIS BEDROOM!”
Moments later it’s ruled that now is the perfect time for a break, which is just as good. Essays like this are as much to the benefit of Weller’s wardrobe as they do of his musical chops, and the singer has decided the shoes won’t be unanimous. As he wanders through the packing boxes that house his wardrobe, he chooses a pair of brand new Converse sneakers and jumps up and down several times to assess their “stretch.” If any of his Jam and Style advice the wires were there, it would fit comfortably too. Since his mid-forties, he’s been training regularly with his personal trainer Shane – in the gym at first, but since the lockdown it’s been strictly Zoom business, which suits this client perfectly. “None of that fucking boom bang-a-bang music is happening in the background,” he explains, before pitching a new business idea to anyone in particular. “Wouldn’t it be great if you had a gym where you had decent music to work out on?” I mean, that doesn’t have to be crap, does it? It could be, like, Little Richard! Stick to her greatest hits and you’re sorted! Or The undisputed truth. A little of Norman Whitfield. Or Dell. Do you know “Wear it on our face”? You can either do 500 crunches on this one or die with pleasure trying. “