Paul Weller can get away with anything. He can get away with mixing psychedelia, electronica and jazz reggae on his new album, Sonik Kicks, and still go straight to number one. He can get away with calling it Sonik Kicks. He can get away with marrying a 25-year-old at the age of 53, without a big tabloid kerfuffle.
And he can get away, tonight, with arriving on stage in the BBC Radio Theatre in front of a few hundred adoring fans, wearing a v-neck jumper and what I can only describe as slacks. No matter, he looks cool. The silver fox of Britpop. A man for whom the label Dad Rock is routinely rolled out in reviews, then rolled back out of sight again as clearly insulting to a songwriter quite so inventive and open to ideas.
Before he comes out on stage Radio 2 plays an interview recorded earlier with Jo Whiley. “It’s just a constant education really music, innit?” Weller told her, explaining how a recent penchant for electronic music fed into Sonik Kicks. “You’re just constantly finding new things and trying to incorporate things that you like into your work.”
Well HE is, but not all fiftysomething rock legends can say the same. Weller starts the gig with a raw and punky From The Floorboards Up, plucked seemingly at random from 2005’s As Is Now. Then it’s two songs from the new album (Around the Lake and The Attic), Then we get the evening’s first treat, a relaxed, touching version of All I Want To Do (from 22 Dreams), a sweet, Dylanesque love song – if Dylan had had Steve Craddock from Ocean Colour Scene scattering powerchords and twiddly bits everywhere.
He continues in this vein, mixing old and recent, Britpop and ballad, as only an artist with his cavernous back catalogue can. (Along the way, he proudly introduces No Tears To Cry as a Terry Wogan favourite.)
Then at the end, there’s a surprise. After the live broadcast is over and the red light has gone off, the band re-emerges for an unexpected encore. Will he treat us to a Jam classic? Rework something from The Style Council, perhaps? No, it’s a new one, the quirky Syd Barrett tribute When Your Garden’s Overgrown. Let’s hope the engineers were still recording, because it’s absolutely gorgeous.