Thoughts on Paul Weller’s radio session

Between 8:00 and 9:30 this morning (Friday 14th), Paul Weller celebrated the release of his fourteenth solo studio album True Meanings by inviting Chris Evans to his Black Barn studio, where the album was recorded, to play a session and talk about the record. In front of a number of special guests, including Ray Winstone, Weller played a live session, with tracks interspersed in the show’s content and brief chats with Weller and some of his band.

Weller and his regular five-piece live band played five songs live on air, mostly acoustic. Two were from True Meanings, two were old hits (one solo, one Style Council) and he finished with a cover of The Kinks’ Days.

Here’s the setlist:

Movin’ On

A full-band performance of the recent single that’s been getting a lot of attention for True Meanings. The instrumentation was good, with some great piano and electric guitar which comes in later on. It doesn’t replace the orchestra on the recorded version (and hopefully live at the Festival Hall in a month’s time) but considering the logistics and the fact that will be a rare live occurrence, this new arrangement is very good, and an inventive way to go about the song which will hopefully become a mainstay of Weller’s sets. The drums seem excessive in the first verse, you wonder what direction the song is taking, but once it gets into the instrumental section before the second verse they start to come into their own and really make sense as the song ramps up. Weller’s vocals were flawless, as they were throughout the session, it’s true: he’s never sounded better. With nice harmony and backing vocals from the band, this performance won’t have done the album’s promotion any harm at all.

Wild Wood

An acoustic staple for Weller, this is to acoustic appearances what The Changingman is to electric ones. It’s always done slightly differently, and here there are some delicious Hammond additions and nice bursts of electric guitar, increasing in intensity as the song goes on from Steve Cradock, like when it’s played on tour. An acoustic classic for the masses, well delivered vocally again in a competent performance. It might not have been as weird at the wonderfully freaky 2010 Royal Albert Hall performance, the benchmark for Wild Wood quirkiness, but that’s good for this Friday morning radio slot with a varied listenership. Steve Pilgrim’s vocals, as usual (see last year’s performance for Jools Holland) were superb both on his verse and in harmony. Also a nice understated rhythm section.

My Ever Changing Moods

Another audience pleaser and another versatile song, this time in an interesting acoustic-led arrangement which loses none of the original’s groove. It might be the True Meanings-geared balance, but Weller’s acoustic guitar definitely comes out more here than it has done recently on tour. You always get interesting arrangements on these sessions. There’s a nice piano-sounding keys line which replaces the usual live Hammond. Chris Evans was right when he described it as “stunning”. Good vocals and band harmonies like the rest.

Gravity

With nice guitar lines and vocal delivery, this is a delicate tune around which the whole album was apparently written. In its full live form (as opposed to the simple two-acoustic format from the Soho Radio session) it has a nice, almost 22 Dreams-esque vibe, especially in the instrumental sections, thanks to nice sound effects from Ben Gordelier and Tom van Heel. It’s a good thing for Gravity that the whole band are being used to promote True Meanings rather than just, say, Weller and Pilgrim or Weller and Cradock. It might not be as dramatic, urgent or nuanced as some others on the record, but it’s growing on me already.

Days (The Kinks cover)

This has sprightly guitars from Weller and Cradock, and vocals (especially Weller’s lead line, also good band backing vocals later). It’s nice to get something different, and Weller seemed really up for this. I hope it gets a release like another classic Radio 2 session cover from a year or so ago, Eddie Floyd’s I’ve Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do). The song had dipping and soaring vocals, nice keys from van Heel, plus some cool drums which really helped it along.

All in all, a very good session, it will help the album no end and showed a singer, songwriter and band at the peak of their powers. An acoustic album packed with stellar contributors does not mean a dulling down of inventiveness, intensity or emotion. Long live Weller!

Buy True Meanings here.

Featured image: The band at Genting Arena, Birmingham, 24/08/2018.

Published by

Tony Allen

20-year-old student from Norwich.

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