What a backdrop for Paul Weller concert at Cardiff Castles with its walls and turrets surrounding the green grass, and stage as the sun beat down on the rapidly filling arena early evening on a summer’s evening just doesn’t get better than this. It was nearly four hours until Mr Weller; the Modfather was due to set his feet on the stage but the excitement was rising as the audience drank Pimms, had cooling ice-cream and the array of beverages were being enjoyed as a festival atmosphere slowly began to build. The crowds listened to the backing music with DJ’s from Nation FM keeping us informed. With an atmosphere like this you wonder why the venue hasn’t been used since Stereophonics played the Castle in 2009.
Kicking off the live music tonight was a young Indie band from Newport; The Hearts, who we excited to be setting foot on a stage in this hot-house of expectation, they delivered a set of energetic self-penned numbers including Lips and Never Mine To Hope. The short set only built the excitement as the clock hands moved ever closer to when the former front-man of two iconic bands of the 80’s Jam and Style Council would stand before the crowd bathed in light as the all-conquering knight of guitar and vocals, they wanted to hear the songs they loved as the flags signed by the Modfather were draped over the barrier at the front of the stage. The excitement was not contained within fortress Weller tonight as the fans were in the pubs, sitting on the grass outside the castle and admiring the Vespers all adorned in chrome and finery that sat as a guard of honour for the man himself.
Next up to keep us all entertained was an alt-Folk group The Rails, fronted by Kami Thompson, the daughter of folk legends Linda and Richard and her husband James Walbourne who is a fine guitarist as you would expect from someone who has played with The Pogues and Ray Davies. Into the mix tonight we have drummer, mandolin, fiddle and bass creating a sound that resonated off the hot ground and round the castle walls. The music was a perfect foil to the sound we were waiting for full of a rootsy sound with echo’s of English and Irish Folk and the percussive beat of an African sound mixed in. As they showcased their latest album Fair Warning with tracks that included Borstal a stand out live sound along with Send Her To Holloway and Fair Warning. As the notes died away from a fantastic set from a band that certainly can play the music live in a big stage where the audience collectively had only one thing on their minds when is Paul Weller going to strike the first note.
As the sun sank behind the ruin façade of the castle, the air of expectancy reached a crescendo as the Modfather entered the stage, the atmosphere was as electric as a summer storm. Paul Weller and his band definitely kicked up a storm as he hit the ground running with his 1993 hit Sunflower, he cut an iconic figure on stage with his trademark haircut, replicated by many standing as listening in pure rapture. The whole evening was a succession of hits and classics, this is what the capacity 8,000 strong crowd wanted to hear many had travelled from across U.K. and Europe to be part of the atmosphere tonight. The set was a reflection of the career of Mr Weller who played with authenticity true to his style and was determined that the crowd got what they wanted as he played Friday Street and Foot Of The Mountain, the evening was speeding by too fast everyone wanted to slow down the clock so he would keep on playing and entertaining. Early on in the set were two numbers from Wake Up The Nation his 25th studio album and 10th Solo album; Wake Up The Nation & Fast Car/ Slow Traffic and The Attic from his later album Sonic Kicks. These tracks were fantastic edgy lyrics from a person who has seen so much change in society. The biggest cheers, were when the band broke into the tracks from The Jam’s back catalogue; though many Style Council fans in the crowd were delighted with My Ever Changing Moods tonight it was a soulful version that suited the occasion perfectly. The guitars were changed but the quality of the music stayed the same as one Jam classic after another flowed from the plectrum, through the strings and across the castle grounds into the night air and the lengthening of the shadows of time. We all loved to hear many of our favourites including the 1980 hit Start, 7&3, Peacock Suit, Changingman and every crowd especially in Wales loves the opportunity to sing along with their idol and they did with You Do Something to Me. Too soon it was time for the encore and filling the arena A Town Called Malice the notes died away and the memories of The Jam floated on the cooling night air, Mr Weller came to Cardiff and we saw all his musical sides and there is no doubt on this warm summers night he came, played and conquered the musical hearts of everyone at Cardiff castle, this is a gig that attendees will talk about for many years to come as they heard a mix of British music blending The Beatles, Dr Feelgood, Small Faces and The Who along with the influences of soul music into what can only be described as ‘The Weller’ sound.