He’s quite short up close, Paul Weller, but you wouldn’t want to spill his pint.
Fit as a fiddle, with weathered face and perma-scowl just beneath the surface, he gives the air of a man who would do you harm, especially if you trod on his swanky black and white shoes.
This seems especially evident during opening salvo of Wake Up The Nation, From The Floorboards Up and Sunflower, but appearances can be deceptive and between growly lyrics he was soon cracking smiles and pouring charm on the sell-out crowd.
‘It’s great to be back,’ he smiled, taking in a venue he holds genuine affection for.
And despite the high-tempo start, it became clear he was in no mood to rabble rouse, even though he drew an early singalong as Sea Spray rolled down from the back rows to the stage.
He’s never been much of a talker and he was quiet between songs again last night, giving brief introductions and pointing out that ‘all songs are old songs’ whether they were written two weeks or twenty years ago.
As ever, there were one or two surprises plucked from his huge repertoire; My Ever Changing Moods was given fresh impetus from his Style Council days and Above the Clouds carried on the laid-back theme to the night’s setlist.
Without a new album to show off, Weller delved into last year’s Sonik Kicks with The Attic and That Dangerous Age putting an extra spring in his step.
It was more than an hour before the first Jam song landed and Start! was greeted with a huge roar, as the bassline shook the Civic walls and 2,000 fortysomethings timetravelled back to days of thicker hair and thinner waists.
So where next? Showcasing Picking Up Sticks (from 2000’s patchy Heliocentric) and slow burner Be Happy Children in the encores, suggests he’s ready to head back down a more soulful approach after two fast-paced albums.
Expect the unexpected, probably. Just like when he donned a multi-coloured cape (‘Don’t ask!’) and launched a bouncy ball over the masses for Town Called Malice as a night that had largely smouldered caught searing flame at the very end.
Typically unpredictable, but brilliant all the same, and after nearly 40 years, Weller’s vast army of devoted fans can’t wait to see what’s next.
Because time is short, life is cool – and it’s up to us to change.
By Keith Harrison