Paul Weller and The Charlatans, Lytham Festival – A Review


The Lytham Festival – relatively new amongst classic British music gatherings – boasted it’s finest ever line up this year with major names like Diana Ross, Lionel Ritchie, Duran Duran and The Strokes taking to the stage. It was the Modfather, Paul Weller, however, that closed the two week long event with support from Madchester heroes, the Charlatans, and as usual the crowds came flocking for two classic British acts.

The Charlatans have stood the test of time, and time seems to have had no impact on their impossibly youthful frontman Tim Burgess, who at 55 looks thirty years his own junior. Stalwarts of indie-pop, The Charlatans laid on a hits packed set that included Weirdo, Can’t Get Out of Bed, The Only One I Know, and a rousing version of North Country Boy. With Burgess in fine voice and the band simmering, Blackened Blue Eyes rocked the joint and a searing rendition of Sproston Green closed an enthralling fifty-minute set. Only Tim’s obsession with Instagram, that saw him repeatedly playing with his phone during guitar and keyboard solos, could have been deemed irritating – though it stole nothing from the music.

The entrance of one of Britain’s finest ever songwriters, Paul Weller, was typically understated, with the king of cool striding out, silver haired and tanned, and looking happier than ever. With a 45-year career spanning three reinventions – youth rockers The Jam, suave jazz-poppers The Style Council, and a masterful singer-songwriter solo career – Weller has a back catalogue like few others to choose from, though he didn’t quite get it all right for a festival crowd in Lytham.

One of the great things about Weller is his refusal to conform and his objection to getting stuck in a genre. He’s one of the few artists over time, like Bowie did, who has stayed out on the edge and continued to make records that compete with hip artists of the time. He’s also notorious for stacking his live sets in recent years with more and more new and obscure music that he loves to play – which, in some ways is admirable, but in others frustrating for a crowd eager to appreciate the hits that they love.

A relatively slow start was reflected in the placidity of the audience – Weller persisting with a chunk of new material before kickstarting the party with The Style Council’s My Ever-Changing Moods and Head Start For Happiness. The crowd was an eclectic mix of every generation, and the injection of old classics proved feverish amongst the masses. Early solo rarities in Weller’s live shows, like the title track of epic album Stanley Road, and Wild Wood’s hidden gem, Hung Up, evidently turned more than just heads, and as Weller settled into his groove he delivered a power-shower of classic records – the jazzy Above The Clouds, breezy Into Tomorrow, limb-affecting Style Council banger Shout To The Top, Jam thumper Start, and angst ridden solo track from 1997’s Heavy Soul – Peacock Suit.

Interspersed were some gems – It’s a Very Deep Sea, one of Weller’s very best ballads of his career, inspired an impromptu Style Council reunion during lockdown. ​​Woo Se Mamma, Weller’s soulful bopper off 2017’s album A Kind Revolution, also went down a storm, and as the sun set over a glittering Lytham coastline, Weller delivered the kind of encore you can only dream about as a lifelong fan. “I never knew about this place,” he admitted humbly, clearly enchanted by the place, “but that’s on me,” he smiled, promising another half an hour of music. 

Then entailed Broken Stones – one of Weller’s deep rooted laments from Stanley Road, the Jam farewell anthem That’s Entertainment, and the urban folk tune that defined Weller’s 90’s period, Wild Wood. The crowd, by this stage, were in their element – as was I, a fan of nearly thirty years with an immense love for Weller’s c;lassic output. You Do Something To Me had lovers curled into one another’s arms, The Changing Man saw those arms break free – and then the Modfather stepped forth to announce that the last tune “is the new national anthem” – Town Called Malice.

So, the voice is there, the stage presence is better than ever, Weller looks remarkably youthful and the music is still spilling out. Here’s to many more years of classic mod revival!

Image Credits: Lytham Festival

Related Blog Posts