The following review of the Victoria Park (8th August 1998) concert appeared in the
New Musical Express

"WELL-UH! WELL-UH! WELL-UH!" IT'S mid-evening on the edge of East-Ender grazing country and the parklife snoozing in the arms of a sudden short hot summer is woken by bloke-bonding chants. The supporting slumber-skank merchant Finley Quaye has put the local Rottweilers in a coma, but Weller storms out looking resolute, alert and tufty of hair and, briefly, the soul-in-the-sunshine vibrations implied by a ticket saying 'British Summer Time: Weller In The Park' are established.

Between corporately-sponsored giant speaker stacks, the top journeyman band churn out the craggy riffs of 'Sunflower' while Weller juts his chin and wrings sincerity from his Rickenbacker. 'Sunflower' shimmers nicely as a rewritten 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamond Geezers' and the beanie-hatted blokes in the crowd bathe in an emotional frisson as warm and mildly intoxicating as the beer, which you have to buy on a ticket system.

The circumstances of the mini-test are not conducive to wild abandon. Sound levels are muted and sunstroke is endemic, but yonder (Look! Over there!) on the giant screens, Weller still exudes shaving advert levels of grit. With his healthy tan and billowing shirt, the dad of trad is a model of Soul Man Conviction, toiling away at the post-style R&B like an organic farmer at harvest toil time. There are no gimmicks, merely sweat and historically approved heart. "I'm a piece of the earth", he sings in the toe-tapping 'Science', burying himself deeper into the solid songwriting and the mud-caked musicianship.

As they steam into 'Heavy Soul' the band summon up the spectre of Nell Young's elongated guitar duelling. In front of a mod spiral backdrop Weller 'trades licks' with a six-string colleague sporting the kind of droopy moustache last seen hanging from the upper lip of one of The Doobie Brothers. They bring it up. They bring it down. They take it for a very long and dusty walk. Then they actually sit down for strumathons of 'As You Lean Into The Light' and 'Wild Wood', the latter taking on a distinctly Levellers hue in the open air.

With the sun nodding off over the horizon, the bars shut and the couples woozily embracing, a sing-along 'Woodcutter's Son' and an edgy 'Changing Man' punctuate a dignified but still muffled closing section. Perhaps the sun and the setting rule out any chance of Weller doing something extraordinary. It even seems quite routine when Noel Gallagher strolls out to sing, play and act the matey foil to earnest Paul on the encore of 'Walk On Gilded Splinters'.

Gallagher looks preposterously relaxed and almost laughs himself offstage during the heavy-delic mantra of '...Gilded'. But a noodle from Noel and an admittedly touching final encore of 'Broken Stones', where the spiritual vibe of a Van Morrison show is momentarily ignited, do not constitute an event. This was Mellow Weller, ploughing his familiar furrow, and easing his crowd through middle years that he probably knows too much about.

Roger Morion