In the wake of the successful Wild Wood, Paul Weller’s bucolic-rock masterpiece from 1993, came Live Wood the following year, an album which documented his 1993/1994 world tour, a time when Weller was experiencing a creative renaissance few fans and critics had expected following the demise of The Style Council. The tracks themselves were culled from performances at The Royal Albert Hall, London, Wolverhampton Civic Hall, Amsterdam’s Paradiso, and La Luna, in Amsterdam. What the listener gets is the majority of Wild Wood itself, along with several cuts from his excellent first solo album. Weller had assembled around him a small but top notch band: Steve White (drums), Helen Turner (piano, organ, mellotron), and Steve Craddock (guitar), all of whom do a brilliant job in fleshing out these tunes in a way which makes this somewhat obscure record worth owning.
Things kick off with a blistering “Bull Rush”, before segueing into an equally enthralling “Magic Bus”, a shameless nod to Weller’s teenage heroes The Who. “This Is No Time”, originally released on The Weaver EP, is given a relaxed rendering, before Ocean Colour Scene’s Craddock lets it rip with a searing guitar solo during the second half. “All The Pictures On The Wall,” “Wild Wood,” and “Shadow Of The Sun,” from Wild Wood, are performed with the sort of energy and passion only a great artist can deliver, especially “Shadow Of The Sun,” extended here to over ten minutes, throughout which Weller unleashes his alter ego in the form of Steve Marriot, while the group pretend it’s 1970, playing a long instrumental section that simply oozes psychedelic-rock at its classic best.
“Remember How We Started/Dominoes” and “Above The Clouds,” both from Weller’s solo debut, are as equally compelling, as is “(Can You Heal Us) Holy Man?,” where upon the song’s conclusion Weller breaks out into a muscular cover of Edwin Star’s “War”.
The Sixties rock references continue on a sonically charged “5th Season”, an energetic “Into Tomorrow”, and a thrilling “Sunflower.” Only does the pace ease (just a tad) with the thoughtful “Foot Of The Mountain.” Craddock certainly earns his paycheck on this one, letting out a series of serious licks, managing to transform what is a relatively humdrum ditty into something actually entertaining and engaging. The self-confessional “Has My Fire Really Gone Out?” appropriately concludes the LP, and it’s a scorcher, as is the majority of Live Wood.
Weller would go on to write and record more quality music over the next few years (and of course still does to this day), but what this album documents is a man revelling in his new found rebirth as an artist – strong and confident in his expression. Regardless of what critics were saying a couple years previous, Weller’s fire never really went out, it just needed a lot of alcohol and nicotine to stir the flames, and of course a little inspiration.