By John Curley
At age 55, Paul Weller remains one of the most riveting performers in rock music. While his music is sometimes derided as “Dad Rock” by a few snide British music journalists, Weller has consistently put out quality music for over three decades and has reinvented himself many times since he first emerged as the main songwriter with The Jam in 1977. He still performs with the blazing intensity that many of his contemporaries of the British punk/New Wave invasion of the late 1970s left behind years ago. And that ferocity was evident at Weller’s terrific show at New York City’s Webster Hall on Friday, July 26th.
Weller is not touring behind a new album on this current trek (his last new release was 2012’s Sonik Kicks), so that freed him up to cast his current show as a look through his extensive catalog as solo artist as well as songs from his time as a member of The Jam and The Style Council. And given the reactions from the raucous crowd throughout the show, that seemed to be a good decision on Weller’s part.
Opening the show with the powerful triple threat of “Sunflower,” “Wake Up The Nation,” and “From The Floorboards Up,” Weller had the crowd roaring from the start. He did a fantastic version of The Style Council’s “My Ever Changing Moods,” which he had not performed on recent stops in New York City. And Weller’s ability to shift from a relaxed song such as “Above The Clouds” to the incendiary “Peacock Suit” just a few selections later in the set is quite impressive.
Near the end of the main set, Weller performed The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” and “Start!” back to back, a choice which was met by the crowd with a full-throated roar of approval. The performance of “That’s Entertainment” was particularly impressive. One of the most popular songs in The Jam’s catalog, “That’s Entertainment” has been performed numerous times in Weller’s solo shows throughout the years, yet Weller and his very talented band made it sound fresh and new. But the highlight of the show was still to come.
The blistering performance of “Whirlpool’s End” was jaw dropping. Despite Weller now being in his mid 50s, he still seemed very much the angry young man when he played “Whirlpool’s End.” Any doubt that Weller is still one of the most vital performers around could be put to rest with the performance of that song on Friday night. After that, the song that closed the main set, an excellent version of “The Changingman,” seemed almost to be an afterthought.
After a brief break, Weller and company returned to the stage for the encore. Introducing the encore’s first tune as “an old English folk song,” Weller and crew performed a terrific “Wild Wood,” which is one of his most popular songs as a solo artist. And a bouncy version of one of The Jam’s biggest hits, “Town Called Malice,” closed the show and sent the crowd home happy.
Weller and his band were on stage for 95 minutes. The main set contained 20 songs and was followed by a three-song encore. In addition to playing electric and acoustic guitar, Weller played keyboards for the performances of “Dragonfly” and “Be Happy Children.” Weller’s current touring band features longtime sideman Steve Cradock (who is also a member of the UK band Ocean Colour Scene) on electric and acoustic guitar, Andy Lewis on bass, Steve Pilgrim on drums, Andy Crofts on keyboards, and Ben Gordelier on percussion.
The evening kicked off with an excellent solo acoustic performance by the singer-songwriter Matthew Ryan. Midway through Ryan’s set, he noticed that an audience member who was standing by the barrier in front of the stage was looking quite unwell. Ryan stopped his performance (in the middle of a song) to request help for the guy from the Webster Hall staff. After a brief delay, a few members of the Webster Hall crew arrived near the stage to help the guy and move him away from the crowded area in front of center stage. Such an incident might have thrown a lesser performer, but Ryan just shrugged and picked up the song where he had left off. It was pretty impressive and drew a nice round of applause from the crowd.
Paul Weller’s set list was as follows:
Wake Up The Nation
From The Floorboards Up
Fast Car/Slow Traffic
My Ever Changing Moods (song by The Style Council)
Kling I Klang
That Dangerous Age
Above The Clouds
7 & 3 Is The Strikers Name
That’s Entertainment (song by The Jam)
Start! (song by The Jam)
Be Happy Children
Town Called Malice (song by The Jam)