Paul Weller brought his 40 year catalog of music to Ace of Spades on Friday, and he did not disappoint the packed house eager to see “The Modfather” in his first appearance in Sacramento.
Unlike some artists who have been around this long, this isn’t a nostalgia tour loaded with mostly older songs. Weller has been making music consistently, having released his 25th album earlier this year. At an average of an album every two years, “A Kind Revolution” is his 13th solo album since 1992. Add to that 6 albums with The Jam (‘77 – ‘82), and another 6 with The Style Council (‘83 – ‘89), and Weller has a treasure trove of new and old songs to pick from, and he made full use of his catalog during the energetic set.
First up, though, was Lucy Rose, a folk singer from England who’s been supporting Weller on this leg of the tour. She apologized to the crowd for playing folk music at a rock show, but it turned out to be unnecessary, as the crowd was appreciative and attentive during the relatively short set. While the young singer-songwriter played a stripped down set, just her on acoustic guitar and a bass player standing next to her, her songs were lively and her voice welcoming enough to keep the audience’s attention.
Shortly after the no-nonsense Weller stormed onto the stage and started right in, playing guitar and singing with enthusiasm and energy that makes you forget he’s pushing 60. The man doesn’t stop moving, and has never been one for on-stage banter. It was several songs in before he said a word, as his long-time fans have come to expect.
The current tour in support of “A Kind Revolution” began in the UK and Europe in mid-February before moving to the States on Oct. 1 in New York City. The U.S. leg of the tour ends Oct. 27 in Los Angeles before heading to Japan, Australia, Ireland, then back for a second U.K. leg.
The big difference between the U.S. and U.K. shows is the shows in Weller’s home country are held at larger arena venues, ending at the O2 Arena in London. Despite a continuous string of critically acclaimed solo albums, American radio has largely ignored Paul Weller. You can hear songs from The Jam and The Style Council on alternative radio and 70s/80s channels, but you’d be hard pressed to find any of his extensive solo work. He’s much bigger back home, where each album has reached at least Silver status, with many Gold or Platinum level sales.
The fact that Weller is able to pack House of Blues-sized venues across the U.S. despite a total lack of airplay is a testament to the loyalty of his fans. He has the classic definition of a cult following on this side of the pond. The good news is that fans who make it to a Paul Weller show tend to be familiar with songs from the entire range of his catalog, and that was certainly the case Friday night, with the crowd singing along to songs from his 1992 self-titled solo album as well as a range of songs from albums spanning ’93 to now.
It’s a rare sight when an artist who’s been making music for four decades announces “this one’s off the new album” and the crowd cheers enthusiastically rather than heading for a bathroom break, but that’s exactly what happened for songs like 2017’s “Woo Sé Mama”, the New Orleans inspired R&B jam that has become an audience favorite throughout the tour.
Fans also sang along to a few songs from The Style Council and The Jam. Long-time favorites like “Start!” (The Jam), “My Ever Changing Moods” (The Style Council), and “The Changingman” (solo) were well received, as were the newer songs and even a piano driven cover of Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (to be Loved By You)”.
Weller’s backing band was tight and has been mostly the same since 2008, with Andy Crofts on bass, Steve Cradock on guitar, Steve Pilgrim on drums, Tom Van Heel on keyboard, and Ben Gordelier on percussion. All contributed backing vocals, with Crofts ably tackling the backing vocals on Woo Sé Mama that were so powerfully performed on the album by 60s soul singers PP Arnold and Madeleine Bell.
Weller played about 20 songs before leaving the stage for a short break, returning twice for a pair of encores, ending with audience favorite “Town Called Malice” by The Jam.
Paul Weller is in Southern California this week for his last three tour dates in the States. He starts the Japan/Australia/UK leg of his tour in January. Stay up to date with Weller at paulweller.com.
Photos by Tony Cervo