My review originally appeared at soundcheck.ocregister.com
Paul Weller, Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, Oct. 19, 2012
Paul Weller’s Greek Theatre show had only been underway a short period when he arrived at the snappy, new retro-leaning ditty “That Dangerous Age.” The lyrical protagonist goes through a midlife crisis, but this legendary rocker sure didn’t sing it from recent personal experience.
Back home in England, Weller is nearly as popular now at 54 as he was fronting the trailblazing punk/R&B trio The Jam at 24. Headlining large venues and festivals is still the norm there. All his solo albums have gone top 10. The strong current one, “Sonik Kicks,” came out last spring and entered the U.K. charts at No. 1. Noel Gallagher, Blur’s Graham Coxon, The High Llamas’ Sean O’Hagan are among those who assisted in the studio.
Unquestionably, the past few years have seen The Modfather (as Weller is affectionately known) craft some of the most adventurous and compelling music of his lengthy career. Here in America, the singer/guitarist remains a revered cult figure among a brilliant talent roster at North Carolina-based independent label Yep Roc Records.
Initial dates supporting “Sonik Kicks” included an entire run through the new collection. Nowadays, Weller leans toward doing quick concert blitzes through select few North American cities. Los Angeles was the only proper West Coast stop in 2012, yet The Greek didn’t come close to being sold out on Friday night. It was his biggest SoCal appearance in 20 years; the last being at the Griffith Park venue too.
Clad in a black blazer, t-shirt and gray pants, Weller and the five-piece band kicked off the 1 hour, 45-minute set with a surprise: “My Ever Changing Moods.” The smooth 1984 song, recorded with the Style Council, is his best-known career hit stateside. It reached No. 29 on Billboard’s Hot 100. That immediately got the crowd excited; a fierce take on The Jam’s “Running on the Spot,” even more so.
“When Your Garden’s Overgrown,” one of six “Sonik Kicks” tracked played, surmises what Syd Barrett might have done if he never joined Pink Floyd. Longtime guitarist Steve Craddock supplied squelching effects amid some rattling percussion.
“This is from way back in the last century,” said Weller, before unveiling “Just Who is the Five O’Clock Hero?,” another choice nugget by The Jam (from 1982’s “The Gift,” also subject of a new U.K. deluxe 30th Anniversary CD reissue). Andy Crofts’ organ solos brought it to a new level. That was followed by the mellow soul vibe of Style Council’s “The Cost of Loving” and spiky “Carnation.”
One of the evening’s many standouts came via the epic trippy rock of a revamped “Foot of the Mountain,” where amazing wah wah guitar work from Craddock (that Weller later joined) resulted in a plenty of loud cheers.
Weller handled keyboards on Style Council’s watery chill out ballad “Long Hot Summer” and the psychedelic new “Dragonfly,” featuring lyrics by young daughter Jessie. His passionate vocal on the ballad “You Do Something To Me” was gorgeous as ever. The same held true for “Moon on Your Pyjamas” (a languid slow burner written in the ‘90s about one of his sons) and the sleek “Above the Clouds.”
The Jam’s Beatlesque was lean and mean – a real crowd pleaser. The frenetic “Kling I Klang,” inspired by Krautrock act Neu!, and Style Council’s vibrant “Shout to the Top!” (here with a Aztec Camera-styled acoustic guitar shuffle, plus reverb-laden Weller vocals) elevated the intensity level several notches.
Entering the home stretch, Weller suddenly seemed agitated by The Greek’s 10:30 p.m curfew. A high energy “Strange Town” sounded sharp, with the audience clapping along and dual guitar runs from Craddock and his boss. The dark, almost gothic “Around the Lake” featured spooky vocal effects and an intense guitar workout to finish the main set.
Finally, the tender “Broken Stones,” with Weller back on keyboards, and the wicked late ‘60s psychedelic rock undertones of “The Changing Man,” ended the evening on a high note.
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings formed a decade ago in Brooklyn, helped popularize a classic R&B revival in the 2000s and became in-demand studio/live players for the likes of Amy Winehouse & Mark Ronson, Al Green, Rufus Wainwright and others. Two of their albums have sold more than 100,000 copies each.
The tight 10-piece group (complete with horn section and backing vocalists) performed a 45-minute warm up set in L.A. that was a revelation for newcomers. Jones totally commanded the stage and reveled in the music. She danced up a storm, kicked her legs up in the air and let some soulful wails loose like Tina Turner. Jones could also be subtle, at times recalling Irma Thomas.
Among the sizzling highlights were a pair of tunes from 2010’s “I Learned the Hard Way”: “Without a Heart,” where Jones invited an older male fan onstage to humorously gyrate alongside her and the conga-driven “She Ain’t a Child No More”; the feisty "New Shoes" (as is "I'm gonna walk right out that door"); a slinky cover of Gladys Knight's "Giving Up." An extended closing number saw Jones take "everyone back to 1965" where she demonstrated various popular dances of the era (The Boogaloo, The Jerk, The Pony, Camel Walk, Tighten Up, Peppermint Twist). It was like a cross between the old T.A.M.I. Show and Soul Train.
Setlist: My Ever Changing Moods/Friday Street/Running on the Spot/Wake Up the Nation/That Dangerous Age/When Your Garden’s Overgrown/Just Who is the Five O’Clock Hero?/The Cost of Loving/Carnation/Foot of the Mountain/Long Hot Summer/Dragonfly/You Do Something to Me/Moon on Your Pyjamas/Science/Above the Clouds/Start!/Kling I Klang/Shout to the Top!/The Attic/Strange Town/Up the Dosage/Around the Lake
Encore: Broken Stones/The Changing Man