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Review: Paul Weller (a.k.a. the modfather) at Irving Plaza

Posted by Joan Anderman  February 2, 2007 05:10 PM

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Globe staffer Mark Shanahan saw Paul Weller's show at Irving Plaza in New York Monday night. Here's his review. (For a Q&A with Weller, see tomorrow's Living/Arts section.)

Every young band would rather burn out than fade away, but the Jam really did, combusting suddenly in 1982 while still at the top of the British charts. Others of the punk era -- notably the Buzzcocks, the Stranglers, and Gang of Four -- periodically re-form, but the Jam has stayed very much apart.

Paul Weller didn't go underground, though. The Jam's talented singer/songwriter has released a slew of records over the past 25 years -- first with the Style Council and more recently as a solo artist -- becoming the modfather to successful British bands such as the Stone Roses, Blur, and Oasis.

This week, to promote a retrospective aptly titled "Hit Parade," Weller took up residence at New York's intimate Irving Plaza for three sold-out shows, each focusing on a different phase of his remarkable career. As advertised, Monday's show was to be weighted toward Weller's work with the Jam, whose canon he's played sparingly over the past quarter-century; Tuesday's to the Style Council; and Wednesday's to his soulful solo stylings.

But it was a bit of a bait and switch, as Weller, backed by an ace band that included bassist Damon Minchella, guitarist Steve Craddock, and the Style Council's Steve White on drums, played only a handful of Jam tunes, including acoustic renditions of "Shopping," "Tales From the Riverbank," "Carnation," "English Rose," and "That's Entertainment."

By the time he strapped on an electric guitar to play "Man in the Corner Shop" from the Jam's superb 1980 LP "Sound Affects," the crowd was in a frenzy. (With both fists raised, the euphoric fireplug standing in front of us was shouting every lyric to "Thick as Thieves.") But, alas, that would soon be it for the back catalog. No fan of nostalgia, Weller played only two more Jam tunes -- "In the Crowd" and "A Town Called Malice" -- concentrating instead on his songs as a solo artist.

While R&B rockers such as "From the Floorboards Up," "Wild Wood," and "The Changingman" are pleasing enough, the audience Monday, which included comedian Fred Armisen and Smashing Pumpkin James Iha, seemed more energized by the Jam's edgier, more urgent material. Tuesday's show was more of the same. After eight largely acoustic versions of Style Council songs -- highlights included "Headstart for Happiness," "Speak Like a Child," and "My Ever Changing Moods" -- Weller waded deeply into a set of solo material before closing once more with the crowd-pleasing "Town Called Malice."

Weller wraps up his Jam-tasting tour this weekend with three shows in Los Angeles.

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The latest news, commentary, and reviews on music in Boston and beyond.


Sarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

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Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.

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