October 29: The Powerstation, Auckland
British legend Paul Weller found himself in a bit of a jam last night.
Does the man known as the Modfather play his greatest hits or mix up his new music?
Given that this was his first appearance in New Zealand, there really was only one answer – the punters wanted the 34-year drought broken with a flood of familiarity
But Weller ignored that too much during this 90-minute Kiwi debut.
He started superbly and finished very strongly, belting out the snappy anthems that made his original band The Jam so influential in the late 70s and early 80s. In between things fell a bit flat with Weller guilty of being a little self-indulgent in playing tracks that seemed to be lost on the capacity crowd.
Given his peculiar absence from these shores – noted by Weller early on the night: “It’s been a long time but we finally got here.” – the man who transposed punk with a cool edge, should have read his audience better.
They were there to hear The Jam and The Style Council, they didn’t really want to ramble down Stanley Road. And the crowd was the perfect barometer. The Eton Rifles had them up early as did Shout To The Top.
And the thumping renditions of That’s Entertainment and Town Called Malice had the ground floor bouncing about. But they came too late in this slick show. The middle stages of such an anticipated night were a little under-Weller-ming.
That’s Weller though. He’s always been his own man. His creativity burns too strongly to be stuck in the past for too long. Why else would he break up The Jam at their peak? He has maintained his drive and energy to consistently win critical acclaim and sell a stack of solo albums.
It always been done with his trademark style. There’s a uniqueness to Weller that has allowed him to transcend the decades with massive respect.
Just last month Weller ranked No 6 on the annual “cool list” of NME with the UK’s musical bible earlier handing him their Godlike Genius award in February.
The reasons for that were obvious in Auckland. He poured his heart into Sea Spray, his distinctive voice dominated That Dangerous Age and there was an old edge to a track that was born out of collaboration with Oasis’ Noel Gallagher.
The fact this show sold out so quickly is reflective of Weller’s standing, his longevity and his unmistakeable sound. It will be interesting to see if he adjusts his sets for tonight’s second show and Sunday’s third.
The 52-year-old has plenty up his sleeve. Don’t forget The Jam charted 18 consecutive top 40 singles in the UK, including four No 1 hits. That’s clearly what the punters here want after being denied for more than 30 years.
And Weller has the goods to dish it up. He really is Mr Cool as the centre of attention and his guitar-driven four piece band are superb.