Although Paul Weller's caustic disdain classified the Jam as punk-rockers, the music was covertly traditionalist, looking as much to the concise harmonies of American soul as to the band's spike-haired contemporaries.
But if Weller's classicist leanings set him apart at first, they've stood him in good stead over the long haul. Long after most of his peers have been reduced to living off the fruits of past glories, Weller, 50, is still playing new songs to a loyal audience, who joined him at the Trocadero on Sunday night.
For the most part, Weller's solo career has traded innovation for craft, focusing on a sound aptly captured by the title of his 1997 album,
. But with his new album,
, Weller has pushed himself in a new direction. Directions, actually: The sprawling, 21-track album ventures from ringing folk-rock to psychedelic sound collage. It's as if Weller took every good (and not-so-good) idea he's been saving up and decided to use them all at once.
Weller's Troc set was either less ambitious or more controlled, depending on how you chose to look at it. With a tight four-piece band behind him, Weller offered his current single, "Echoes Round the Sun," as a chugging rocker, minus the album version's cinematic strings. The spare, bluesy "22 Dreams" was a dead ringer for the Electric Prunes garage-rock staple "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)," although Weller at least quantifies the oneiric excess.
Although Weller dipped into his back catalog to retrieve the Jam's "Town Called Malice," he let the crowd sing the chorus, which sounded more than ever like some lost 1960s gem. Weller, who once titled a best-of album
, has settled into his rock-star role, but he has gotten comfortable without getting complacent. He made himself at home on stage, smoking cigarettes and ordering a round of drinks, but by the end of nearly two hours, he was drenched in sweat. Although he has never seemed to lack self-confidence, Weller still plays as if he's got something to prove, and by so doing, proves it.