Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Naturally, Paul Weller's Sunday night show at the House of Blues—his first Cleveland appearance since a 1979 Agora show with the Jam—overflowed with affection and adoration from the ecstatic audience. The tanned Modfather (who suitably wore pinstriped pants and wingtips) responded in kind with a stellar, fiery set that ran for nearly two hours and spanned his entire career, just as he promised when he chatted with Scene
The night opened with a strident version of "Sunflower" from 1993's Wild Wood
, after which Weller and his band cheerfully bellowed out "Hello, Cleveland!" in unison (a gleeful Spinal Tap nod one gets the sense they'd been saving up for a while). From there, the troupe—which included Ocean Colour Scene guitarist Steve Craddock, bassist Andy Lewis, drummer Steve Pilgrim, keyboardist Andy Crofts and percussionist Ben Gordelier—ran through a well-paced set that amounted to a history lesson of British rock music.
In fact, Weller's versatility stood out most. Besides bluesy pop and soulful classic rock, the set touched on biting punk ("From The Floorboards Up"), a psych-soul jam out (the sprawling standout "Foot Of The Mountain"), gospel-tinged pop ("Sea Spray"), Who-style mod-rock ("Peacock Suit"), torchy soul ("You Do Something To Me," featuring Weller on keyboards), tangled Britpop (highlight "The Changingman") and zooming space rock ("Porcelain Gods"). His voice sounded resonant and soulful throughout, matching the precise sound mix; in fact, it was one of the best-sounding shows at the House Of Blues in recent memory. And save for a midtempo first encore whose energy level lagged after a set-ending rendition of the Jam's "Start!" that was crisp and funky, the night was generally energetic and engaging.
As promised, Weller stuck mostly to his solo work and didn't take too many backwards glances. Still, these brief nostalgia trips drew a rapturous reaction. A breezy, percussive take on the Style Council's "My Ever-Changing Moods" felt like an easygoing '70s Chicago number. And the final song, a dance-fomenting version of the Jam's "Town Called Malice," not only drew a stage invader—who knelt down in Weller's direction in an "I'm not worthy!" pose before being summarily hauled offstage—but plenty of tambourine (and booty) shaking from all.