Paul Weller’s four-city, six-concert East Coast summer tour begins with a performance at Harlem’s storied Apollo Theater. In many ways, the soul and R&B mecca is ground zero for Weller.
“So many of our heroes have played there,” says Weller one day after arriving in New York City. “Historically, so many people who have influenced us played there. You can feel it; it’s very special.”
Despite the former Jam and Style Council frontman starting his musical career during Britain’s mid-1970s punk movement, Mod, be it style or music, is a constant in his life. Soul and R&B from the likes of James Brown and Tamla Motown fueled the Mod scene. But it doesn’t limit, or even totally define him. His latest album last year’s “Sonik Kicks,” is a stylistic freefall through psychedelic rock, beat pop and even a touch of rockabilly, and the energy of these new songs belies both his 55 years and almost 40 years making music.
“I’d hate to think I’d get to any age and think I knew it all. Because that is impossible,” says Weller. “I ’m trying to put over something different to people, maybe challenge people and do a different record. Not entirely, just in places. It’s just to try and keep moving on and challenge myself as a songwriter and musician, and take my audience along with me as well. It’s like this whole thing: music and life entwined is a journey. You’re looking at different aspects and different places you can go as a writer and as human being.”
For these shows, his only U.S. shows this year, Weller and his band mix in songs from his whole career, and the boundlessness of “Sonik Kicks” makes for easier weaving in and out of his musical timeline.
“They all work, really; I try and pick things that I can still do justice to,” Weller muses. “Some things are just of their time. I pick things that I feel a connection to. It’s difficult because you are never going to please everyone. People want to hear old stuff. I try for balance. There’s so many songs, it’s more about what you’re going to leave out. I try and please as many people as possible while pleasing myself as well.”