With the Dave Clark Five’s original pop-tastic version of “Glad All Over” pumping good vibrations through the PA, The Wallflowers took to the stage at D.C.’s Black Cat for a set that celebrated the soon-come (October 9) release of its first album as a band in seven years, one with the same title. That positive energy lasted throughout the approximately one hour and 45 minute show, fueled by frontman Jakob Dylan’s amiable interactions with an audience which was clearly delighted to see the band back in action and in a surprisingly small venue for an act of their stature.
Granted, it was 1996 when The Wallflowers released their 4x platinum album, “Bringing Down The Horse,” and subsequent releases, including two Dylan solo albums that followed the band’s going on hiatus in 2007, haven’t scaled quite the same commercial heights. Yet the recent emergence of bands like Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers seems to bode well for the kind of crowd-pleasing rock/folk for which The Wallflowers and fellow travelers Counting Crows served as early champions. Dylan even said as much when he introduced keyboardist Rami Jaffee, joking that his accordion used to be considered an odd addition to a rock band, but now seems to be everywhere.
Still, the basic sound of the night was classic, guitar-fueled rock in the lean, non-indulgent Tom Petty mode – one new song in particular, “It’s a Dream,” had clear Heartbreakers echoes. And new songs were in abundance.
Opening with the slow burning “Devil’s Waltz,” the overwhelming majority of the night’s tunes (you can see the band’s actual set list here) were culled from the new release. A reliance on unfamiliar material would be tricky at an arena-sized show, but in this cozy space, Dylan clearly knew he was among friends, flirting with audience members in front of the stage, complimenting the crowd on their good looks and smiling often.
And he didn’t cheat them on hearing the favorites, either. Scattered among the new tunes were the big Wallflowers hits – “6th Avenue Heartache,” “The Difference,” “Three Marlenas” and “One Headlight.” The last, unfortunately, was sabotaged when the sound system was attacked by a recurring squeal and by Dylan’s decision to let the crowd carry some verses (enthusiasm sometimes jeopardizes quality control).
With original band members Jaffee, Greg Richling (bass) and longtime guitarist Stuart Mathis on board and drummer Jack Irons (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam) rounding out the lineup, the 2012 Wallflowers won’t shock fans of earlier albums, but offer some nice new twists as well. The album version of the first single, “Reboot The Mission,” has a Clash-like shuffle backbeat and Mick Jones himself guesting on vocals and guitar. While the former was tempered and the latter absent in live performance, the song still stood out and should be coming soon to a radio station (with taste) near you.
In conjunction with the release of their new album, The Wallflowers will be making a series of TV appearances like “Good Morning America” (10/1), “The Late Show with David Letterman” (10/5) and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” (10/8) and hitting the road for a 22-city outing that kicks off in San Antonio, Texas on October 6. Those shows will be in larger spaces than D.C.’s Black Cat, which may have served as a gimmick to generate early excitement in the new tour, but those of us who were there feel…(I’ll go there) “Glad All Over” to have been a part.
P.S. Jakob Dylan’s father is Bob Dylan. I think there’s a law that says that has to be mentioned once in every story about him.
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