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Jakob Dylan

(13 Nov 2011: The Midland — Kansas City, MO)

Jakob Dylan, who was in town for a benefit gig for Kansas City’s local Harvesters food bank, put on a solid, if undressed 90-minute, seventeen song performance. Dylan has released two solo albums in the last few years: Seeing Things (2008) and Women and Country (2010). The Wallflowers, of which Dylan is the principal player, have released some five albums, and the band is set to begin work on a new record in 2012.


As such, Dylan seemed bent on tackling at least two items at this gig: helping the less fortunate and rehearsing and reworking various songs in preparation for more focused, demanding work with The Wallflowers. In essence, then, Jakob Dylan must have been in preparation for getting back into the grind with The Wallflowers.


He performed several songs by The Wallflowers. Some of these entailed “6th Avenue Heartache”, “Sleepwalker”, “Three Marlenas”, “One Headlight”, and the finale, “The Difference”. These songs were re-worked and re-imagined, and also delivered differently. Dylan and accompanying band, Everest, stressed electric guitar on some songs, and acoustic on others. Some of the folk-country songs were given a healthy dose of Jason Soda’s electric guitar. Rami Jaffee on keyboards was noticeably missed.


For instance, “One Headlight”, for which The Wallflowers won a Grammy, was more modest in nature, as a slide guitar-drum sonic cocktail took precedence. But with the closer, “The Difference”, Dylan and company primarily emphasized electric guitar sound. The rendition of “Three Marlenas” might have been the best example of a re-considered song, though. There was one critical mistake in a Wallflowers song: during “6th Avenue Heartache”, the band had to redo one part for some reason; Dylan casually noted, “this happens”. He may have been distracted by a woman dancing in front of the stage.


As to the solo material, two songs from Women and Country in particular stood out: “Everybody’s Hurting” and “Nothing but the Whole Wide World”. These were given a new, heavier interpretation. Dylan played a new song too, entitled “Down in a Hole (You’ve Got to Stop Digging)”, which was a treat. The song was decent and folksy.


Dylan’s stage presence tonight was quite intriguing. As he hit the stage, Dylan exuded an unrelenting sense of mystery. In point of fact, prior to beginning each song, Dylan would walk back by the drums, move next to two amplifiers, change or adjust guitars, and kick off songs by deferring to drummer, Russell Pollard. Dylan soon turned around, faced the crowd, walked up to the mike stand, and unveiled himself, slightly. Women joyously screamed. It’s a reliable stage trick, and he’s done it with The Wallflowers for several years.


Still, tonight he seemed to move from enigmatic to confident to just plain sensitive and unusually loquacious. For the first bit of the show he barely said a word to audience; for the last half he ironically informed the audience that he wasn’t all that fond of talking. Moreover, he also managed to carry on with travel-weary, die-hard fans. He asked for song requests and alluded to his recent Farm Aid appearance. He also teased fans that refused to stand up by saying that the band had been standing all evening.


Here’s to Jakob Dylan for combating the pervasive scent of ugliness and greed via his musical talent.

William Carl Ferleman is a professional music journalist and scholar. He has attended more rock shows than Sir Mick Jagger. He has completed coursework for his Ph.D. in English Renaissance literature. His latest scholarly publication is entitled "What if Lady Macbeth Were Pregnant?: Amativeness, Procreation, and Future Dynasty in Maqbool" (www.borrowers.uga.edu). He appreciates Nietzsche's maxim: "Without music life would be a mistake." He enjoys politics, debate, theatre, and Jameson Irish whiskey. He sleeps with his contrarian pussycat, Issa. He holds a B.A. and M.A. from The University of Kansas.


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