Friday, August 14, 2009

Wallflowers Concert Review: Lowell Summer Music Series

Just got back from the concert by Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers. This new line-up is probably the best he's had, especially in guitarist Stuart Mathis.

The Lowell Summer Music Festival is a very enjoyable concert series, with concerts performed at an outdoor park west of Boston. Starting last year, the festival began booking bigger acts, and continued charging reasonable prices. Luckily, tonight we had good weather. By the time we arrived a couple of hours before the concert, the lawn was already pretty crowded.

The Wallflowers hit the stage after 8:30, and put on a strong show from the get-go. Jakob was center stage, sporting a large white Stetson, much to the dismay of some of the women in the crowd. Early on, Jakob featured Mathis on an extended slide guitar solo during "5th Avenue Heartache", which seemed to amaze everyone, including Dylan. The Wallflowers better-known songs were doled out sparingly throughout the concert. Dylan and his band kept things interesting by changing textures, with Jakob switching back and forth between electric to acoustic guitars, Mathias alternating between lead and slide, and keyboardist Bill Appleberry on electric piano and organ.

While the Wallflowers (thankfully) still play lots of songs from their best selling album "Bringing Down The Horse" - including a ska-influenced arrangement of "God Don't Make Lonely Girls" - they opened with "Sleepwalker" from their under-appreciated album "Breach", plus played more recent songs like "The Beautiful Side Of Somewhere", which were all loved by the crowd.

After the opening string of songs, Jakob addressed the crowd in an hysterical, deadpan style. He seemed to legitimately enjoy the audience just sitting and listening to the music, and kidded the security staff to keep on their toes, as things were going to get "crazy". Also enjoyable was Dylan singling out people in the crowd who - for some reason or another - were bothersome. Most were along the line of people taking too many pictures, but my favorite was when Jakob focused on a man in the audience who was standing up, while just about everyone else was not. Jakob said that he used to stand behind people like him at concerts, then chastised him for needlessly blocking the view of others.

Jakob also made a very dry reference to the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, saying he didn't really understand it, but believed in celebrating anniversaries. Of course the entire festival, which took place in nearby Bethel, New York, was called "Woodstock" in order the connect it to Bob Dylan, where he and his family lived (Jakob was in utero at the time). Jakob's parents avoided the festival, and originally planned to leave for the United Kingdom forty years ago tonight, to headline a different rock festival at the Isle Of Wight. (One of Jakob's brothers had an accident, so the departure was delayed.)

Dylan also made an oblique comment about Lowell itself. It seems that something unfortunate may have happened while the band was out to dinner the previous night. Jakob did say, hopefully, that he had heard that Lowell was trying to improve as a town. It was refreshing to hear an artist be so honest, yet hopeful.

Near the end of the show, The Wallflowers played their hits "One Headlight" and "Three Marlenas" (which seems to be a personal favorite of Jakob's). The main set ended with a couple of rockers, including an intense "Shy Of The Moon". Of course, the band came back for an encore, including the closing "The Difference".

As the show ended, I wondered - why don't The Wallflowers rock out more? The crowd actually DID go a little "crazy" at the end. Jakob has a great band, and hopefully their next album will be a scorcher. I also had another thought - Jakob Dylan seemed the most comfortable I've ever seen him on stage. Maybe he no longer feels the need to prove himself. Maybe he's just enjoying this new band. Whatever the reason, The Wallflowers 90-plus minute show was a great addition to the wonderful history of the Lowell Summer Music Series.

SET LIST taken from an official Wallflowers forum:

Sleepwalker
Back to California
Here He Comes
6th Avenue Heartache
How Good it can Get
The Beautiful Side of Somewhere
Closer to You
God Says Nothing Back
Up From Under
Empire in my Mind
God Don't Make Lonely Girls
One Headlight
Three Marlenas
Shy of the Moon
Nearly Beloved

Encores:
Everything I Need
The Difference

P.S. The M.C. said that he were working on getting the Allman Brothers to play down the street at the Tsongas Arena soon.

1 comment:

ninner said...

Honestly, I thought Dylan came across as a real smartass, but i didn't mind because the music was very, very good. I also was pleased that they chose to play several songs from Bringing Down The Horse.....Looking forward to Hot Tuna and Tom Rush next month. Boarding House Park is just s great venue.