Wallflowers at the 9:30 Club

The Wallflowers When Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers (recently sans Rami Jaffee) took the stage at the 9:30 last night, it was the first time they’d been on tour in two years, and the first time in DC in nearly four. It was pretty clear that they’d not been on stage in a while, but it didn’t show in the music, just the pacing. Long breaks were frequent between the songs, as Dylan tuned one of about six guitars he played during the evening. When he noted some restlessness from the near-capacity crowd, he explained he didn’t use electronic tuning, which seem to mollify the crowd.

It was a great show, overall. Dylan’s vocals were fresh, yet full of a rasp that was not borne of fatigue but rather a unique part of his genetic heritage. The songs were all heartfelt and sincere, Dylan’s voice could lend Happy Birthday a degree of gravitas usually reserved for songs of triumph or mourning. The highlight of the night for me, though, was Fred Eltringham on the drums. The man’s just have a good time. Not in that kinda-creepy Mick Fleetwood way, though, but in more of an “I love my job and everything that comes with it” sort of way. New guitarist Stuart Mathis was simply amazing last night, with a virtuoso’s touch on lead guitar, with soaring melodic solos that were not mere approximations of the studio versions, but added depth and character to the live performance. I don’t go for the jam band philosophy of rock concerts where each song should be 20 minutes long, featuring lengthy solos based on jazz reinterpretations of the cuban cover of the song, it doesn’t work for me. Mathis’ excellent solos captured the essential character of the songs without straying too far afield into the land of the jam band, from whence many concerts do not recover.

The set was a mélange of their catalog, featuring tracks from Red Letter Days, Bringing Down the Horse and Rebel, Sweetheart, but nothing indicated that they’re headed back to the studios for a fifth album, which was a bit of a disappointment. In contrast to the Killers show I saw this summer, the Wallflowers show was entirely business like. There was no set. There were no antics. Just a band getting up and rocking out. It was just what I was looking for, and just what I got. I left the 9:30 with my ears ringing with the last chord (as they still are this morning), and looking forward to their next stop in DC.

Two final notes from the show:

1. Dear TR Kidd & the Visions. Please consider going back to your day jobs. If you don’t have day jobs, please look into them. Your opening set last night was quite possibly the worst live music performance I’ve ever seen.

2. Dear guy behind us who was totally rocking out. I respect your enthusiasm for the show last night. I recognize that you likely worship the man’s entire catalogue, but that was no reason for you to gratuitously shout “WOOO!” in quiet moments. Also, the Night at the Roxbury dance routine was entirely uncalled for.

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