Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Wallflowers concert review, The Keswick Theatre

The Wallflowers Philly

Part 1: The concert
I'd never been to a Wallflowers concert before, so I didn't know what to expect. The setting turned out to be a low key staging, lack of colour even in their clothes (very black and white-ish), dim light. That simplicity did work for their music much more than anything else might have. There was nothing to distract the audience from Jakob Dylan's voice, Stuart Mathis and Greg Richling's guitars and Fred Eltringham's drums. They did not wander around the stage or switch positions, and Dylan's face remained restrained in expression (not inexpressive) through it all. Your only focus was the music. That is a pretty brave thing to do, and it shows how much they believe in and trust their songs (another brave thing to do: not including their biggest hit "One Headlight", a statement that this group doesn't live off past hit songs). These are even more brave if you consider that this is their first tour in years and that there's been major changes in their line-up...But it turned out great. The songs sounded amazing and though the keyboardist was missing, for someone "new" to their sound like me they didn't feel flawed or unbalanced. Still there was the occasional tiny detail that might lead on that they had not toured for some time and when that'd happen (to deal with those killer lyrics!) they didn't try to cover it up but just rolled on.
Now and then they would take some time to tune their guitars in between songs and J.D. would talk to the public a bit, he didn't say much but he said enough, he won us over with his dry and witty sense of humour and his mater of facted attitude - I don't think he's ever had a problem in that department. There were the occasional technical issues (a few songs into the show Dylan stopped dead in the middle of a song to let us know he was getting shocks from his microphone and it was OK with him but he wanted to let us know in case he'd explode before finishing his set list...had us all laughing but a little worried as he never let us know it had been fixed, what did I say about his humour...). He also thanked the audience for being there despite their not having any new album out and said something about fans not forgetting about them. He remarked that he was enjoying this Philly concert more than the one they played some years ago, and he avoided making any reference to his new solo album in the making.
Some of the songs sound much better live than in the record ("Everything I need", absolutely)
All the performers were tops, super, but this band's core is JD's voice above all (his sheet music and the lyrics coming right after that). Not only is it so personal, but what he manages with it, its shades... it probably won't have been any easy for him to control a voice like that but now it's just breathtaking at points.
Part 2: meet and greet 1 - Jakob Dylan solo album
Jakob Dylan and Stuart Mathis A while after the show they showed up for the meet and greet, they didn’t really keep people waiting long. JD seemed a quite different person offstage, not even pale anymore! (must've been the lighting onstage). The atmosphere was great, not the usual “worshiper fans” versus “condescending artists” but rather like everybody had been introduced by mutual acquaintances and had stuff to talk about (mainly due to them, they may have fooled me but it really felt like they did enjoy talking to the people there - or at least they were curious- there had to be the usual people that’d get on their nerves among us but also others that really understand and feel their music, and it had been a while-), no barriers in sight. And everybody was ignoring the thin rain that took its time to stop. Stuart was receiving congratulations for his guitar playing, he seemed quite happy with how it went, said he would love to tour in Europe eventually (had already been there with Jewel) when I asked him, Greg was talking about the advantages of being in a band like theirs, the flexibility to change set lists from one day to the next if they felt like it, and also how nice it is to play at a venue like the Keswick where they could actually hear themselves, I was so enjoying his conversation -I never have a chance to talk about these things- I was so bummed they had to leave. I didn't get to see Fred. And Jakob was asked about the record he's finishing, said it was just him and a friend, acoustic (I hope I'm not misquoting this part but maybe I am, that's what I seem to remember, but at that point I was quite tired, long day, and quite clueless, I figured everybody knew about it, I'm explaining it later on. By the way, it's almost finished, I was told some days later).-*Acoustic part finally confirmed by Rebel Dreamer in the group's message board on the 11th Feb!- Somebody told him he’d changed some lines in a song ("How far you've come", I think) and he said he had not realized, that those were the original lines he wrote that now he regretted he had changed, he liked the initial ones better so they’d just pop up. I asked him if he was looking for innovation on the new record, like other groups that are recording albums for next year (Coldplay, Keane,... they are making an issue of it: "I can guarantee that we'll continue to do new and different things rather than treading water, as we say"- Tim Rice Oxley-Keane; The new work will be "very original and very different from what they’ve done before"- Bryan Eno (one of the producers of Coldplay) and that is just an example, they are saying it over and over), I asked if he was also in search of "new" and “different” (well, sort of, I wish I had been that articulate but I got "a bit" stuck, my English brain cells give me these surprises...JD waited patiently for me to finish my question) and he answered" No, I really don't think about that at all". Period. Of all the questions I could have asked him this one is sort of silly, I know, but he was just saying “new” and my mind snapped with this issue, I had been bothered with this need to force oneself into that type of impositions that’s driving composers lately. To me it shouldn’t have to face that kind of limitations, so I was happy to hear J D say that, he's in "my team" on that one.
Nevertheless now that I've heard much more of their music, it's obvious he doesn't need to think about it either, he's diverse as the universe (or sort of, cursi sentence of mine).
3 Downside:
the wallflowers tour busThe downside of the show for me was the public’s sort of “passiveness”. Some of the songs were very weird to hear sitting down in your chair. JD said at one point that having the audience sitting used to make him “go nuts” before but that he even kind of liked it now. Nobody reacted to that, they remained seated until the encore, when everyone stood up to clap and after which half of us remained standing. I’m pretty shy and far from being the dancing type, specially when in the first rows, but I had just felt so uncomfortable sitting down while they were playing some of those songs like they were. Not used to it. And I don't think I was the only one, but how do you manage to make people stand up? (I told JD about that too at the meet and greet but he brushed it off saying that they do both, standing and seating, as if it were actually totally fine with him, but I don’t know, he had a really hard face to read at times. Be it that or something else, I had the feeling he had been somehow uneasy about something onstage that night. Ok, I'm going to say something really silly but it sort of makes sense to me: he has an overall attitude that somehow sways between that of a defeated person and that of a toughened winner. Still I don't know him so I don't really know what I'm talking about). Anyway, I know each person feels it and expresses it differently, but hell, they should have been up and active.
Between my questions, my record signing and my umbrella (I'll explain later) I don't think JD will come anywhere near me in the future (joking, he won't remember me by now!!!-hopefully!!!!!!) -Naaa, these people I admire so because of what they do, bet we all would like them to think that we're special too. Obviously, even if we were, it's just not possible. Nobody's fault.
The Wallflowers at the Keswick Teatre, Philadelphia, 10/19/2007
Part 4, misc. (you can easily skip this part,really, most of it is my musings):
* Meet and greet part 2: there was the usual photo taking but I think I was one of the few who actually asked them to sign anything -sorry for that, but for once I was prepared, I had been carrying the “Breech” booklet around the whole night and I couldn’t resist, but I should have-. Specially because being the klutz that I am I unawares brought a broken pen, one of those with a resort inside, and when Stuart (first to sign) started to write it just popped open, the upper part ejecting itself high before falling to the floor. So I kneeled to get it, at which point (it was raining) the umbrella I was carrying in my hand descended too (I keep forgetting these things) and hit Jakob (hopefully not hard), who was just behind me (I had no idea anyone was there), in the head (heard these people saying careful, JD seemed to have already forgotten when I turned around, uff, he's really tops ). Honestly, I was sort of embarrassed but at the same time it so seemed like out of a bad comedy’s script, I couldn’t help laughing. I was thankful when Stuart told me he had a pen in his pocket and I was able to put the evil creature back in my bag (second part of the adventures of the evil pen: it behaved with Greg but not with Jakob, his signature is half written, half engraved – no ink!!!!)
*Why does JD downplay his looks like that?. Either his worst enemy dressed him for the stage or he saw to it himself (& Greg too, looked 20 years older in that suit). Way better at the meet and greet
**When reading stuff about them on the internet I came across cliches nr 1 and 2 time and again. Nr 1 I refuse to mention. Nr 2, “they haven’t achieved success”. I don’t agree. Do they mean they haven’t sold over a certain amount of records? They’ve certainly sold more than a few. Music stores have their records, people are familiar with them and appreciative. So what are they talking about?. The day before the concert when I went to the record store, a twenty-ish years old employee came to my help. I told him I was looking for the record where a song was, I didn’t even give him the right name (said “sleepwalking”, that was more my state!). He knew the Wallflowers, he knew right away in which of their records it was and he handed it to me saying they are a cool band. I was surprised by that. A few days ago, when I was outside the Beacon listening to a few of the concert’s songs through the back door (that I didn't plan but I was around and I just heard it when I was leaving and stayed a while), some people passing by would stop and ask who was playing. Most of them knew the Wallflowers and liked them. Number of records sold is not my idea of being successful, I’m sure it’s not theirs either. And of course that if you keep doing that music for that long you should expect a much higher status but since when is this about getting what you deserve?. Surely if some of those songs had gotten better marketing the Wallflowers would be many notches up in hit lists but frankly, I don't think they would be doing better music than they're doing right now (if anything, probably worse), so -in maybe a selfish way- I say they’re in a very good place.
--Anyway, JD must have thick skin, he knew what was coming when he decided to be a musician, and he’s handled it really well (being damn smart, "cool" and likeable, that helps...surely he has a dark side too, so much the darker since it's so hidden you can't even point at it).--
But cliches are a common problem, there’s few bands out there that don’t have one stamped on them over an over again, and though some enjoy theirs, most hate it. Thankfully in this case that type of criticism doesn’t seem to affect their music anymore (unlike other bands that are really getting caught up in it while kidding themselves they're not affected).
* Songs sounds great but why does he mess up every now and then?. Music and phrasing are always superb but lyrics, sometimes he’s another brilliant sloppy one. Like in Sleepwalker, that line about Sam Cooke and then the clapping, really dispensable (to me). Many songs mix the most impressive sentences with “funky” lines that shouldn’t be there (and I don't mean when he throws all these words together as paint to get a colour). And he abuses certain words, keeps bringing them up over and over. Like he knows but he doesn’t care. Like little acts of despotism.
*I probably was the only one there that had not heard most of their songs before that night. I had obviously heard “One Headlight” back then, and a few more over the last 2 days. There was something there that I liked, though (but I also had the impression that their music was maybe too "rough and tough" for me, not the case) so when I found out they were playing in PA don't know why I thought about going, headed to youtube to hear more songs, then went to the mall and bought “Breech” (decision based on “Sleepwalker”, which is one of the songs that stick faster but not the best by far) and then did some ticket searching as I liked what I was hearing. But tickets were not really good, it was almost sold out and the concert was 1 day away. I sort of need some kind of push to take the concert decision, my lifestyle right now doesn’t make it easy to go, so I was almost about to let go when I decided to call the Keswick Theater directly and ask if maybe later better tickets would be released. They said maybe and then they offered me this amazing seat – I still don’t understand how- so I couldn’t say no, that was the push. Then since I had to go to the public library anyway I checked out “Rebel, sweetheart” and was in for a Wallflowers 24 h. immersion. If you know the songs you enjoy it so much more, but there was hardly time left for that.
* Pit section should just NOT be sold to anybody.A certain person in the first row comes to mind. He acted like he was at home watching a football match, as he divided his time between chatting to his girlfriend, choosing between his various colored drinks in the paper cups collection under his seat, wandering off the place and back (you know the consequences of pouring so much liquid inside), then plain trying to reach for something in his girlfriend esophagus with his tongue. All of this while J D was singing right in front of him pouring his soul out. Unfortunately this guy was very near to where I was sitting, quite big, wearing yellow and right in the middle my field of vision. Thankfully, eventually I managed to block him out. Humans.... And talk about metaphors, JD!. Anyway, JD should have made him climb up to the stage and sing choruses on the stinging mic for a while.
So this concert turned out to be quite an adventure. I keep listening to the Wallflowers and I keep being stunned by their music. And I'm still puzzled, 'cos there goes a VERY intriguing individual...
Four links I recommend:
* This interview (all parts).
* Stuff
* This article on Rebel, Sweetheart (this I read after writing the above)
* This article too
* People discussion their lyrics here, some comments are amazing, some totally hilarious.
In homage to their taste for hidden tracks and the sort I've not listed a posterior post with one more short experience with them in NY (sort of unimportant for others though), and a little something more in another post.
Wish I'd written the best post ever for this one. They deserve it.
Labels for this post: the wallflowers concert review, the wallflowers live 2007, the wallflowers philadelphia, red letter days


Anonymous said...

It just happened that i was about to look for some stuffs from Jakob and this blog distracted me..i'm actually his biggest fan since i don't know when..perhaps One Headlight did turn me to this band...since i've read your article, it sounds great to watch them performing life..i wish i cud...but i'm too far abroad...and i don't think jakob and his band will make it here in my place bcoz people in my country rarely know him compared to his famous father...could u please if it's not a problem, write more about him and his latest updates...and if u have any record of his live performances...mind to share with me any..just any will do for me..tq!

infotaupe said...

Hi there, there's a lot of things on their latest mini-tour written by other people in The Wallflower's website (in the message board, check the different threads (subjects)). This is the link:
You'll find many more reviews and pics there. I didn't record anything, but there's also quite a few things posted in youtube. I have a link to (for me) the best performance in this blog, in my "live performances" (it's in the right side, to the bottom of the page).
So looking for some stuffs from Jakob, huh? Not surprised!!!.Sorry, joking.
Well, if you can't find any of these things just let me know and I'll try to be more specific. I hope you get to see them sometime.