REVIEW BY KATIE MOULTON
Seven songs in, I was afraid I wouldn't make it out awake. Eight songs in, and the Amp energy garbage I had chugged to prevent just such an experience was crashing hard against Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers' mellow vibes.
Dylan emerged quietly last night, his thin frame dressed all in black. This meant he dissolved into the stage curtain, hat brim obscuring his face - a skinny shadow who played through three straight songs in his detached though melodious rasp and seemed completely uninterested in connecting with the audience. When he did address the crowd, Dylan commented on the stillness, with placid scolding to coax the crowd out of its reserve. The lyrics of third song "Here He Comes (Confessions of a Drunken Marionette)" echoed ironically through the Pageant: "Who will ignore me when you're gone?"
It was embarrassingly quiet, but to be fair, he started it. The Wallflowers weren't bringing any intensity, and the middle-aged couples were finishing the pizza at their tables and wondering if they had remembered to DVR "Big Brother." The 20-year-olds who bought 1996's Bringing Down the Horse as their first album wondered when they would recognize a song. And I wondered, for a band of which only one member of the original lineup remains (guess who), which hasn't released new material since 2005 and is basically touring to support a recently-released retrospective disc - what is there to scream about?
And then - the Wallflowers found their groove. It was right around "Some Flowers Bloom Dead" off 2000's Breach that Dylan began to open things up a bit. He pushed up his hat brim (cue "whoo!"s inspired by those baby blues and steep cheekbones). He gave lead guitarist Stuart Mathis space to spread out and the crowd responded in a big way (Stuff White People Like: an excellent guitar solo). Following came moments of unexpected tenderness with "Closer to You," "God Says Nothing Back" and stunner "Josephine."
This string of hushed songs went on too long, but at least Dylan turned on a little charm with the crowd, saying "Maybe it's a good thing you're quiet...If we played too loud, I couldn't hear what you're talking about. What, they're talkin' shit? About me? They wouldn't do that!"
The Wallflowers gained momentum all the way up to the still-anthemic "One Headlight," closing the regular set with "Three Marlenas" and carrying through a four-song encore. If anyone was left on the terraces, I'm not sure, but the dancing people in the pit couldn't have been happier.
Bottom line: Dylan's got songwriting chops and a scarecrow stage presence that works, but he needs to switch up the playlist order on this tour. Swinging suddenly from the stirring mid-tempo songs to ones that barely registered a pulse only seemed to confuse the crowd. This is a deeper band than its audience knows due to the enormity of 1996's radio hits, so be patient with the crowd's unfamiliarity with the complete discography.
Though young Dylan slid in and out of his elder Dylan impression, as he distorted the signature chorus of "Sleepwalker" with thrown-away mumbles, he's more successful when he sticks with the delivery of his other influences, like Tom Petty. Go ahead, use the slide and the B-3 organ, and give it to us straight. The fact remains: "One Headlight" is just a damn good song - undeniable, urgent and timeless - enough to shake anyone into taking notice.
Critic's Notebook: Here are three songs I wanted to hear, but surprisingly didn't: The Difference (Bringing Down the Horse) Angel on My Bike (Bringing Down the Horse) Murder 101 (Breach)
By the Way: Bottle Rockets words coming later this afternoon.
Setlist: 1. Feels Like Summer Again (Red Letter Days) (2002) 2. Sleepwalker (Breach) (2000) 3. Here He Comes (Confessions of a Drunken Marionette) (Rebel, Sweetheart) (2005) 4. How Good It Can Get (Red Letter Days) 5. 6th Avenue Heartache (Bringing Down the Horse) (1996) 6. If You Never Got Sick (Red Letter Days) 7. Back to California (Rebel, Sweetheart) 8. Letters from the Wasteland (Breach) (on setlist, but I don't remember hearing) 9. Some Flowers Bloom Dead (Breach) 10. Closer to You (Red Letter Days) 11. God Says Nothing Back (Rebel, Sweetheart) 12. Mourning Train (Breach) 13. Invisible City (Bringing Down the Horse) 14. Josephine (Bringing Down the Horse) 15. Here in Pleasantville (Red Letter Days) (on setlist, but I don't remember hearing) 16. The Empire in My Mind (Red Letter Days) 17. God Don't Make Lonely Girls (Bringing Down the Horse) 18. One Headlight (Bringing Down the Horse) 19. Shy of the Moon (The Wallflowers) 20. Three Marlenas (Bringing Down the Horse)
Encore: How Far You've Come (Rebel, Sweetheart) Baby Bird (bonus track on Breach) Nearly Beloved (Rebel, Sweetheart) Everything I Need (Red Letter Days)