Wallflowers – LoDo Fest (Denver, CO)
Pity Jakob Dylan. It’s probably unfair, but virtually every reference to this prodigal son will include some words about his very major Dad. At Denver’s LoDo Fest on a balmy Saturday night, Jakob and his band, the Wallflowers, showed every indication of not only accepting this fate, but acknowledging it to an extent that allows them to draw on the strength of that heritage and still get on with their business.
The LoDo fest is an annual multi-stage, multi-genre outdoor music and microbrew blowout, with some parking lots in the shadow of Coors field serving as the festival grounds. On a night that had already seen acts such as the subdudes and Joan Baez, the Wallflowers hit the stage at about 8:15. If the howling intensity and controlled dissonance of the evening was any indication, that time was marked as the birth of a monster.
Introduced as “the only band on Interscope that’s not in jail”, the band opened with “Three Marlenes” from their new CD Bringing Down the Horse and showed off both musical muscle and the undeniable power of genetics. Dylan then reintroduced the band as “the other Average White Band of the evening,” in reference to the seventies’ disco-funksters whose sound was bleeding over from a nearby stage.
It has to be said. The guy looks like, sounds like, and carries many of the mannerisms of his father. It is virtually impossible not to be reminded of Zimmy, both physically and musically. But the Wallflowers’ influences also include the likes of Daniel Lanois, The Band and Grant Lee Buffalo, among others.
After moving through “One Headlight”, “Ashes to Ashes”, “Angel On My Bike” and a new one called “Skinny Lips” that featured a great Crazy Horse-like loping guitar crunch courtesy Jakob and guitarist Michael Ward, Dylan paused to ask the crowd for requests. One brew-eyed soul was unfortunate enough to request “something that rocks.” Jakob gave it his best family charm, leaving out only the surname Jones as he replied, “Has anything rocked for you yet, mister?” The band then rocked through the radio-ready “6th Avenue Heartache”, a couple more new ones, and “God Don’t Make Lonely Girls”.
Perhaps the strongest crowd reaction of the evening was evoked by a raucously elegant version of “The Weight”, during which one could overhear several concertgoers discussing the merits of the decision to do one of Dad’s tunes. The fact that the song was actually written by Robbie Robertson seemed immaterial somehow. The song’s highlight was an organ solo by keyboardist Rami Jaffe (who, incidentally, sat in on accordion with Golden Smog the night before) that had the Al Kooper-haunted-carousel stamp all over it.
The Wallflowers, rounded out by the rhythm section of Mario Calire and Greg Richling, are just now finding their stride in performance. It’s almost like watching the young colt of some famous, farmed-out thoroughbred find its legs. I guess every generation needs a Dylan, and this one is the real deal.