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The Wallflowers
A Concert Review

March 14, 1997

The Riviera

Chicago, IL

A Review and Photos by
The Dude on the Right
Jakob Dylan
Jakob Dylan
Things like this don't happen very often. "Things like what?" you may ask. Well, as fate would have it, I'm at the Sheryl Crow show (now you're saying "I thought this was a review of The Wallflowers?" Well, hold your damn horses and read on), and I'm getting ready to bolt early. The encore starts and who comes on stage? Well, none other than Rami Jaffe and Jakob Dylan. "Holy shit," I say to myself, "I'm actually at a show with some surprise guests!!" I guess The Wallflowers boys were in town a day early, so me, I kinda got to see two shows of The Wallflowers!!

Not remembering much about The Wallflowers other than their radio hits, the Sheryl Crow surprise was a great intro into what I could expect for their own show. It made me eagerly await their headlining gig, but had me kind of worried. Now I know I shouldn't be basing my early opinion on a five song encore as guests with only a couple of The Wallflowers boys, but I was a tad concerned. See, it was most excellent hearing covers of "Not Fade Away," the Lou Reed classic "Pale Blue Eyes," and a great duet of "The Weight" - the Robbie Robertson/The Band tune, but my concerns carried through to the next night as I watched and listened to a full-blown Wallflowers show. So what the hell was this concern about? Well, as musically talented as everything came off for the Sheryl Crow encore, the commanding stage presence and energy never hit a peak. Sure it was casual, kind of fun, but never went over the top. I was really worried that The Wallflowers show would just end up a bunch of talented musicians on stage, singing their songs, and then getting the hell out of town. I was almost right, almost.

So, the next night arrives, I pay the parking dude $15.00 (what a rip-off!), and head into The Riviera for The Wallflowers headlining performance. My first observation is the crowd. Ranging from this pack of 10 year old punk kids wearing pants and t-shirts that would fit their 14 year old brothers to this older lady whose wardrobe appeared to be trapped in the sixties, it was pretty plain to see that The Wallflowers appealed to many an age group. My second observation is the show.

 
Michael Ward
Michael Ward
Opening up, The Wallflowers meandered on stage to the tune of "One Headlight" which got the crowd going from the start. And as into it the crowd got, the band didn't seem to. My fear from the previous night was starting to come true. See, the first time I heard "6th Avenue Heartache" I kinda compared The Wallflowers musical stylings to Springsteen. And you know, as techno-pop is starting to make its come-back, I welcomed a resurgence of pure and simple rock & roll, and if The Wallflowers were going to lead the way, hell, let them sound like Springsteen, and please let them put on a show like Springsteen, just please don't let them have great songs then be boring on stage. Dammit, they were becoming just that, boring on stage.

They cruised "Ashes to Ashes," "Bleeders," and got rid of "6th Avenue Heartache" early on which had me wondering what was coming up to keep the crowd going even if the band just kind of seemed to be going through their motions. They had some great solo's rounding out the band's musical talents up to this point, and it wasn't a bad show, I was just starting to get a little disappointed that the talent on stage was just that - talent - but lacked the passion and energy to propel The Wallflowers into a supergroup for years to come. Then I hear the opening chords from the Carly Simon classic "You're So Vain" and I'm starting to get my hopes up, here comes the energy, the fire, it's the perfect song. But, alas, they still seemed to be going through the motions, even through "Josephine" and "God Don't Make Lonely Girls."

 
Mario Calire
Mario Calire
But then something happened. Maybe it was a shift in the lunar cycle, maybe the spirit of Elvis possessed the band, or maybe it was just the girls in the audience screaming their longings for Mario Calire, the drummer. I don't know, but the band kicked into "The Difference," the crowd went wild, and all of a sudden it looked like the boys in the band were finally having some fun. They started joking, the solos sounded fresh, and finally this band reminded me of the passion and energy that have defined so many great bands through the years. It was into a great upbeat version of Smokey Robinson's "Tears of the Clown," the band left the stage, and in the little lapse of time before the encore started I wondered what took the band so long to let loose.

Back out on stage for the encore, the energy kept up, and a couple of songs later the night wrapped up with a rockin', up-beat version of "Raspberry Beret" which might have had Prince rolling in his grave (had he not still been alive).

So, this rating is tough. I should probably give them a Shrug or One Thumb Up based on the fact that it took them over half of the show to really premiere their talent as a band. But, I guess the fact that the crowd kept pumping energy into the show from start to finish will give them an extra nod. So, it's TWO BIG OL' THUMBS UP for The Wallflowers.

The Wallflowers are a great band, and maybe that's why they can't hit that next level, yet, - they're too much of a band with no one taking the lead on stage. Sure, Jakob Dylan seems to be the "leader" of the band as a group, but the better concert bands have a front man, someone who connects the crowd to the band, and Jakob hasn't hit that comfort level yet. Don't be shy Jakob, the crowd will follow - you just have to nudge them a little.

That's it for this one, I'm The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!

 

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