Wallflowers

The Paramount, Huntington, NY

Jakob Dylan & the Wallflowers with Better Than Ezra 
The Paramount
Huntington, NY
July 11, 2017


Being Bob Dylan's son can't be easy.  If you're also a musician and songwriter, like Jakob Dylan, it has got to be even harder.  The bar is set really high.  It has got to be a challenge. Jakob Dylan has not only accepted that challenge, he has thrived.  He has achieved success with his band the Wallflowers and as a solo artist.

Jakob Dylan along with guitarist Tobi Miller formed the Wallflowers in Los Angeles in 1989. Over the past three decades, the band has gone through a number of personnel changes. Dylan has always remained at the center of the Wallflowers' universe.

In 1992, Virgin Records released the band's self-titled Debut CD.  Though initial sales were slow, the CD received critical praise.  After a shake-up at Virgin Records, the band left the label and signed with Interscope Records in 1994 and in 1996 released Bringing Down The Horse.  The album went quadruple platinum and remains the Wallflowers' highest-selling album.  The band received Grammy nominations for "6th Avenue Heartache," "One Headlight" and "The Difference." Breach (Interscope Records) followed in 2000.  Though it didn't sell as well Bringing Down The Horse, it was well received by the critics. Red Letter Days (Interscope Records) was released in 2002. The album peaked at #32 on the Billboard 200.  In 2005, Rebel Sweetheart was the last album the band released on Interscope Records.  The band released its most recent studio effort Glad All Over on Columbia Records in 2012.

Over the years Jakob Dylan has also released two solo offerings on Columbia Records-Seeing Things (2008) and Women + Country (2010).  Seeing Things received favorable reviews and peaked at #24 on the U.S. on the Billboard 200.  Women + Country also received positive reviews.  The album peaked at #12 on the Billboard 200, Dylan's highest chart success with or without the Wallflowers.  

In 2012 the Wallflowers reunited and released a new studio effort Glad All Over on Columbia Records. Since the release of the CD, Dylan and the Wallflower have toured during the summers of 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 2016 and now in 2017.

Opening act Better Than Ezra is much more than "just" an opener.  It is a multi-platinum selling band that is best known for its 1993 album Deluxe (Swell/Elektra Records, 1993) and the #1 on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks charts single, "Good."  Better Than Ezra hails from New Orleans, LA.  The band was originally formed in 1988 in Baton Rouge, LA and featured four members – vocalist and guitarist Kevin Griffin; lead guitarist Joel Rundell; bassist Tom Drummond and drummer Cary Bonnecaze.  In 1990, Rundell committed suicide.  Following this tragic event the remaining three members took some time off and eventually reconvened as a trio and by 1995 had achieved success with its Deluxe album.

In 1996 Bonnecase left the band.  He was replaced on drums by Travis McNabb.  McNabb played ont eh group's sophomore release Friction, Baby (Elektra Records, 1996). Friction, Baby featured the hits "Desperately Wanting" and "King of New Orleans." Though not as commercially successful as Deluxe, Friction, Baby was certified as gold by the RIAA.  In the ensuing years the band has built a loyal fanbase while continuing to tour and release studio recordings including: How Does Your Garden Grow (Elektra, 1998);  Closer (Beyond Records, 2001); Greatest Hits (Rhino Records, 2005); Before the Robots (Artemis Records, 2005); Paper Empire (MRI/Megaforce Records, 2009) and All Together Now (The End Records, 2014).  The band is currently comprised of Griffin, Drummond and Michael Jerome (who took his place behind the drum kit in 2009, replacing McNabb).

When Better Than Ezra hit the stage at the Paramount, Griffin, Drummond and Jerome used a very special calling card with "King of New Orleans" reminding the audience of the band's roots.  The groups set was carefree and loose featuring "Misunderstood," "Under You," "The Great Unknown" with its lyrics about a girl who "took off for Burning Man with a bag of contraband," "Extra Ordinary," a short but sweet cover of Rush's "Limelight" (after which Griffin wryly commented, "Wow! The guys are like 'Rush!' And the girls are like 'huh?!?'") and the mega-hit single "Good."   

It was on the covers that Better Than Ezra both shined and surprised.  It delivered a high-energy ball-to-the-wall version of the rave-up, "Laid," which Griffin explained was "on our greatest hits record was originally recorded by the British Band , James."  The audience was pleasantly surprised when "Juicy" from Before the Robots evolved into The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" and finally Naughty By Nature's "O.P.P."  But it was on the Gorillas' tune "Feel Good Inc." that the band really gave the crowd its money's worth.  The band made the song its own while retaining the funky, trip-hop, alternative, Brit-pop groove that Damon Albarn's virtual band rode to the Best Pop Collaboration trophy at the 2006 Grammy Awards.

Better Than Ezra ended its fourteen song set with powerful versions of two of its best-loved songs--"Desperately Wanting" from Friction, Baby and "In The Blood" from Deluxe.  As the band left the stage, there wasn't a single audience members without a smile on his or her face. 

The intermission between the two bands was inordinately long. Normally the break at the Paramount is quick--fifteen minutes at the most.  Not on this night.  The intermission lasted for more than 30 minutes.  The fans were getting antsy and were almost at a fever-pitch when Dylan and his band took the stage.  The Wallflowers were in control right from the start, opening with an amazing trifecta, a compelling sonic blast of "Everything I Need," "Sleepwalker" and "6th Avenue Heartache."     

Dylan then led his band through a nice version of Richard and Linda Thompson's "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" during which a group of younger members of the crowd were overheard asking each other if it was a new song and would it be on the new album.  These fans asked the same question during "Misfits and Lovers" which was released on Glad All Over.  Though this group was unaware of these tunes, judging from the way they bopped to the beat they appeared to like them.

When the band finally took a breather, Dylan addressed the crowd.  He said, "Hey Huntington!  How are you?  Feelin' alright?"  The crowd roared with its approval.

The evening continued as Dylan led the Wallflowers through a flawless version of "Josephine" from Bringing Down The Horse and his solo offering "Nothing But The Whole Wide World" from Women + Country. Other highlights included: "I've Been Delivered" from Breach, "Three Marlenas" and, of course, "One Headlight."

The crowd was stoked for the performance and cheered most for the fan favorites from Bringing Down The Horse "6th Avenue Heartache," "Josephine," "Three Marlenas," and "One Headlight." It was on the backs of these songs that Jakob Dylan peered around and eased away from the shadow of his father (if your name is Jakob Dylan, you can never truly escape being compared to Bob Dylan).  Even though He has grown over the years as a songwriter and has arguably produced better offerings, these were the songs that made him a star in his own rite.  The audience knew it and Dylan obviously knew it. The performance of these "classics" as well as the covers and other tracks from his solo and Wallflowers' canon was commanding, powerful, gripping and satisfying. 

Photo Credit: Christine Connallon
Additional Article Contributions: Christine Connallon
 
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