Monday, July 04, 2016

The Son Also Rises, Still: The Wallflowers Deliver a Fine Festival Showcase of Classic (Jakob) Dylan -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

The Wallflowers
Frontier Days Festival
Arlington Heights, IL
July 2, 2016

It's kind of hard to believe that it's been 20 years since The Wallflowers--led by Jakob Dylan, son of the legendary Bob--hit it big with their 1996 album, Bringing Down the Horse, and its singles "One Headlight" and "6th Avenue Heartache."

I followed the band longer than many fans seemingly did, buying three subsequent albums and seeing them live four times through 2005.

Since then, I can't say I've heard much from or about The Wallflowers, though they also released an album in 2012 and Jakob Dylan's had a couple of solo ones.

So I was somewhat surprised to note the band booked at this year's Frontier Days in Arlington Heights, one of Chicagoland's larger village festivals (certainly among those with free admission).

Unlike undoubtedly thousands of Arlington Heights residents and other local denizens who hold their spots in front of the main stage with blankets placed hours before--and who have figured out the shuttle bus system--I got to Recreation Park with my sister Allison at 7:40 for the 8:00 show, having parked on a neighborhood street.

After one jerk brusquely slung aside Allison's sling chair for being too close to his blanket--she wasn't in it at the time--we found workable parcels of grass that allowed us to see Dylan, Pt. II & Co. from afar. 

Opening with "Three Marlenas" from Bringing Down the Horse, the band--of which I think only Jakob remains from the glory days--ran through a nice 75-minute set.

Highlights included the two hits named above, "The Difference" from the same smash album, the fine "Sleepwalker" off 2000's Breach, a couple decent-sounding cuts from 2012 album, Glad All Over ("Misfits and Lovers," "Love is a Country") and a trio of covers.

These were the Box Tops' "The Letter," Sam Cooke's "Another Saturday Night"--the day was not only appropriate but Cooke is name dropped by Dylan in "Sleepwalker"--and as an encore, David Bowie's "Heroes," which The Wallflowers recorded for 1998's disaster of a Godzilla movie.

I couldn't help but feel a bit wistful for Jakob, carrying out his musical career not only forever in the shadow of his famous father, but of his own past stardom.

Over the years I have seen several fine acts at free or nominal-fee summer festivals around the area, so whatever it says about the Wallflowers' career arc, it was still nice to see them playing in front of several thousand people seeming to enjoy them. (In a forgivable bit of Spinal Tappishness, Jakob Dylan clearly wasn't well-informed about where he was, repeatedly referring to being in "Arlington" rather than "Arlington Heights.)

I doubt I would have been so enamored had I paid $45 or so, but for free on a lovely evening, The Wallflowers were a nice blast from the not so distant past.

Based on the review I read of Bob Dylan's recent show at Ravinia, I'm pretty sure I liked this one a good bit more, especially for the price and being able to see the band from the lawn. (Don't get me wrong, I revere Bob Dylan, but his live shows can be a challenge.)

And as they sing, in their most popular song--which sounded good despite the set's overall volume being too low, even after I asked the sound board guys to increase it: 

Hey, come on try a little
Nothing is forever 
There's got to be something better than 
In the middle
But me and Cinderella
We put it all together 
We can drive it home 
With one headlight 

Hopefully for Jakob Dylan, after fame and fortune and following in the footsteps--however successfully--of one of the greatest songwriters ever, has come happily ever after.

Even if it means playing Frontier Days in Arlington, uh, Heights.


Anonymous said...

Lived in this area my whole life and always refer to Arlington Heights as just Arlington, so maybe another local told him where he was at.

Anonymous said...

I was at this show and absolutely loves it. Certainly a blast from the 90s! But love Bringing Fown the Horse album. For them to come to come to Arlington Heights was amazing! Grew up with their music.