"Love is a country that won't be overcome ..."
Northampton, Massachusetts area rock fans are patient and serious about their music. Just ask Jakob Dylan. "We've waited a long time to be here," he said, as he addressed the full house Calvin Theatre on Dec. 28, 2012. The Wallflowers concert was rescheduled from a November date. Touring with their new album, Glad All Over, The Wallflowers have had a non-stop run of great shows throughout the country, since their return to the music scene. Several songs on the set lists for these performances have been from this new record. Glad All Overhas some soon to be classic tunes on it, and fans are quickly being hooked. The band also mixed favorites into their live set list (Three Marlenas, 6th Avenue Heartache, One Headlight, The Difference), along with some hidden gems that were in a word - 'stunning.'
Trapper Schoepp and The Shades: Live show review from the Calvin Theatre, Dec. 28th, 2012
Milwaukee based, Trapper Schoepp and The Shades, opened the night with a good and loud dose of roots rock. Recently releasing their debut record, Run, Engine Run, (Side One Dummy Records, 9/2012), they file influences of contemporary indie rockers such as; Justin Townes Earle, Ha Ha Tonka (who we love!) and Lucero, as well as, classic rockers like the Rolling Stones. The fleet of energetic, contemporary musicians took on the Pioneer Valley with full force and quickly won them over. With surprise and delight, the Wallflowers' keyboardist, Rami Jaffee, joined them in a few songs, including "Pins and Needles," leading energetic clapping sessions, and offering a glimpse of what was to come. Gina Romantini's high flying violin brought cheers from the crowd with every note. Her bouncing personality on stage was like none other. The brothers' Schoepp have great family stories to tell through their music and sense of tradition.
Trapper Schoepp and The Shades Band Members:
Trapper Schoepp- vocals, guitars
Tanner Schoepp- bass, vocals
Graham Hunt - guitar, Steel Reserve
Jon Phillip - drum kit, vocals
Gina Romantini- violin
Trapper notes on the band website that "'Run Engine Run' has a lot of meanings ... My grandfather's way of life was tied to timeless farming traditions passed down from generation to generation, the same way a songwriter is tied to and nourished by traditional songs. Musicians need to keep the engine running, to keep moving forward. The song is not only an ode to the car our grandpa gave us, but a nod to the perseverance of farmers in the Badlands and to preserving traditions." Tanner agrees: "It's about inheriting something of value from the past in a way that is not nostalgic, but vital and never-ending. The album title is a request for resiliency, a way of honoring the past, without getting stuck in it."
Daniel McMahon (Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, Cameron McGill) produced Run, Engine, Run and contributed keyboard during the sessions. Grammy-award winning engineer Geoff Sanoff (Fountains Of Wayne, Green Day, Nada Surf) mixed the album. "As a rock n' roll band, we play music that has absorbed a whole range of stylistic overtones," Schoepp categorizes music of The Shades as "a little bit of everything – rock, country, power-pop, even some punk." (Source: Trapper Schoepp and The Shades, 2012).
Run, Engine, Run
Between The Lines
To Have You Around
Pins & Needles
A mix of deep folk and soul on the house radio kept the crowd happily buzzing between bands. One of the later songs played over the loudspeaker was Westerberg's "Things." I turned around and the balcony fans were clapping in unison to the off beats of this record. Serious music buffs were in the house. Written by Mike Smith, The Dave Clark Five (1964) classic,"Glad All Over" blared out of the speakers: Enter - The Wallflowers.
The Wallflowers: Live show review from the Calvin Theatre, Dec. 28th, 2012
The Wallflowers (2012):
Jakob Dylan- vocals, guitar
Rami Jaffee- keyboards, vocals, accordion
Greg Richling- bass
Stuart Mathis- lead guitar
Opening with "The Devil's Waltz," low hammering blues tones filled the room, with quick picking from Stuart Mathis and steady marching beats from Jack Irons. From new songs to familiar classics, the band still has that Wallflowers cohesion, the identity which gripped us in 1989.
Jakob Dylan said in an interview with Rolling Stone (2011) after their hiatus: "I can't do what I do in the Wallflowers without them. I miss it. I'm happy to put the acoustic guitar down. That was something I wanted to do, but I never planned on hitting the road and just being the guy with a guitar out there. That never has been exciting to me. I came up loving bands and I want to be in one."
"It's A Dream" reflects the decades of influence that classic rockers have on each other. The bass sounds in Glad All Over, have woken us up from our own hiatus, offering some funk segments from Greg Richling, that give the record a unique sound, while keeping the Wallflowers tradition close to its home. Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, Springsteen, Bob Dylan, all music and lyrics that continue to create the core quality of influences - rock, based in blues, folk, poetry, literature. The Wallflowers have always found a way to step right into this fold. Jakob's vocals, with prolific songwriting, has made them a stand out band that a wide range of rock, blues and folk fans can relate to.
"Three Marlenas." The opening chords always reminded me of Lou Reed. Wallflower love came through the Calvin like a warm summer breeze on this winter night, breaking through the snow cover. Fans held up fingers counting, 1-2-3, Marlenas as the band played this radio staple flawlessly.
"Sleepwalker." from Breach, upheld Sam Cooke as the centerpiece of not only this song, but the performance tonight. A change is gonna come, indeed. "Cupid don't draw back your bow, Sam Cooke didn't know what I know ..." (a reference to the eternal Valentine song, Sam Cooke's "Cupid." Jakob greeted the audience saying how long they waited to get here and suggested we all be the crew to make a film about Sam Cooke. He noted that there are films about so many other artists, why not one about Sam Cooke? This got the audience agreeing and part of the discussion in many ways. "Sleep walk into your dreams ..." It's only a matter of time.
One of the high points of the new album is the song, "Reboot the Mission." It has blown through various top ten song lists, awards, mentions and just keeps going. Fresh and unexpected, the recorded track is fast moving, integrates Mick Jones' style and energy, and tips the scale for the die hard rock fans. And why not? "Dice on the table, let it ride." It combines all forms of music that we've known and loved, punk, rock, funk with a little re-verb into one smash hit. It even cleverly names the band members, "Welcome Jack [Irons], the new drummer/ He jammed with the mighty Joe Strummer/ I see Rami, Greg, and Stuart/ I gotta say it, 'Jay [Joyce, the producer], we've had it coming.'" (Thank you, Consequence of Sound, for validating that I wasn't making this up.)
For this live performance, Gina Romantini was invited to join the Wallflowers and she jammed out even harder than she did with her own band, Trapper Schoepp and The Shades. She fit right in, with violin and reggae hair airborne, who can argue with such a creative production. Jakob's low velvet, looming mischievous voice made a bold statement. "You've had it coming" reminds us he can sing just about anything. "Even the longest day at some point ends." The harmonies lend texture to the both the recorded and live track. This song keeps us on a high wire.
"6th Avenue Heartache," from Bringing Down The Horse. This blues guitar riff laden song was elegantly played by Stuart Mathis. His presence on stage is remarkably understated. He is a grounding foundation, stable in his post, but in tune and tracking everything else that was going on around him. Rami Jaffee, brought his iconic, energetic personality, playing the accordion, which took the song to another level. Gina Romantini stayed with the Wallflowers for this song and produced a fabulous solo. She and the band scored a standing ovation after this performance.
Another Mick Jones feature on the recorded track from Glad All Over, "Misfits and Lovers" had the crowd grooving and we loved watching Rami Jaffee get into the vibe of this new tune. This is a song where the band members played off of each other to keep up the timing and back-beat, making it all work. "Hospital for Sinners" is just that. A sinister story of hope that tells what happens to good, evil and everyone in between. Rami Jaffee had to rock the keys hard for this fast moving track, while a guitar fest was going on with Dylan, Richling and Mathis.
Red Letter Days (2002) were not far behind, as Jakob Dylan easily transitioned into the beautiful, "Closer To You." Warm percussion from Jack Irons and smooth riffs from the guitar team supported a relaxed atmosphere for the audience to reflect - and melt. Keys were poignant, while the band held back and released to allow for each section to orchestrate its appropriate spotlight. Mathis closed it out, bringing in a rockin blues solo. Last year, I interviewed, Sean McNally, the drummer of the Villains, a band produced by Tom Petty drummer, Stan Lynch. He said it is the restraints, allowing the spaces in between, the subtractions, that allow a song to grow and develop, which truly make a great band.
"Witness," from Breach, kept the anticipation building, leading to the obscure, hidden track, "Baby Bird" that was played - surprisingly mid-set. "Baby Bird" off the same album, "Breach," is the second half of the recorded "Birdcage" song, after the gap. Hearing it live was stunning. The piano work from Rami Jaffee is delicate, while the smoky echo tone of Jakob's voice, truly painted the velvet feathers of the beautiful and fragile symbolic bird in the song. The band was strong in all songs tonight, and showed their cohesion during times of temperance, with the choreographed spaces in between, the impact of patience. This song was like a well timed metronome.
"How Far We've Come" brought attention of the audience to a trance. So much so, that when it was over, Jakob addressed the audience, "What's with the quiet?" "You guys are so quiet, you're making me nervous!" "I'm trying to make you feel comfortable it's not you, it's me ..." Someone in the row behind me yelled out, but it was so quietly, that no one else jumped on board the attempt at rowdiness. All I could think was: This is the Pioneer Valley, Northampton, serious music fans live here. They are listening, taking in every note. They will revel in this performance for decades to come. They will yell in their cars on the way home. I wanted to yell this out, but I am local too, and didn't want to be rude, so I as well, was quiet ...
Jakob pulled out a candy apple red guitar. "This is one we haven't played in ages," he said, humbly. "I hope it goes well." From Red Letter Days,"How Good It Can Get," ended with a great guitar solo from Stuart Mathis. (yeah, it went well!) The Wallflowers announced a special guest in the house. Frank Black came out and played, "Brand New Cadillac" with the band. This is a song originally by The Clash, and given the spot on 1989, early 90's launch of The Wallflowers, they can span generations in any direction. Frank Black is aka, Black Francis (born Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV), best known as the front-man of the alternative rock band the Pixies, as well as a solo career and a band called, Frank Black and The Catholics.
Then Jakob told all, "I used to think when you wrote songs [that there was] this obligation to tell the truth. Then I learned you don't have to. Don't judge me, [I'll] feel bad. I don't believe in all the songs that I write. But THIS one, I do [believe in]." From the new album, Glad All Over, "Love Is A Country." This song soars. It is instantly infectious in its arrangements of smooth guitar and clever change ups, but the timeless lyrics are the linchpin that create a thought provoking message with impact.
"One Headlight," Jakob played around with the crowd, putting some signature Dylan tones into this very famous song. The recorded track was produced by T Bone Burnett, one of our favorite recording artists, especially since Raising Sand was released. The live version of "One Headlight" was ramped up. The bass and lead guitar work had some extended notes, while the keys grooved it all out. At the end, the whole band turned toward Jack Irons, paying homage to his thunder drum machine, as he literally drove it all home.
The Wallflowers came back with an encore set of "God Don't Make Lonely Girls," "Nearly Beloved" included an encore with Gina Romantini and finished with chart buster, "The Difference." And the Northampton crowd by the end of this show? They were on their feet and even got LOUD.
Confident, generous, promoting classic quality music for the next generations, the dynamic of The Wallflowers with the up and coming musicians in their midst, reminded me of how Jackson Browne shared the stage with Dawes and Sara Watkins at the 2012 Newport Folk Fest. The experienced rockers at Folk Fest coined a term, 'Dylan-esque' as a benchmark to compare quality musicianship in new breakout bands, trying to mix with the current forms. Jakob Dylan, too, has set the bar quite high in song writing and performance. The production of this Wallflowers performance was the 'sit-in' that often happens at music fests. Mixing their line-up with the opening band, Trapper Schoepp and inviting house guest, Frank Black, The Wallflowers created a relaxed atmosphere integrating music that was spontaneous and forward moving, while bringing the history of the genre with it. The Wallflowers will tour this Spring with Eric Clapton. Given their long history of sharing the stage with rock legend icons, it is a tribute to their rapid comeback in the music scene.
I picked up the Fall, 2012 released record in advance of the show. Glad All Over, has a mix of great contrasts, risks, new sounds and beautiful ballads. Wallflowers and rock purists will be happily transitioned into the next chapters of music from this band, as there is great coverage of blues-folk-rock in the collection. However, as the Wallflowers took the rock world by quiet storm in the early 90's, they are yet again, moving to the forefront with some updated, contemporary sounds that will surprise you. You can preview or purchase the record on Amazon, as well as other media outlets and the band website.