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CONCERT REVIEW: Jakob Dylan at the Egg, Albany, N.Y.


The Egg
Empire State Plaza
Albany, N.Y.
Jakob Dylan & Three Legs
With Mimicking Birds
Saturday, April 17, 2010

Review and photography by Seth Rogovoy

(ALBANY, N.Y.) - Cut to the chase: he played only one hit song by his “other” band, the Wallflowers: “Three Marlenas,” which fit in swimmingly with the rest of his set list, drawn entirely from Jakob Dylan’s two recent solo albums, 2008’s Seeing Things and this year’s Women + Country.

And no, for those who still expect it, he did not play any songs by nor acknowledge his relationship to his father. Duh. Why should he?

Then again, he doesn’t need to, because as Dylan matures -- he turned 40 last December -- he looks remarkably more like his father every day (check out the photos accompanying this review).

But what Jakob Dylan did offer was an intense, if somewhat monochromatic, 90-minute run-through of his more recent roots-rock. He played the entire Women + Country program and most of Seeing Things, and made it all sound of a piece, backed by the undistinguised ensemble named Three Legs for this tour, but typically working as singer Neko Case’s backup band.

Case, along with Kelly Hogan, were on hand to lend backup vocals, harmonies, and occasional duets, and those were some of the highlights of Dylan’s show.

If not voluble, Dylan is certainly a more genial frontman than his enigmatic father, but he’s learned some lessons well, including how to stand motionless at a microphone to intone his haunting ballads and mid-tempo country-rockers about, well, women and country for the most part.

Dylan’s voice was deep, dark, husky -- almost sandpapery -- in stark contrast to the siren-like wails of Case and Hogan, which made for welcome juxtapositions. While his band seemed somewhat sedate, it was in the service of Dylan’s songs, which tried to capture a sort of timeless Americana, looking back to country and folk and early efforts to blend those with rock, to make for a highly textured sound, laced with pedal-steel guitar, rumbling acoustic bass, chirping mandolin lines, and occasional distorted guitar sounds.

A few songs in, the concert kicked into gear -- which meant third gear if five were available -- with a juiced-up, Wallflowers-ized version of “Evil Is Alive and Well” (that number may have actually been played in fourth gear), after which Dylan downshifted into “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” and into his storyteller mode.

If his solo songs lack the power-pop punch of some of his work with the Wallflowers, they also pack lyrical hooks and riffs that suggest he inherited more than just his looks from his father. “Either you’re the butcher or the lamb/But everybody pays as they go,” he sings in one. And in another, he seemingly addresses many of the same prophetic inclinations that have haunted his father for going on fifty years:

Was born in a stable and built like an ox
Down in the pastures I learned how to walk
Mama, she raised me to sing and just let them talk
Said no rich man's worth his weight in dust
They'll bury them down same as they do us
God wants us busy, never giving up
He wants nothing but the whole wide world for us.

In interviews, Jakob Dylan frequently talks about how seeing the Clash perform when he was a teenager was the single-most important experience that influenced him on his way to becoming a musician (more so even than growing up the son of Bob Dylan). Dylan’s lyrics pack a Clash-like urgency; would that he work a little Clash-like alarum into his music.

Seth Rogovoy is Berkshire Living’s editor-in-chief and award-winning music critic. He is the author of Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet .

he sho do look like hid daddy....

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