Wednesday, April 21, 2010

4.22.10 No Headlights

photo stolen from Seth Rogovoy, who sat next to me and wrote a more positive review than I did, which you can read here
this review originally appeared in the 4.22.10 issue of Metroland.

The Egg
April 17, 2010

I really like Jakob Dylan; love his new album Women and Country; one of the most memorable shows I’ve seen was the Wallflowers / Sheryl Crow show at the Palace back in the ‘90’s. Burned in my brain is the image of Crow, decked out in a Syracuse University cheerleader outfit waving pom-poms in Dylan’s face while her band dismantled his drummer’s kit mid-song. The whole show breathed of life and passion.

And Dylan's appearance at the Egg Saturday breathed of neither. It was the opposite of exciting. And so unexpectedly so.

As the titular leader, maybe some blame can be laid at Dylan’s feet, but he didn’t play a bad show. His voice was full of character and presence and he sang great, with depth of feeling and intelligence. And the songs he sang, leaning heavily from the new album, are interesting, diverse, and straightforward. He showed up.

Nope, the blame is on the band, which spent the evening exploring the meaning of perfunctory. The band is borrowed from the great alt-siren Neko Case, who was along singing back-up vocals along with fellow thrush Kelley Hogan. This all looks really good on paper, don’t it? That’s what I thought.

Instead there was a stony chill that ran through the set. The band vamped without emphasis, guitarist Paul Rigby had his back to band most of the night over on stage right, everybody else barely acknowledged one another and just played their little parts. Were they trying to emulate the relative quietude of the record? That’s not gonna happen effectively unless producer T-Bone Burnett’s at the board, and he wasn’t. Were they bummed because there was (surprisingly) only half a house? Grow up. Were they just too hip for the room? Bite me. It all felt simply so phoned in.

To the extent there was something like a high point, it was Case’s and Hogan’s back-up vocals, which occasional jumped out to something like a confrontation. These are two very good singers here. But their considerable talents were underused and essentially wasted; too often their parts were just obvious and unimaginative harmonies on choruses, or worse, unison parts an octave up. And they seemed to be stricken with the same spiritual malaise as everybody else.



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