Yes, the Wallflowers are still together. It might not seem like it because little has been heard from the Jakob Dylan-led group since it burst out six years ago with its platinum-selling sophomore album, "Bringing Down the Horse," and hits like "6th Avenue Heartache" and "One Headlight." The band's follow-ups have been commercial duds, but the group remains surprisingly popular.
Fans packed a sold-out 9:30 club on Saturday to see the group, touring with six members, plow through a 90-minute set that was at times wonderfully invigorating. There were also some bouts of sluggishness, however; a slow-motion sameness afflicts many of the band's songs, and in a live setting that can be deadly. Not helping matters was a ridiculous light show that belonged more in a Miami dance club than accompanying a straightforward rock band.
Bob's son, who turns 33 today, started things off with "When You're on Top," a bristling rocker from the group's new album, "Red Letter Days."
The song must be some sort of acknowledgment of his dad's influence in that it borrows its sound heavily from the senior Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." But that was the only fuel for the Dylanologists in the crowd.
The best of the new songs, "If You Never Got Sick" and "Everything I Need," were augmented by unexpected older inclusions like an acoustic "Letters From the Wasteland." Perhaps most interesting were covers such as a ferocious version of David Bowie's "Heroes" and a sloppier but entertaining delivery of Elvis Costello's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?"
The hits may be in shorter supply these days, but at their best, the Wallflowers still have most bar bands beat.
-- Joe Heim