Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jakob Dylan at The Wiltern; or Attack of Nostalgia

“It is a curious emotion, this certain homesickness I have in mind. With Americans, it is a national trait, as native to us as the roller-coaster or the jukebox. It is no simple longing for the home town or country of our birth…we are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange.” – Carson McCullers

Now that it’s official that I’ll be moving to Texas next month, everything’s starting to take on a strange nostalgic air. Walking into the Wiltern Theatre in LA last week to see Jakob Dylan started to bring back a lot of great (and some not so great) concert memories I've had there. My first Ani Difranco show…That time I saw Live and realized what a completely pretentious douche lead singer Ed Kowalczyk is (I recall something about a Jesus pose while he wrapped himself in an American flag)

One of the most memorable was a charity show featuring Beck, Mike Ness (of Social Distortion), and Eddie Vedder (if you don’t know which band he’s from, you’re not allowed to read my blog!) Seeing Eddie and Mike trade verses on “Ball and Chain” was one of those moments I’ll never forget. This concert will also live in infamy as “the concert where I missed Thom freaking Yorke!” My friend and I left toward the end of Beck’s set; she was tired and wasn’t a big fan (I know, I know). So the next day I’m reading a review and turns out Thom Yorke was a surprise guest after Beck’s set. Considering that Radiohead has been the white whale of my 15 years concert-going career, the memory is still painful. Now, as a rule, I NEVER leave a show until the houselights come on. Because you just never know when Thom Yorke might appear!

And beyond the artists and music, there’s the people I went with…the friendships and relationships that are still strong and the ones that have slipped away. Which got me thinking about the permanence of music versus the transience of relationships. So with all of this in my mind, I had pretty high expectations for my last (…at least for awhile) show at the Wiltern. And while it wasn’t necessarily a show I’ll remember five years from now, it provided a perfect blend of the new and exciting and comforting and familiar. Touring behind his lovely “Women and Country” album, Dylan put on an inspired show, in no small part to back-up singers Kelly Hogan and Neko Case (who was criminally underutilized IMO – why didn’t she open?!)

While the last two Wallflower albums and Dylan’s first solo effort have been hit or miss, he’s found his sweet spot with these understated folk-gems. His work with the Wallflowers was always heavily influenced by Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen; it seems he’s got enough musical confidence now to withstand comparisons to that other Dylan. The songs came across great live and even featured guitar by uber-producer (Counting Crows, Wallflowers, Elvis Costello) T-Bone Burnett on two songs (he once toured with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue!). And then there were the new takes on old favorites Three Marlenas and One Headlight. Neko and Jakob traded lines on a slowed-down version of Marlenas and One Headlight brought down the house. I can’t tell you how joyful it made me to hear those songs that I had so loved in high school. And that’s what’s so great about music – it can excite you with new sounds and new artists and console you with beloved songs and familiar voices. And as I chase new experiences and memories in new places with new people, I’m glad for those familiar songs that will remind me of the people and places I already love.