Basked in colored light, a mixed crowd at The Majestic got personal with The Wallflowers in the intimate concert venue on Monday night.
Young and old fans gathered close to the stage to hear The Wallflowers revive their roots-rock sound. The band stopped in Madison on a tour to support their sixth studio album, Glad All Over, which dropped on Sept. 28 after a seven-year hiatus.
“I see a wide spectrum of folks; I love that. That’s all a band could ask for,” front man Jakob Dylan said as he examined the crowd. Throughout the show, Dylan alternated between snarky banter with the audience and calm, soulful vocals.
“I’m one of the top ten weirdest guys you’ll ever meet,” Dylan said after rebuking a fan for taking photos with a professional camera. He jokingly asked the fan to stop taking pictures, but when the man didn’t stop, Dylan got uncomfortable.
“I don’t love the long lenses because that makes me feel like you’ve got a website,” Dylan said between songs.
Just after chiding another fan for not knowing who The Wallflowers were, Dylan got very still, closed his eyes and began nodding and strumming his guitar, producing the well-known and loved chords of a classic Wallflowers song. Even considering Dylan’s self-proclaimed weirdness and a seven-year break, The Wallflowers still had an obvious connection with the crowd as they played old favorites like “One Headlight,” “6th Avenue Heartache” and “Josephine.”
They tried to resist playing only old material though, despite the wishes of the crowd. Their set list mainly featured songs from their new album, and rightly so — their new material sounded good and told a new story.
Early on they played “Reboot the Mission” as a proclamation of their return. Lyrics “Eyes on the prize, reboot the mission/ I’ve lost my sight, but not the vision,” declared their intention and the lines, ”Welcome Jack, the new drummer/ He jammed with the mighty Joe Strummer/ I see Rami, Greg and Stuart /I’ve got to say it Jay, we’ve had it coming,” reintroduced them to the stage.
The night’s lineup featured original bass player Greg Richling, an energized Rami Jaffee on the keyboard, guitarist Stuart Mathis, and the drumming powerhouse Jack Irons, who played with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam. Guest violinist Gina Romantini from the opening act, Trapper Schoepp and the Shades, was a lively and surprising addition to the sound.
“Who are all these people? I don’t recognize half of them,” Dylan joked as he looked at an old CD passed up from the audience. “What happened to everybody?”
Dylan’s sarcasm and a few technical difficulties gave the show an odd quality, perhaps of a band a little worn from the first few days back on tour after too long of a break. Nonetheless, the quality of the music and talent of Richling, Jaffee, Irons, and Mathis carried the show and made it enjoyable. Aside from the classics, new songs “Misfits and Lovers” and especially “Love is a Country” sounded full and like soon-to-be fan favorites.
“The Wallflowers will be back soon, I promise,” Dylan said as the band went into the first notes of the new track “It Won’t Be Long.”
After they finished the set, the crowd remained cheering and stomping for a few more songs. And it was awhile before The Wallflowers reluctantly returned, led by Richling, for a three-song encore. However, these last three songs were the highlight of the show. A violin solo from Romantini animated the whole band and The Wallflowers left the stage with a bang.