Original Article From the Orange County Register

Ask anybody who was at Pacific Amphitheatre Friday night, even the staunchest Jakob Dylan fan, and big money says they’d agree: The wrong band headlined.

Not that Train, the Northern Californian outfit that hasn’t released an album in two years, is necessarily better than the Wallflowers, the Southern Californian outfit that hasn’t released anything in three – although Dylan did just issue a well-received solo debut, “Seeing Things,” another austere Rick Rubin production akin to Neil Diamond’s “12 Songs,” only folksier.

This point is debatable, because both groups can be as meat-and-potatoes as Matchbox Twenty, both having excelled by not straying much from the straight-ahead formulas that put them on the map. But on record the Wallflowers have remained more consistently interesting, steadily expanding sonically while Train has mostly shuffled down the same track in service of singer Pat Monahan’s romantic choruses and rhyme-stuffed pitter-patter verses.

On stage, however, there’s no question: Train is an engaging crowd-pleaser, deliberately so, whereas Dylan and the Wallflowers continue to be as exciting as watching laundry dry.

Consequently, the former had much of the audience on its feet and singing along for the better part of its hit-driven 75-minute set. The downsized ‘Flowers, meanwhile, were a thudding comedown from the opening strains of “Three Marlenas.” They got a paltry reaction right off the bat, started losing attendees after a lackluster “6th Avenue Heartache” five songs in, and by night’s end had so few people waiting around for “The Difference” that they could have fit in the considerably smaller Grove of Anaheim – precisely the sort of venue Dylan and pals should be playing these days. (Click here for complete set lists of both performances.)

After all, the Wallflowers are clearly a band in transition – to where, who knows – not to mention a band in name only at this point. Bassist Greg Richling is the only other remnant of the lineup that found fame with 1996’s “Bringing Down the Horse,” the group’s only strong-selling work. Glaringly absent now is organist Rami Jaffee, who split last year; you wouldn’t think a keysman could be responsible for so much oomph, but imagine the Heartbreakers with Benmont Tench and you get some idea of the void apparent here. His Allmans-y touch is sorely missed.

Dylan, who now is to the Wallflowers what Chrissie Hynde is to the Pretenders, has compensated by enlisting duly impressive Ben Peeler, whose Dobro and slide work adds a dimension to his country-tinged Springsteenian rock I hope the Son of Bob further embraces. Once the quartet (completed by drummer Fred Eltringham) warmed up it did achieve several standout moments: the gently two-steppin’ “If You Never Got Sick” was matched in sweetness by “Shy of the Moon,” dug up from the ‘Flowers’ long-forgotten ‘92 debut; “Josephine” greatly benefited from Peeler’s picking; and several fine selections from “Red Letter Days” (2002) and “Rebel, Sweetheart” (2005) reminded that Dylan can be a sharp wordsmith even within the confines of narrow neo-traditionalist fare.

But a showman he’ll never be, despite his evident good spirits this night. He smiled from beneath his fedora, he thanked the crowd – he even politely chastised security down front for getting a tad overzealous. Otherwise, he’s about as charismatic as Ben Stein. He lets the music do the talking, and it speaks well. On a Friday night at the Fair, however, one craves something a bit livelier.

Enter Monahan. Previously I’ve found him strangely smug, the way rock stars that aren’t quite as big as they think they are can get. Yet here, perhaps taken down a peg by walking out to discover only 1,000 people or so had arrived (it was fuller by set’s end), he was quite appealing, not to mention believably soulful, notably on “Get to Me” and a fair cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” with a snatch of Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love” tossed into its middle. (Guitarist Jimmy Stafford also deserves singling out, for it’s rare to encounter such tasteful soloing in such regimented rock.)

What Monahan brought to the performance as an entertainer, though, is what mattered. Freely chatting between songs – insisting at one point that the band’s first album had been recorded in Laguna when most details I find say Birmingham, Ala. – the singer not once but three times brought fans on stage, exhibiting a predilection for bosomy thirty- and fortysomethings during “She’s on Fire” and “Save the Day” but indulging one very cute moment, when little Cindy from Lake Havasu City, Ariz., helped him on the final verse and chorus of “All American Girl.”

Just the sorts of stunts that make Pacific posses happy – but here they were built up for a letdown. Had the two bands flip-flopped – and seeing as they almost played equally long sets, they could have – the crowd would have savored the Wallflowers’ appetizers, followed by a heartier meal from Train. As it was, most people probably picked up a late dinner elsewhere on the fairgrounds.




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  • Comment by Kimmie — July 20, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

    Nothing could follow Train and please the peeps. Nothing. There were flames coming from the stage-you guys were HOT!

  • Comment by Sanlin — July 21, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

    I prefer Kimmie’s review. ^^ jogos casino online

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