Friday’s concert at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton was a story of two bands. Sure, you say. There was of course one opening act (Trapper Schoepp and the Shades) and one headlining act (The Wallflowers), but the story of the night went much deeper than simple arithmetic.
For starters, as possessors of a 20-plus year music career, the Wallflowers – featuring members Jakob Dylan (vocals, guitar), Rami Jaffee (keyboards), Greg Richling (bass), Stuart Mathis (guitar) and Jack Irons (drums) – were the evening’s victors by sheer force of experience. Taking the stage shortly after 9 p.m. to the strains of the Dave Clark Five 1964 hit “Glad All Over,” which is also the name of the band’s new album, the group wasted little time in transitioning from new material like “The Devil’s Waltz” and “It’s a Dream” to ‘90s hits like “Three Marlenas” and “Sleepwalker.” The latter track was even preceded by some stage banter from Dylan, who greeted the crowd and joked jovially with audience members who shouted to him that he resembled late night television host Jimmy Fallon.
“Is that a hashtag?” the singer quipped. “Are you hashtagging me?”
Even keyboardist Jaffee got in on the fun. “Did someone say hash?” he said to a chorus of laughs.
For a take on the Wallflowers’ newest single “Reboot the Mission,” the band brought out violinist Gina Romantini, from the opening act Trapper Schoepp and the Shades. Clearly a crowd favorite from her earlier time on stage, Romantini added flourish to the song’s propulsive beat, and stuck around for a duel with keyboardist Jaffee on a solo-infused “6th Avenue Heartache”
After another foray into material from Glad All Over, the Wallflowers dug deep, going to their back catalogue for songs like “Baby Bird” and “How Far You’ve Come.” After these numbers, Dylan joked that the crowd at the Calvin was being too quite in between songs.
“You’re making me nervous,” he said. “Are you reacting to my seriousness? I’m not trying to be serious.”
Then, after a small crowd was encouraged to stand up and move closer to the stage by one particularly excited concertgoer, the band responded to the increased enthusiasm by dusting off the little-played “How Good It Can Get,” a song whose performance Dylan prefaced by saying it would be “worth the wait” once the band finished tuning up.
Winding down their main set with “Love Is a Country” and the radio-staple “One Headlight,” the Wallflowers saved the biggest surprise of the night for last, as Dylan introduced special guest and Northampton resident Frank Black, who joined the band on their finale, a raucous cover of the Clash number “Brand New Cadillac,” itself a cover an old 12-bar blues by Vince Taylor.
Watch the offical video for the song "One Headlight" here:
Then, after leaving the stage for only a few minutes, the Wallflowers, including a now flannel shirt-as-turban wearing Jaffee, returned to cheers and played a three song encore.
Kicking off the bonus set with the Bringing Down the Horse number “God Don’t Make Lonely Girls,” the band once again augmented its line-up with violinist Romantini, who helped close the night with “Nearly Beloved” and “The Difference.”
If experience and years of well-honed musical interplay was the story of the Wallflowers nearly two-hour performance, then youthful energy and jaw-dropping potential was the summation of the opening set by Trapper Schoepp and the Shades. Featuring the already mentioned violin skills of Romantini, as well as the take-charge vocals of Schoepp himself and his brother bassist Tanner, the Milwaukee-based five-piece turned out a tight 40-minute set.
“Run Engine Run” was a standout number about the simplest of subjects – a car. And “Pins and Needles,” though written about the young singer’s “messed up back,” saw an inspired performance aided by Wallflowers member Jaffee on organ.
Despite repeated requests from the audience to turn up the violin and guitar, the group was still able to win fans, eventually leaving the stage to many standing cheers, a sure sign Trapper and company would be welcome back in Northampton anytime.
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