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It’s almost easy to see why ‘90s alternative roots rock group The Wallflowers changed the band’s name from The Apples all those many years ago. Fronted by Jakob Dylan, the band’s understated confidence brings with it a presence that is both relaxed and mesmerizing all at the same time.
For those who attended last night’s show at the Paradise, you will know exactly what I mean. Bringing about an eclectic crowd, the turnout ranging from college kids looking to get a glimpse of the ‘90s glory days to working professionals, dressed down in their blue jeans and favorite t-shirt for a night of sipping beer and chilling out.
The group bringing with them friend and admitted fan of The Wallflowers, Mason Reed, to open the show, his music can lovingly best be described as “acoustic trucker rock”. Reed got the crowd warmed up right, joking light heartedly, “songwriting’s just a hobby for me; I’m really in the fashion business”, playfully poking fun at his loose-fitting flannel, full beard, and harmonica ensemble.
When The Wallflowers took the stage, they were perfectly at home amidst the retro-looking floral carpeting that covers the floor, almost reminiscent of someone’s living room. Beers sat atop the piano, half them already empty. Bringing with them the air of cool, the group owned simplicity. All of them were in modest dress, rocking jeans and t-shirts, apart from Dylan’s blazer, and four out of the five members donning variations of the fedora.
Opening their set with “Devil’s Waltz”, a track from their latest record Glad All Over, the band set the scene, the stage bathed in eerie and almost demonic red lighting, creating an accurate depiction of the devil’s dance floor. Laced with intricate piano and ’60s-synthy keys, this track embodied a swaying slow jam. All the members casually zenned out until the chorus when Jaffee punctuated the song with an exclamation point, pounding the piano and whizzing back and forth between keyboards.
Once and a while, they stopped their set due to mic troubles during the vocals of lead guitarist, Stuart Mathis. Dylan laughed it off: “Stuart doesn’t say a lot, and we have mic fail the one time he talks.” Conversing with the crowd, Dylan remarked on the Paradise looking even better than the last time they were there. Addressing a few drunken hecklers, he commented on hoping to see Peter Wolf while in Boston, but being unfortunately disappointed that the musician is currently on his own tour. Dedicating the track “6th Avenue Heartache” to Wolf, the song enchanted the audience with an almost Hawaiian sway as longing guitar chords and romancing keys rounded out the sound. Rami Jaffee then took an accordion solo standing behind his keyboards.
The band jumped seemlessly into another one of their newer tracks, “Reboot the Mission”, a very Clash-inspired song all around but also recorded featuring Mick Jones. Being a song that features a clap-along beat, the audience did just that. The crowd swayed and danced to the sound of spacey keys and synth as well as some of Mathis’s skillfully crafted guitar solo progressions. The whole ambiance of the stage was transformed in the toxic green and soothing blue lighting, making this space-age sounding track all the more captivating. Three women at the front of the stage bopped in time, Supremes style.
The show came to a close with more crowd banter, Dylan calling out a girl and her boyfriend holding up a sign that read, “You have terrific penmanship.” The band seemed almost remorseful to have the night come to an end. “Boston, you guys are great,” Dylan remarked on the college town. “Do you guys do college in Boston?…I went to the school of hard knocks, have you ever heard of it? It’s on the south side of Hollywood, but it’s still awful.”
Coming on for an encore of “God Don’t Make Lonely Girls” and “The Difference”, the show ended just as it began, like an intimate jam session between The Wallflowers and one hundred of their closest friends. And with the promise that they’ll be back, at the earliest, on Good Morning America next week.