“You can’t go home again.” Thomas Wolfe said that eight decades ago. Since then, you wouldn’t exactly need an abacus to count the number of bands that have tasted the stratospheric heights of the Billboard Top 10, only to go away for the better part of a decade, then reclaim the throne. One could argue that, as artists age, they don’t yearn for the same things. To that end, I think Jakob Dylan is very comfortable with his lot in life.
The Wallflowers’ show at Wooly’s on Friday, Oct. 26, was opened by Trapper Schoepp and The Shades. The Milwaukee, Wis., rock outfit was everything you want out of an opening act: vibrant, up-beat, loud and really damn good. After giving the crowd a blistering 60 minutes, the kids from Wisconsin made way, leaving the audience in the Wallflowers’ comfortable embrace. Dylan displayed a casual ease with the crowd, and his material drove home the image of a man who may never again feast with the pop gods but who’s far more than just a nostalgia act. The set was littered with tracks from the newly released “Glad All Over.” And while the biggest cheers of the night were reserved for the band’s gonfalon hits — “One Headlight,” “6th Avenue Heartache” and “Three Marlenas” — the new tracks were well received and served as testament to Dylan’s willingness to explore and grow.
Now at age 42, Time has been good to Dylan’s voice. As he’s aged, it’s relaxed into something that carries hints of Bruce Springsteen’s gravel, coupled with his father’s penchant for trailing off at the ends of phrases, abandoning them like he’s got better things to do. But Dylan’s greatest strength is a tranquility that borders upon existential.
“We’re all friends here,” he announced during the encore. “So the words don’t matter.”