Jakob Dylan & Three Legs: The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA 5/13/10

The barren landscape served as an appropriate backdrop to Jakob Dylan’s live performance at the Wiltern in Los Angeles.  It depicted the overall tone quite well, which was simple, with images and landscapes of a rural and forlorn country.  However, the show was sometimes a little jaded and monotonous. 

He opened with “Nothing But the Whole Wide World”, which is the first track from his latest record, Women + Country.  Backed up by the powerful vocals of Neko Case and Kelly Hogan (Three Legs), their three-part harmonies sounded gorgeous.  It made up for the minimal movement provided by Dylan’s supporting players.  Case and Hogan, as vocally talented as they are, may have even appeared to edge a little towards the spotlight, yet maintained their positions behind their microphones.

Dylan kept it simple.  Dressed in a dark blue suit, and with a hat shielding his eyes, he sang clearly, yet kept that familiar monotone from earlier records such as Bringing Down the Horse (1996).  Fortunately, his duet with Case on the track, “Smile When You Call Me That,” was one of the few highlights of the show.  The song is beautifully sarcastic, and appropriately sung by a man chiding a woman, who claims “my heart’s on my sleeve.”  In fact, after the song was over, Dylan asked, “How about that Neko Case?” 

Women + Country is Dylan’s second solo album, and was produced by T Bone Burnett.  The record, which combines a mix of Americana, old blues and classic country, is actually quite lovely, however, some of the songs heard live were lacking the spark. 

The first few blended into the next like one continuous track.  Six songs into the show, Dylan says, “This next song means a lot to me.”  He thanked the audience – the majority who stayed loyally supportive.  Going into “Sixth Avenue Heartache,” fans immediately sang along.  The harmonies provided by Case and Hogan added a wonderful touch to this popular hit.

Dylan switched to acoustic guitar on a track from his first solo album, Seeing Things (2008).  “War is Kind” was simple and the crowd remained receptive.  Bringing another Wallflowers hit to the forefront, Dylan featured Kelly Hogan on “Three Marlenas.”  Her powerhouse vocals were effective, however, the supporting instrumental players seemed to fade into the background.  Although steady and talented, they appeared subdued.

Dylan was appreciative, though.  He was not too chatty, but he was happy to be back in Los Angeles.  He said, “We’ve come a long way to be here… it’s been eight years since I played here.  I feel something special coming.”

That special surprise was the appearance of T Bone Burnett, who joined Dylan and the band on “One Headlight.”  The crowd was mostly on their feet at this point, and the show appeared to gain a little more energy.  Burnett stayed on stage for “Lend a Hand,” which was the last song before the encore.

The encore brought the band out for two more songs.  After wrapping up the show with “Trapped Us Boys,’ Dylan says, “I wish we could more, but we can’t.”  He was sincere.  Although the performance had its rise and fall of moments, Dylan seemed content.  He told his fans that it was “nice to be home.”

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