[I'm on with my rock 'n' roll pal Kaedy Kiely at 97.1 The River every Wednesday at 6:50 and 7:50 a.m. to talk about the latest rock news. Tune in to see what's up!]
It was fitting that The Wallflowers hopped onto the tiny stage at Smith’s Olde Bar to the sound of The Dave Clark Five’s “Glad All Over.”
Two weeks from today, the Jakob Dylan-fronted roots rockers will release a new album of the same name, their first since 2005’s “Rebel, Sweetheart.”
On Monday night at the super-intimate Smith’s, the quintet unveiled about half of the songs from that record, a robust return that ranges from the uncharacteristic disco-funk of first single “Reboot the Mission” to the more typical basic rockers with elements of blues and soul, such as “Hospital for Sinners” and the set-opening “Devil’s Waltz.”
Since there wasn’t a spare inch of space on stage or in the crowd of about 300 – even bobbing a knee to the rhythm of a song usually meant you were hitting someone while doing it – there wasn’t much movement from the fedora-clad Dylan.
His (literal) right-hand man, keyboardist Rami Jaffee, however, made the most of his postage stamp-sized area as he bopped and weaved during songs, caught between his keyboard and organ, but always gestured enthusiastically and occasionally grabbed his Corona for a sip.
(Jaffee, by the way, had another gig in Atlanta over the weekend – playing to a slightly larger crowd with the Foo Fighters Friday night at Music Midtown.)
But there is always something charming about these scaled-down shows, even if the air is stuffy, the drunks are impossible to escape and you always seem to be standing in someone’s way.
The sound at Monday’s gig was exceptionally clear, even though Dylan is such a steadfast singer that there isn’t much chance of his warbling off-key. And while The Wallflowers clearly had a purpose for the first half of the show – introducing new songs (second single “Love is a Country,” a pretty, textured tune, deserves some attention at radio) – about 45 minutes after their 10 p.m. start and the obligatory appearance of “6th Avenue Heartache,” Dylan was ready to start calling audibles.
He frequently leaned over to Jaffee to ask, “What do you want to do next?” and then called out a key to the rest of the band to follow, starting with “I’ve Been Delivered,” from 2000’s “Breach” album.
Dylan isn’t prone to long-winded speeches on stage, but he stopped often to chat with the audience members closest to him (and at one point brought one on stage), jokingly ask if they were drunk or to smile and remind people that The Wallflowers are much more than a handful-of-hits band.
Truthfully, their strongest material has often been the songs not played ad nauseum on Triple A radio. Surely their more traditional theater tour that launches in tandem with the new album will concentrate on the familiar side of the band’s catalog.
Fans at Smith’s, meanwhile, got the the full perks of seeing The Wallflowers.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene