The Wallflowers packed a number of tracks from their upcoming album, Glad All Over, as well as their most beloved songs, into their 40-plus minute Live On Letterman performance at New York’s Ed Sullivan Theater on Thursday (October 5).
“We’re gonna play something that’s new and also a bit familiar,” frontman Jakob Dylan announced before “Reboot The Mission” from the new album (due in stores October 9). That statement seemed like a contradiction: but while the song is new, it has elements that would be familiar to fans of The Clash, a band that Dylan has long cited as an influence (Clash guitarist Mick Jones plays on the studio version). The lyrics include lines like “now, welcome Jack, the new drummer/He jammed with the mighty Joe Strummer,” a reference to The Clash’s late leader. But Jack Irons, “the new drummer,” definitely brings the band some extra punch. A Rock and Roll Hall of Famer as a member of The Red Hot Chili Peppers (and also a former member of Pearl Jam), he gives The Wallflowers a more aggressive feeling than they’ve had in the past.
Opening with an upbeat new song “Have Mercy On Him Now,” which also had a Clash-like feel, the band then went into “Three Marlenas.” While the world knows that The Wallflowers is Jakob Dylan’s band, keyboardist Rami Jaffee’s importance can’t be underestimated; he left the band briefly in 2007, and they are much stronger with him back in the fold. His Hammond organ playing is as vital to the band as Benmont Tench’s is to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. It’s no surprise that he’s one of the most in-demand keyboardist in music (in fact, he splits his time between The Wallflowers and The Foo Fighters).
The other new songs — including “Love Is A Country,” “It Won’t Be Long Before We’re Not Wrong Anymore” and “First One In The Car” — were well received by fans, no doubt looking forward to picking up or downloading Glad All Over on Tuesday. But the audience reacted most warmly, predictably, to the older songs from the group’s breakthrough album, 1996’s Bringing Down The Horse: “6th Avenue Heartache,” “Three Marlenas” and “One Headlight.” Before playing the latter song, Dylan took issue with some incorrect lyric transcriptions that he’s seen online. “I would never write a line that says ‘I’m so alone!’ It’s ‘I sit alone!’ Big difference! ‘I’m so alone’ is a bit dramatic for my speed!”
Dylan ended with a few thank yous: “We want to say how much fun we’ve had our entire career with ‘The David Letterman Show’ since 1992,” joking “That’s 35 years ago!” and then closed with another Bringing Down The Horse hit, “The Difference,” which had a bit more muscle (and maybe speed) than it used to. The band have tour dates booked through December, and if this show was any indication of how strong their full live shows will be, it’s a performance that is not to be missed.
— Brian Ives, CBS Local