The Midland is one of our oldest music venues (84 years old). It is also one of our largest, holding up to 3,000 people.
Sunday night, the place felt more like a nightclub. Jakob Dylan was in town for a benefit show for Harvesters. Admission was a donation of canned goods or $12. Either way, the 350 or so people who showed up got a bargain.
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Dylan is touring with three members of Los Angeles band Everest (Russell Pollard, Eli Thompson and Jason Soda), and for about 90 minutes they gave the sit-down crowd a tour of Dylan’s solo career and his work with his own band, the Wallflowers.
Part of Dylan’s mission on this tour is to add some electric heft to songs from his two folky and acoustic solo albums. He opened with several selections from each: : “Standing Eight Count,” “Lend a Hand” and “Everybody’s Hurting” from “Women and Country” and “Evil Is Alive and Well” and “All Day and All Night” from “Seeing Things.”
The plugged-in versions were stripped-down, too — just guitars, bass, drums and harmonies. But they had an organic, country/folk-rock vibe, especially when some slide guitar was added.
At times it sounded like Dylan performing with a portable version of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers. He also played a few of the best-known Wallflowers songs, starting with “6th Avenue Heartache.” Later, they reprised “Three Marlenas,” “Sleepwalker,” “How Good It Can Get” and “One Headlight.” That one prompted a couple of women up front to stand up and dance
Fitting the purpose of this event, this was a no-frills affair: no light show, no videos, just a band and some songs.
Dylan joked about not being too chatty, though he would chide someone good-naturedly for taking a seat in the front row in the middle of the show and then recognize a fan who apparently traveled a significant distance to be there.
He ended with a Wallflowers song, “The Difference,” which includes the line, “You are exactly the same as you used to be.” That doesn’t quite describe the theme of this show, which rendered many of his songs in different textures and dynamics.
But in a larger context, this show was about making some kind of difference for people in need. To paraphrase another song of his, shows like this are about as good as it gets: Everybody wins.