Comparisons are notoriously difficult to avoid. When your father is the definition of legend, comparisons are impossible to avoid. Just ask Jakob Dylan, son of Bob. It seems that no matter the quantity of quality tracks he churns out, mentions of dear old dad are close to follow. Whether it was with The Wallflowers, or part of his solo career, Jakob seems unable to escape comparisons to his father. We’re not even a whole paragraph into this review and Minnesota Bob has come up three – make that four times.
When Jakob took the stage at the Midland Theatre in Kansas City on November 13th, nobody was thinking about Bob. After suffering through two at-best-mediocre openers, the crowd was more than happy to see Jakob take the stage. The Midland is an interesting venue, when somebody like Al Green comes to town, it puts on its Sunday best and gets all glitzed up, but for Jakob Dylan, the lights are down, assigned seats are nixed for the more pedestrian GA, and the theatre morphs into an abnormally large and rococo indie bar.
It suited Jakob and the band quite well. The feint glow of the theatre gave a feeling of dingy hope, and it mimicked the sound of the set. Playing with a simple four-man group, there was no room for the smoky pop-organ leads of the Wallflowers. It gave old favorites like "Three Marlenas" and "One Headlight" a fresher sound, as the more than skilled guitarist took those leads on.
Dylan’s trademark scratchy, weathered vocals were strong as ever, and his new material showed that he’s still got a knack for inventive songwriting that is still based firmly in traditional song forms. He’s got a great ability to craft a melody, and has stayed true to his own style and sound.
Of particular brilliance was a beefed up version of "Evil is Alive and Well" from his solo effort Seeing Things. The album version of the paranoid track is beautifully bare, featuring only Jakob and a guitar in a haunting gospel croon. But at the Midland, a thick drumbeat and bluesy riffs filled the theatre while Dylan’s vocals slithered and rose like smoke. I dare say it sounded like a Time Out of Mind b-side.
Attempting to put all comparisons aside (rather unsuccessfully), Jakob is so much more than his father’s son. It’s easy to watch him perform and think he lacks emotion or dedication to the task at hand, but that is nothing more than a surface observation. Jakob Dylan is just a cool cat. His music is proof. These melodies and grooves come so easily to him that it’s can be mistaken for a lack of effort. But just because it comes easy, doesn’t mean he’s taking it easy. Dylan put on an enjoyable set for the crowd at the Midland. Those who missed out, really missed out.