Infamous silence
Infamous silence

Fortunately The Walflowers' music speaks volumes because the band won't say a word

Preview

The Wallflowers are performing at the Wilma Theatre on Sunday, May 13, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the show are sold out.

The rock group The Wallflowers are coming to town for a one-shot Mother's Day concert, but unless you're one of the 1,000 people who already have tickets you're probably out of luck.

Part of The Wallflowers' first U.S. tour in two years, the $25 tickets to the Wilma Theater show have been sold out for nearly three weeks, leaving late-comers to peruse the classifieds. Performing in support of their third album "Breach" (Interscope Records, October 2000), the critically acclaimed group is also playing opening band for the current Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers tour and refuses to grant interviews concerning their own side-tour.

With enigmatic front man Jakob Dylan, son of '60's icon Bob Dylan, the group has enjoyed a commercial and cult success that is unusual in today's music world. The Wallflowers are one of those in-between rock bands, like Counting Crows or Matchbox 20, very successful yet not so big that they have completely lost touch with their fan-base. Though they have won two Grammy Awards for 1996's "Bringing Down the Horse," and sales from their first three albums are pushing $10 million, they have chosen to play smaller venues like the Wilma Theatre, Sam's Town Casino in Tunica, Miss., the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando, Fla., as well as regional music festivals like Jazzfest in New Orleans.

However, Dylan's well-known role as a reluctant rock star may have something to do with it as well. The road to success was not made with Dylan's famous surname, but instead was built on the musicianship of band-mates Rami Jafee, keyboards; Greg Richling, bass; Michael Ward, guitar; and Mario Calire on drums. In fact, the origins of the Wallflowers' lead singer were a fairly well-kept secret - even one of the band members didn't know - until the success of "Bringing Down the Horse" brought it to light.

As in past efforts, "Breach" sticks to what has been called "organic rock 'n' roll", rejecting the use of purely electronic instruments while keeping the lyrics simple and straightforward. Instead, songwriter Dylan has chosen to follow in the footsteps of classic rockers such as Springsteen and Tom Petty to create tunes that seem simple on the surface yet mask a deeper message.

"I stayed with my instincts, which means using real instruments and actually playing them. I'm not strictly a traditionalist but much of what I hear today seems temporary, a novelty, a shortcut," Dylan said in a recent Interscope interview. "I'm growing and moving forward as a songwriter, pushing myself to explore areas I haven't gotten into before and doing it with simplicity rather that trying to impress myself with density."

According to Rolling Stone writer Tom Moon, this is the kind of approach that makes Dylan "a master chronicler of things that fester." From accounts of romances on their last painful gasps to sons being told, "in a thousand little ways, that they'll never amount to anything," Moon (like many other critics) sees Dylan as a man who has seen the things he sings about.

So far the band has had two hit singles off of "Breach": "Sleepwalker" and the current "Letters From the Wasteland," which is still making its way up the charts. Produced by Andrew Slater (Fiona Apple, Macy Grey) the album also features Elvis Costello ("Murder 101"), Frank Black of the Pixies ("Letters From the Wasteland") and the guitar playing of Heartbreaker Mike Campbell.

It has been a long road for the Wallflowers, who were born in 1989 when Dylan and guitarist Tobi Miller hooked up with drummer Pete Yanowitz, keyboardist Jaffee and bassist Barry Maguire, and began doing gigs in Los Angles area clubs. Initially signed to Virgin Records, the band released its 1992 self-titled debut to critical acclaim and lackluster sales. It didn't help that Virgin saw Dylan as being difficult to work with, mainly since he refused to give interviews. (A practice that, apparently, continues to this day.) Within a few months of the album's release the band and the label parted ways in a mutual decision, but rumors persisted that the band had been dropped due to poor sales.

Other record labels were leery of a band that had supposedly been "dropped" once before, and the Wallflowers' manager soon found that no one would return his calls. Under this strain members of the band slowly began leaving, and before too long only Jaffee and Dylan were left. To refill their roster, Richling and Ward were added along with interim drummer Matt Chamberlain, who now plays with Critters Buggin' and Weapon of Choice.

The new line-up went back to gigging around L.A., which led to their 1993 demo of "6th Avenue Heartache," a future hit. On the strength of this song, along with others Dylan had penned during the days of frustration with his record label, the Wallflowers were signed to a contract with Interscope Records. The result was the 1996 blockbuster album "Bringing Down the Horse," which eventually went quadruple platinum and won two Grammy Awards.

It was during this time that Dylan broke his infamous silence, granting interviews that revealed his reasons behind the silence: He felt there wasn't a Wallflowers story to tell at the time, and that people only wanted to talk to him because of and about his father. In other words, now there was something else for people to ask about, something Dylan felt comfortable answering.

In the time between the releases of "Bringing Down the Horse" and "Breach", the band has taped an episode of MTV's "Unplugged" while performing to sold out crowds throughout 1997. Many of the shows included guest appearances by such legends as Bruce Springsteen, Carly Simon and Levon Helm of the Band.

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