You are here tonight with a lover, or your brother, or maybe even a lover’s brother. Last night was all about Valentine’s Day, and there’s an all-too-human part of you thoroughly relieved to be done with that civic duty, especially with the not-so-modest urges stirring for the promises of tonight. The 9:30 Club is beyond packed, bodies crammed Caligula close, and if you’re not carefulbody control is everything, you realizeyour limbs lock with those of sweaty neighbors, male and female. There’s an edgy energy surrounding you, one conducive to breakout violence or a no-holds-barred quickie. After securing a cold bottle of suds from the bar and squeezing back to your dateOK, for this evening’s purposes, not a date, more like a cohort, a colleague, or, ahem, a stand-inyou calm yourself by remembering why you’re here.
Within minutes (assuming you don’t pass out from the cologne-choked air that you have to chew before inhaling) you will gawk wide-eyed as two of the sexiest, most beautiful people in rock slink onto the stage. This is the truth, as far as you’re concerned: Jakob Dylan and Sheryl Crow are here for you this evening. Both of them. For you alone. And those lowdown stirrings. You take another pull from the bottle, smile politely at your companion, and will the show to begin.
He saunters onto the stage a little after 10:30 p.m., tall, gallantly thin, dressed in a purple shirt and black pants. It takes a few minutes of staring into his faceand those dark, penetrating eyesto fully fathom how much he resembles his father. It takes a few minutes more to delineate how he’s so beautifully different. You are staring at Bob Dylan with a few extra shots of testosterone. The lead singer of the Wallflowers is sturdily handsome where his progenitor was feline and feminine. Jakob could have been the reluctant high-school quarterback, while Bob surely ate bong hits instead of food in that ugly van in the far-off corner of the school parking lot. Bob is a poet with bad hair; you visit him for his words, his presence, and yes, even his voice. Jakob is an ample songwriter, his voice whiskey-and-smoke solid, his rhythm guitar competent. But let’s be honest: He’s so stunningly leading-man attractive that you smile no matter who you are. DNA is a merry prankster. Jakob’s status as gorgeous is currently his greatest asset. Just ask the women around you. And more than a few of the men.
The Wallflowers (you eventually realize there are four other men in the band besides Junior Dylan) open with “Ashes to Ashes,” a midtempo rocker from the band’s self-titled 1993 debut. It grabs the audience with a rootsy growl, but doesn’t quite suck it in the way the follow-up tune does, Bringing Down the Horse’s ubiquitous “One Headlight,” a smooth, galloping number that allows each band member a chance to warm up and show off. It also commences a clubwide bump-and-grind, which, because of the extremely close quarters, resembles something akin to a mass dry hump. This orgy will not let up until night’s end, when, lo and behold…well, you have miles to go before that out-of-nowhere carnal shocker. Just pace yourself.
In the club’s upper-left balcony overlooking the stage, a pair of blond women take turns signing lyrics for a handful of fans. You find it difficult to take your eyes away from their flowing movements, bright smiles, and sheer enthusiasm. Their gentle, fluid sway adds to the beauty of “Three Marlenas,” a love song masked in a near-nursery rhyme chorus. In fact, you pay so much attention to their gestures that upon your next encounter with a member of the deaf community, while you might not be able to introduce yourself, you’re more than certain you could pull off a fairly convincing version of “Sixth Avenue Heartache.”
Jakob Dylan is easily the coolest person in the room. As a frontman, he levels you with dead-dry wit and a slow smile to match. He flirts with a girl close to the stage; she is here for Sheryl Crow and Sheryl Crow only. The girl has no idea who the Wallflowers are, so Dylan drops her a clue: “Well, we’re not the Gin Blossoms.” Then later, with mock annoyance: “Quit giving me those looks. She’ll be out here soon.” When a rowdy drunk starts belting out indecipherable slop during a break between songs, Dylan pauses, smiles, and eases out, “It’s not a tractor pull, man. It’s a rock show.” The comment gets laughs, cheers, and applause; from the drunk you hear nothing else.
The Wallflowers’ nine-song set is tight; the band is even tighter. With a shiny, bald pate and beady, sunken eyes, lead guitarist Michael Ward looks like a bulimic Phil Collins. When it comes to the music itself, however, Ward is as much a leading force as Dylan. He joined the band between its two albums; without him, Bringing Down the Horse wouldn’t be the addictive rock ‘n’ roll product (and legitimate hit) it is. Ward’s soulful playing tonight makes straight-up rockers “Laughing Out Loud” and “God Don’t Make Lonely Girls” shine with catchy, clever twang. Sporting a shaggy goatee, a Tiparillo hanging Andy Capp-style from his lip, and a sharp gray fedora, B3 man Rami Jaffee looks like an extra from The Last Waltz. He smoothly lays down wild, intricate solos with long, caricaturish sweeps of his arms. Jaffee’s contribution in the band is also irreplaceable; his throwback style has become the band’s trademark. Bassist Greg Richling and drummer Mario Calire complete the quintet and are the true wallflowers of the band, quiet and focused until Dylan, with a deadpan look or a wry comment, commits them to a smile.
The scrawny woman next to you is beyond blitzed, facing away from the stage and offering up an unwanted lap dance. This is not the sexual experience you currently crave. You have a couple of options: Send a swift elbow to the ribs, or shove a dollar bill down her pants. But you wind up doing neither. All neighborly distractions vanish when Dylan whispers huskily, “You walked into the party, like you were walking onto a yacht,” and right on cue Crow saunters from the shadows and curls her small but sultry frame around a lonely mike at the far end of the stage. Together they transform the Carly Simon classic from an acerbic lash-out at Warren Beatty’s lifelong boinkathon into a lovely, longing duet. Crow and Dylan trade flirtatious glances; they sing to each other with upturned faces. The Wallflowers will play three more songs (including the unreleased “Skinny Lips”) before leaving the stage, but it’s the cover of “You’re So Vain” that you will talk about on the way home. The two of them together. A throaty internal voice convinces you that this duet was just foreplay. Crow and Dylan can’t be finished with each other.
Sheryl Crow is no doubt aware that the buzz lately has been all about her opening band. But she should knowhell, you’d be more than willing to tell herthat her sheer presence (read: raw, knee-knocking sexuality) is just as strong as Dylan’s. Her jaunt in the what’s-hot spotlight was a few years back, when all she wanted to do was have some fun, and all you wanted to do was watch without blinking. The thought of Sheryl Crow proving her staying power to you tonight makes you purr. Dressed in a black Lycra tank top and painted-on plastic pants (you swear at one point in the evening you can see your reflection in her ass), Crow follows her five-man band onstage and immediately digs into “If It Makes You Happy.” It is Crow’s voice that sets this live take far above the radio cut. She sounds so much more potent live, and when she lets loose and shows off her pipes, it’s breathtaking.
If Dylan failed to act like the pinup he is, Crow is more than aware of her physical charms. She likes to lean back at the mike, arching her back, striking a coy pose, and allowing startling flashes of her hard, tan stomach. She sets up “Leaving Las Vegas” with a sly “You see, this song goes all the way back to my days as a stripper,” then teases you with a few moves better suited to the Pink Pussycat than the 9:30. She performs a 10-minute version of the song and finishes by ruminating about moving to D.C. “and settling down with a senator,” all said with a randy smirk on her Midwestern model’s face.
Crow’s performance is top-heavy with songs off the new album: “Hard to Make a Stand,” “Everyday Is a Winding Road,” and “A Change” set free any inhibitions the crowd might have had left. Her backup band is a no-frills collection of session players that keeps the pace brisk. The second half of the show, during which Crow drops her guitar and takes a cocksure spin at the keyboards, features her earlier songs, including “I Shall Believe” and a rather sleepwalking version (can you blame her?) of “All I Wanna Do.” But just when things seem safe, just when visions of wet, steamy nooky are being displaced by sing-along exhaustion, something happens to you that makes this night like no other. In the heat of Tuesday Night Music Club’s “The Na-Na Song,” you experience the surreal sensation of jamming your crotch into the soft rear of the stranger in front of you while staring into the face of…Chelsea Clinton. Gulp. You can’t believe your eyes: The First Daughter is staring down at you from the club’s sectioned-off third tier, and here you are making like Ron Jeremy with what could be the posterior of an extremely friendly Secret Service agent. The whole thing seems like a helluva Penthouse Forum letter.
You pass the 1 a.m. mark and can feel the exhaustion creep into your back, your knees, your groin. Crow has left the stage but returns without much delay for the encore. You sense something special coming (even though lewd eyeball tennis with the sole offspring of the most powerful man in the world will be awfully tough to beat). After inviting the Wallflowers’ Jaffee onstage for a quick version of “Strong Enough,” Crow stares offstage until Jakob Dylan appears, a sheepish grin on his face. Your horny little inner voice was right: It was just foreplay. And what the two hinted at during “You’re So Vain” they fully deliver during covers of “Pale Blue Eyes” and “Not Fade Away.” When Crow and Dylan share the mike on the countrified VU classic, their lips are so close you swear they’re going to kiss. Hell, you wouldn’t mind them getting butterball naked and sharing a little coitus right there. “Not Fade Away” is tribal and beat-heavy, with Crow blowing on harmonica and Dylan taking the helm at the mike. As the song pounds to a finish, Crow and Dylan gather close around the drums. The beat quickens and seems to get louder. And then it stops. The show is over. Just like that. And despite the fact that your energy is depleted, your horny little voice, rebel that it is, wants to do it all over again. And again.
As you make your way to your car, you desperately want a cigarette. This is an odd sensation because you don’t smoke. You tell your companion about this craving. Great sex will do that to you, your lover or your brother says. Then you wonder if Chelsea is thinking the same thing. If she has also waged a battle with those urges. And if her father knows where she was tonight. CP