On Friday, Sept. 26, the legendary Cali band recreated their epochal album Days Of Wine and Roses for an Atlanta audience—our man on the ground reports back from the front lines.
BY KEVIN OLIVER
It had been 28 years since The Dream Syndicate last played Atlanta, 28 years to the day to be exact, when they took the stage last Friday night for the first in a two-night stand at The Earl. The years didn’t matter once the band kicked into gear, however. At one point early on Steve Wynn informed the audience that the band was only playing material they had written or recorded in 1982 or earlier, and they played all night as if they had been transported back to that year themselves.
The hook for the Friday night crowd was the promise of hearing the entire 1982 debut album from the Dream Syndicate, Days Of Wine and Roses; one of those landmark albums of the ‘80s college radio era that positioned Wynn and company as adventurous yet traditional in their approach to rock ‘n’ roll.
Before the main event, the band warmed up with a couple of early obscurities — “Some Kind Of Itch” and “Sure Thing”, two cuts from the first self-titled EP release on Down There Records in 1982 that didn’t get re-recorded for the full-length. The latter in particular is a classic bit of relentless rhythms and concise hooks that gives away Wynn’s predilection for Velvet Underground inspired sonics powered by drummer Dennis Duck’s precise, pounding backbeat.
The current edition of The Dream Syndicate includes original members Wynn and Duck along with bassist Mark Walton, whose first studio album with the band was Out of the Grey in 1986. Filling lead guitar duties is Jason Victor, who has been playing many of these songs with Wynn in the Miracle 3. Scant reference was made to prior members other than bassist Kendra Smith; when they got to “Too Little Too Late”, a song Smith sings on the album, Wynn simply said, “Kendra’s in the woods… that’s all I’m allowed to say,” before singing a beautiful version of the song himself.
Wynn was in an ebullient mood throughout the evening, cracking jokes at his band members’ expense such as when he was referring to 1982 and the recording of their debut, looking at Mark Walton and saying, “You were a girl back then,” another not-so-subtle reference to Kendra Smith.
Wynn also noted their long absence from Atlanta, and dedicated the performance of Days Of Wine and Roses “For the 688 Club,” namechecking that legendary venue where the band’s last shows had been.
As an album, DOWAR holds up remarkably well, with several solid classics in the track listing. Wynn and Victor were rarely content to play the songs straight, stretching the limits of the melodies with extended guitar jams and riffing from the opener “Tell Me When It’s Over” all the way to the title track closer. On the latter, Wynn brought the band down to a full stop before cranking up the chorus one last time and bringing it home to close out the set.
They weren’t quite done, but even in the encore they stuck to the pre-1982 motif by dropping a couple of covers—Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” and Bob Dylan’s “Outlaw Blues”, both of which can be found on an album called The Day Before Wine and Roses which documents a live radio broadcast prior to the album’s release. [Read a review of it HERE.]As a preview of the upcoming Saturday night concert where the band was slated to play Medicine Show, they closed out the night with another song from that radio show, “Open Hours.” It would pop up again as the more familiar “John Coltrane Stereo Blues” on Medicine Show in 1984, but since that would break the evening’s time capsule spell Wynn insisted this was that other song, from 1982. Never mind that both sound more or less identical, give or take some extended vamping on the lengthy instrumental sections.
The newly revived version of The Dream Syndicate may not sound or look identical to its 1982 self (then again, who among us does, either?), but on this night they managed to evoke that past glory on stage for a little more than an album’s duration.
Note: photos are from the Dream Syndicate and Steve Wynn Facebook pages and not the actual show, but if anyone out there has a few good pics from the Earl they’d like to share with us, please get in touch!