I guess it doesn't happen all that often that a single person's three favorite musical acts decide one day that they should tour the country together. I remember sitting in my apartment dreading the fact that I would have to go another summer without seeing My Morning Jacket or Wilco. So when I became privy to the fact that they would be both be touring with possibly my favorite musician of all time, Bob Dylan, I immediately lined up for tickets to the two shows occurring within reasonable proximity of where I live.
On Friday night I went to the Americanarama Festival of Music in Hoboken at a place called Pier A Park. I showed up around 3:30PM and caught My Morning Jacket's sound check from outside the event grounds. Seated on the pavement on Frank Sinatra Drive I heard them rock out to "Evil Urges," which got me amply excited for the set I would see two hours later. All three acts played impeccably. My Morning Jacket opened with "Circuital," and played some of my favorite songs like "Golden," and "It Beats 4 U." They also brought out the opener Ryan Bingham to finish off the set by performing an epic ten minute cover of The Band's "Don't Do It." Wilco was up next, and didn't disappoint. They hit some classic songs like the ear drum demolishing "Misunderstood," and Woody Guthrie's "California Stars." They also hosted special guests Warren Haynes and Ian Hunter, and to close the set brought out all of My Morning Jacket to wail on "All The Young Dudes." This finish was a hard act to follow, but there is only one man who could really pull it off, one of the fathers of rock and modern folk, Bob Dylan. He emerged from the dark stage, adorned in all black and growled into the microphone between two large fire lamps for nearly two hours. It was epic. He invited Jeff Tweedy, Jim James, and Ian Hunter up on stage as the show neared a close to sing a beautiful rendition of "The Weight." Needless to say I crossed a few things off my bucket list on Friday.
The audio isn't professional, but here's the best version I can find of Friday's beautiful collaboration of "The Weight."
Part 2 at Susquehanna Bank Arts Center
Yesterday at around 5:00PM I sat in a parking lot in Camden and watched puddles accumulate on my sunroof. It had been pouring for almost two hours, and I was mentally preparing myself to stand in this monsoon until the show ended at around midnight. Luckily I was able to sneak under the overhang during My Morning Jacket's set, which saved me from breaking my phone and coming down with a nasty case of hypothermia. My Morning Jacket once again blew my mind with songs like "Dondante," and an emotional cover of The Velvet Underground's "Oh! Sweet Nuthin!" But it was Wilco who truly stole the Camden show. They tore classics like "Via Chicago," and "Impossible Germany" apart, and played the most hardcore face melting version of "Art of Almost" I've ever heard (and I frequent the roadcase section of wilcoworld.net). The Wilco show was insane, and might have me strictly listening to their music for the foreseeable future. Having said that, it still is difficult to outdo Bob Dylan, even though he kind of sounds like a toad who has smoked a few too many Reds. He didn't pick up a guitar like he did when I saw him in Bethel in 2011, but he did play "Tangled Up In Blue" and "Simple Twist of Fate." The pinnacle of both nights happened for me when he struggled through "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." He could barely pronounce the powerful lyrics. But to witness Dylan, age 72, perform one of my favorite songs of his, one that was recorded in 1963 when he was 22, was remarkable for me, and hopefully for anyone else who actually realized what song he was singing (yes, it's that hard to make out what he says at some moments).
Some people don't really understand why Americanarama happened, but to me it makes sense. It's the convergence of three similar movements that represent the evolution and adaptation of folk. They are three bands with similar tastes and influences who all produce incredibly innovative and original music, and not to mention they all love Woody Guthrie. I have a lot of things to thank Bob Dylan for. I have him to thank for inspiring countless artists who I listen to every day. I have him to thank for writing the most mind twisting, inspiring, and intriguing lyrics I've ever heard. And I have him to thank for changing music for the better forever. But right now I just want to say, thank you Bob for bringing together my favorite musicians, and I hope I'll get to see you again soon.
Watch Jim James' solo performance at Hype Hotel in Austin, Texas this past March, exclusively on Baeblemusic.