July 24, 2013
Review by Thad Williamson
My friend Crystal and I drove from Richmond to Virginia Beach to catch
Americanarama. It was a strange feeling going to a Dylan show being
equally enthused about another act, Wilco, my favorite band from the past
20 years. Due to traffic we missed the opening act but saw all of My
Morning Jacket. They play loud! Really good stuff.
Then Wilco came on and did their thing, with Tweedy setting the tone for
what would be a special evening by breaking out "Bob Dylan's Beard" as the
second song of their set. The band jammed a little bit less than usual on
each song but otherwise it was close to a full-length set. "Cinnamon Girl"
in conjunction with My Morning Jacket to end the set was simply awesome
(and also loud).
As for Bob Dylan, I thought the show really picked up midway through with
"She Belongs to Me." It was a slow, stately, well-articulated performance,
the first one to really get one's attention. The new lyrics on "Tangled Up
in Blue" were also interesting, especially the bit in the new last verse
about "some of them are under the ground." "Hard Rain" was a faithful
rendition until the last verse where Bob did a rhythmic bursting out of
the words in sync with the music. "Blind Willie" and "Simple Twist" were
also excellent, and again featured some innovative lyrics. Before "Summer
Days" Dylan mumbled something about getting off to a slow start (I
couldn't understand to be honest).
After that crowd-pleaser, then a real thrill: Tweedy and Jim James are
introduce, and the band broke into the opening chords of "The Weight."
Time stood still! Bob started off the lyric very strong, then the group
botched the chorus, but James and Tweedy each shined on their vocals and
were clearly enjoying the moment, as was Dylan. Tweedy practically died
and went to heaven on stage. Really quite a treat to see that.
Finally, "Blowin' in the Wind" was really excellent, very nice arrangement
sung with conviction.
Overall, a very good show with one truly special highlight.
Review by Robert Morecock
I have been to over 25 shows since 1985. Ever a fan, never more so
than now. My son Mac attended this show with me, so it was a special
occasion. And I was disappointed just as I was in Richmond a few
months ago and as I have been the last 4 or 5 shows. Nobody seems to
mention the quality lacking in the "sound." Its terrible. So is the
lighting, which although very voodoo and effectively moody leaves the
band as dark and murky as the Mississippi, just like the sound itself.
For God's sake, turn on the lights, focus the mix and lets hear Bob
sing and snap off lyrics. Whens hes out front with harp and mike, its
so incredibly cool; channeling some awkward Elvis vibe that isolates
the man and the song. When he retreats back behind the piano into the
dark, so goes the show. What is the issue with Colin stepping out? His
resonator snarled and was spot on. Bring that damn banjo up and let it
loose. The diminished quality of the presentation can no longer be
forgiven, especially when it must be intentional and so easily
remedied. Bob had his hat off and he was all iconic image and relevant
and it was all so epic and working and yet he kept purposefully
backing down. The rework of TUIB stopped everybody like a sonic brake
job. The "sing song uplift" remains without merit, and seems lazy and
off-putting and hes got to know it by now.
There is no one working that I would rather see live. But My Morning
Racket were miscast. The first half of Wilco's electronica-folk act
didnt work. But when Tweedy and James came out for a stunning if short
work-up of "The Weight" the lights came up and the mix did too; it was a
revelation. So could the entire night have been. Fix the mix, adjust to
that voice, still so full of snarl and poetry. He is clearly not afraid
of anything; why throw a blanket on our greatest treasure? My son said
it was cool to see a bandleader in control. I was reluctant to tell him
how it once was, not so long ago. And, as far as I can tell, could be
again, with some lights and a good mix. Simple tweeks that to this
writer have no good explanation for their continuing failure.
Face the music Bob. You are the music.
Turn on the lights. fix the Mix.
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