This appeared in Boblinks
The Dylan concert is somewhat indicative of recent years of his music.
Insipid albums, a mediocre band and a less-than-perfect voice. The exeunt
of Larry Campbell has left us a band with a tinny sound that cannot
reconstruct the music that Dylan has so brilliantly provided. However, the
most significant singer-songwriter of the twentieth century does stick to
his set list so the audience can follow his songs. I used my iphone to
track his set list from Peoria and it worked. Since his lyrical expression
is sometimes hard to fathom, having a pre-setlist is helpful.
One of the songs that resonated was “Blind Willie McTell.” That was the last song in
my eight-Dylan concerts that I so desperately wanted to hear. While left
off of Infidels and relegated to near obscurity until its resurrection
eight years later on The Bootleg Series vols 1-4, Dylan and his band were
quite effective with the masterpiece. Such genius which only occasionally
marries with the sound these days, did evoke passion, commitment and
eloquence. Along with “High Water (Charley Patton),” Dylan’s concert did
pay homage to the great blues musicians that influenced the Minnesota
native in his early development. More so than Hank Williams and Woody
Guthrie, it were African-American blues musicians that inspired the
emerging Dylan genius. While Woody rightfully was the persona that Dylan
imitated and incorporated, it was the Mississippi Delta, the Carolinas and
the Texas Blues that drove Dylan from the Midwest to Greenwich Village.
I had not heard the Louisville-based band My Morning Jacket before and consider them an outstanding rock group. Jim James is very demonstrative and skilled as their lead. Reminds a little of a young Mick Jagger. Of the three groups, Dylan, Wilco and MMJ, the latter, whose music I least prefer, was the most entertaining, exciting and successful in incorporating audience participation and engagement. Since rock emerged in the 1950s, it always has to have a genre: acid, punk, indie, classic. Hey, this group is a rock group, period with high energy and skill.
I teach a course on Dylan; I fully recognise his greatness and impact on twentieth century music and history. He should if he wishes continue his never ending tour. It is a testimony to his fitness and energy that he is able to do so.
Peter N. Kirstein