September 2, 2006

Concert Review: Bob Dylan w/ Jimmie Vaughn (w/ Lou Ann Barton), Junior Brown, and Elana James and the Continental Two (9/1/06)

It was just over two years ago that I first saw Bob Dylan live. My father and I went and were about eight rows back from the stage at Dutchess Stadium. It was an absolutely amazing show. When it comes to Dylan, I only have the slimmest of knowledge, and that would be kind. I do recognize the influence that he has had on the music world over the past forty plus years, but I never really listen to him. I know, I know, it is something will need to be rectified. Going to the live shows is a good start, right?

My father and I were very much looking forward to this show, hoping that it would be up to the precedent of that 2004 show. We arrived at about 4:15, under cloudy skies and the threat of rain. The line was still rather modest, surprisingly so, considering the crowd that quickly formed at the last show. We found our way to the presale line, the only way to go if make it to a show. The presale allows you into the stadium a half hour before everybody else, which gets you that much closer to the stage. Gates opened at 5:00, and the two of us made our way into the park, down the steps, and across the plastic flooring placed over the grass, on our way into deep center field. We found a great spot right on the security rail off to the right in front of one of the speaker towers. There we waited for the show to start.

The evening began at 6:30 as Elana James and the Continental Two took the stage. If you have not heard of them, you should go out and check them out. The quartet play a blend of western and swing music that is very upbeat and a lot of fun. I am familiar with James and one of the two guitar players, as they were two thirds of the Hot Club of Cowtown, the opening act for the Bob Dylan/Willie Nelson stadium tour of 2004. The performance was tight and fun, punctuated by one of the roadies dogs running onstage in the middle of the set, which threatened to send Elana into a fit of laughter. I could have listened to them for a lot longer than they had. Watching her play, and the rest of the band play, was a joy. Their fingers flying over their respective fretboards creating sounds that come together in a bouncy, danceable music that is just a lot of fun. The bands enthusiasm is infectious, and it would be hard not to like them.

There was a brief wait between acts as some of the equipment onstage was rearranged. At 7:05 Junior Brown took the stage. Brown's is a name that I had heard of before, but had never heard, and as soon as his set began I found out why. Junior Brown is a country artist, a genre that I have very little interest in, not to say that there are not country artists I enjoy, justs that it is a genre that I don't normally reach for. Junior Brown put on a fantastic 45 minute set. He came to the stage with a dual electric/slide guitar, which he proceeded to demonstrate his mastery of. The music was not terribly to my taste, but man if I didn't enjoy watching him play! His guitar playing was very impressive, switching back and forth between the two with ease. The crowd seemed to be really enjoying it as well. Another thing to note is that his drummer had a snare and a ride cymbal, and that was it. Somehow, he managed to use those two items to the greatest ability, always sounding interesting. Impressive set.

The final opening act was Jimmie Vaughn, with special guest Lou Ann Barton. I was anxious to see Jimmie, but I think that was based more on the success of his brother Stevie Ray. I know Jimmie is a very good guitarist in his own right, but again, he is an artist I know next to nothing about. He came out with his band, shortly before 8:00, and played a couple of songs before introducing Lou Ann Barton, who would sing most of the set with them. For my anticipation of his performance, I found it to be a little lackluster. Not to say it was bad, he is a good guitar player, and he had his share of tasty licks, but I expected more. They were onstage for about 40 minutes, and by the end of it I was just about ready for a little bit of Dylan.

9:00 was when the real show began, some entrance music began to play, and we were able to spy Bob Dylan, surrounded by security making his way around the outfield to the back of the stage. We continued watching him through the translucent black curtain around the base of the stage, as he climbed up the steps where we lost sight of him until he appeared on stage at the keyboard setup around the middle of the stage.

Allow me to reiterate that I am lack any real knowledge of Dylan's music, so if you are looking for any real in depth analysis of the music or arrangements or whatnot would do best to look elsewhere.

The first thing that struck me as the show began was how good Dylan sounded. For that matter, the whole band seemed to sound better than the 2004 show. The mix was different, Bob's voice was up much higher in the mix, which works really well with his vocal style. On top of that, he was, for the most part, intelligible. The crowd was into every single note emanating from the stage. The band picked up more and more steam as the show went on.

There were a few songs that stood out to me. Early on was "Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee" which just sounded great, from the guitars to the drums to Bobby D's keyboards. Then there was the pair of "Not Dark Yet" and "Highway 61 Revisited." Those songs may be among the bettwe known, but to the uninitiated, like myself, they sounded as fresh as ever.

The angle I had was great, for watching Dylan perform. Something that I have really enjoyed by going to see live shows is wathing the hands of the various performers, mainly the guitar, bass, and keyboard players. Watching them float over the keys and strings is a thing of beauty, and from where I was, I had perfect sight of Dylan's hands on the keyboard, and could watch him play. Plus, I was able to watch as he got his groove going standing behind the keys, dancing to his music.

There is something that is absolutely timeless about the music of Bob Dylan. Some artists capture on something that will last forever, Dylan is one of those artists, and as long as his music is aound, there will always be people like me ready to discover it.

The show came to a close with the encore of "Like a Rolling Stone" and an interesting arrangement of "All Along the Watchtower." Again, the energy was high, the crowd amped it up and gave it right back. As the last notes ended, the crowd roared and the band, with Dylan front and center, lined up to take a bow. Dylan removed his hate and pretended to reach in and throw something to the crowd, which I can only imagine was his way of giving some love back. He returned his hat to his head and held his hands up, as if pointing a paur of six shooters to the sky before leaving the stage for good.

The 6,000+ strong turned and began to make their way to the exits. The rain held off, making it a fantastic, cool night of music. I only wish we could have heard more.

Wappingers Falls, New York
Dutchess Stadium

September 1, 2006

1. Cat's In The Well
2. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere
3. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
4. The Man In Me
5. Watching The River Flow
6. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
7. Not Dark Yet
8. Highway 61 Revisited
9. Visions Of Johanna
10. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
11. Sugar Baby
12. Summer Days

13. Like A Rolling Stone
14. All Along The Watchtower


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