Pal, your review was all that is needed. You knocked it out of the park with that one. I should just leave it there and say ditto, but I can’t. I have to gush. I must unload my belly full of joy up in this hizzous. I wrote mine before reading yours. Here it is….
Pal, I have one made up word for you.
I wasn’t this excited about a concert in a long time. Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Richard Thompson Trio. All at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto. This is the exact opposite of your Fun concert. Well established bands touring together. My expectations were high for this one.
Holy crud was that a good show. This was Rolling Thunder Revue revisited. My favourite Bob era. In my mind, Bob Dylan’s amazing musical journey came to a dizzying climax when he headed out for his Rolling Thunder Review Tour. Amazing music. Top tier musicianship. Collaboration. Intermingling of musicians. A witches brew of crazy greatness. Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review had that in the mid-seventies (Check out his Bootleg Series Vol. 5 if you want some of the best Bob Dylan there is) and his Americanarama tour has it now.
We missed Richard Thompson’s set. But he came out again to perform with Wilco on “Sloth” (a Fairport Convention song) where Richard and Nels Cline of Wilco traded atmospheric shredding solos. I knew Nels was one of the best around, but I had no idea that Richard had such outstanding chops.
My Morning Jacket was great. Powerful hard driving etherial hard rock. I am not an avid MMJ fan, but, I had heard of how great they were to see live and I can affirm such a declaration.
Next was Wilco. This will be our fifth time seeing them live and I have to say that this was up there as the best of their shows we have seen. They were unbelievable as always, but this time there was a different feeling in the air. Maybe it was the outdoor venue, maybe it was the extreme heat, maybe it was our ninth row floor seats, maybe they were just better. This time I felt a deeper connection to them than before.
Wilco provided some “Canadianorama”. They brought Feist on for two songs. “You and I”, which was something we kept on missing (it was always the other night of a two gig run). The other song was Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” which was sublime. Wilco outdid themselves that night. This was made even more so when they finished on Cinnamon Girl. MMJ joined them for that one. Pure magic. The crowd went nuts. I was out of my head and I am pretty sure you were too Pal.
And then came Bob Dylan. To see him that close up was other worldly. He was completely on his game. Every song was great. He played a lot of newer stuff which fits his current voice so much better. The oldies like “Tangled Up in Blue” and “All Along the Watchtower” were great as well, but I was intensely digging songs like “High Water”, “Duquesne Whistle”, “Things Have Changed” and “Beyond Here Lies Nothing”. Every song was on point. Bob was in his groove. Dancing and posing with gusto. His harmonica solos were melodic and well constructed. He seemed to be right into it. I think I caught him signalling the band for more time soloing on more than one occasion.
Collaboration continued in Bob’s set. Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) and Jim James came out for two songs. First was an old gospel/folk song called “Twelve Gates to the City”. What made this even better was Bob started a sing-a-long! HOLY FREAK! It was at this point in the show where I entered another plain of existence. Bob pointing his microphone to us asking us to sing, and by golly we sung…
Oh what a beautiful city
Oh what a beautiful city
Oh what a beautiful city
There are twelve gates to the city
Picking that song to perform was a stroke of genius linking the past to the present. A traditional song that demonstrated where all the bands on this tour came from. And to include us in this celebration was a wonderful gift. My goodness, I can now say that I sang with Bob Dylan, Jeff Tweedy, and Jim James all at the same time, on the same stage. Not at different times. The same time. To quote the great Sean Astin as “Mikey” in The Goonies, “This is OUR time”. Whoa man! Was this our time or what! Tweedy and James came on again for the encore which was “Blowin’ in the Wind”. A fine enough rendition, but, it was the rest of the show that sent me spinning in ecstasy like a little girl putting on a new fancy dress. I was walking on air. I have never seen a better show. And I have seen some amazing shows. This was the best.
This is why I hate bringing up what I am about to bring up. I don’t want to sully the pure joy that is still lingering in my bones even days later. But I can’t let this one go. Ben Rayner of the Toronto Star wrote a review of the show that made my blood boil. He is an admitted Dylan-not-liker. Fine. He says he was there at the show, but was he? His review is light on specifics. Most of his article is about the crowd and how it dwindled when Bob got on stage. I don’t know what he saw, but, I saw a packed amphitheatre with everyone on their feet cheering like maniacs. When the show was over it took us a good while just to get out of the amphitheatre because of the crowd. If he was there, which I doubt, he must have been there with his arms crossed sitting in his chair sulking like a jerk about having to see one of the greatest artists of all time. I don’t want to rant about this guy anymore. Bottom line: His review sucked! Ben Rayner got it wrong. Just look at the comments under his review. They all think he missed the boat.
Bob Dylan got it right. He assembled an amazing group of bands. They played amazing music. They collaborated. We sang with them. We danced. We cheered. I felt connected to history. I felt a part of history. I felt like the missing piece of my Bob fanaticism has now been put in place. I dreamed of being there in the 70s during Rolling Thunder. Instead, I can relive being there for Americanarama. And with my best Pal by my side. I am all a glow.