August 20, 2011

Bob Dylan/Leon Russell

Question: What is it like to see a living legend in concert at the Nikon Theater at Jones Beach on a warm August evening with the full moon reflecting off of the Atlantic Ocean in the background?

Answer: Magical.

Bob Dylan. Born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24 of 1941. Singer/songwriter. Musician. Poet. Political satirist. Voice of the 1960s. An artist that I've always wanted to see. Last Saturday evening, the 70 year old icon took the stage before an audience that was about two-thirds full. It took me a while to get into this concert as it started off very slow and mellow. Bob was off to the side of the band standing at a keyboard looking almost immobile, his voice gravelly and a bit hard to understand. With the crowd being so sparse, I decided to take a walk around the theater. Soon, I heard the lyrics to "Tangled Up In Blue" and I had to stop where I was to dance in the aisle. By the time Dylan had emerged from behind the keyboard and was ripping on his harmonica, my ear had ironed out the sound and the concert had won me over. For the rest of the evening, I was dancing and trying my best to sing along with Bob (not an easy task, Live Dylan is drastically different from Recorded Dylan).

The band was tight and dynamic. It was a great set that included many classics like "Highway 61 Revisited," "Ballad of a Thin Man," "Like a Rolling Stone," and the anthem "All Along the Watchtower." If there was one thing that I missed, it was the familiar sight of Bob Dylan strumming on his acoustic guitar; opting to play mostly electric guitar or keyboards, he never touched an acoustic. This was not a mind-blowing concert by any means, but it was a fun, feel-good type of night and it definitely prompted me to rediscover a few of Dylan's classic albums.

Warming up for Dylan was Leon Russell. Revitalized by his recent collaboration with Elton John, he brought a gritty, bluesy style of music to the venue. With a voice reminiscent of Willie Nelson and an appearance somewhere between Walt Whitman and Santa Claus, Russell jammed through a set that featured quite a few cover songs: The Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," B. B. King's "Hummingbird," Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven," among others. A highlight for me came when the guitarist showed off some great Robert Johnson-esque stylings. I wasn't familiar with any of Leon's original material, but the group had a good sound--ideal for a Jones Beach night that would end with Bob Dylan. Much enjoyed!

"Shout for joy to the Lord,
all the earth."

~Psalm 100:1