Keep on shining
Checking in from Louisville, Kentucky...
Wednesday night found Avery, me, and a cabal of Louisville artsy progressives braving our way to a Bob Dylan concert, held in the strangest of venues: a parking lot belonging to Jillian’s, a Dave and Buster’s huge megalopolis (the kind of place that offers "four different bar experiences"). It was crowded, and worse, it was crowded by a few thousand drunken frat boys, including many who were doing that little Phish concert dance. To Dylan. Sacrilege.
Given the non-intimacy of the venue, and the annoying quality of the crowd, this concert had all the makings of a quagmire. Yet, it was very, very good. I hadn’t seen Dylan since the late 80s, back when he was touring with G.E. Smith of the old Saturday Night Live band, and I remember those concerts as uninspired.
This concert felt anything but, starting with the band, which was tight, featuring Larry Campbell on both guitar and lute. Dylan himself mostly stayed away from guitar, and instead played piano, which helped flesh out the general blues band sound of the proceedings. The piano was especially haunting on the performance of one of Dylan’s best songs of the last 20 years, "Blind Willie McTell."
The setlist was a diverse one – a great deal from his latest record, Love and Theft. "Cold Irons Bound" from Time Out of Mind, and "Things Have Changed," from the Wonder Boys soundtrack – a song which I have usually admired for its smart lyrics, but here proved itself to have a great down-and-dirty groove to boot. A beautiful version of "If Not for You," from New Morning, complete with chimey guitars. "Watching the River Flow," and then the requisite, yet uninspiring, Rainy Day Women (a giveaway for the fratboys, no doubt) and Highway 61 Revisited. More appealing were not one but two tracks from Nashville Skyline: "Lay Lady Lay" and "Tell Me That It Isn’t True."
The encores, "Like a Rolling Stone," "All Along the Watchtower," and "Forever Young," all felt a little too much like "give the greatest hits." Still, the surprises of the Nashville Skyline choices, and "If Not for You," did give the evening a bit of a surprise feel, and Dylan himself, though frail, seemed to be particularly enjoying himself, stepping out from behind the electric piano to do a little finger-snapping wiggle wiggle while his band played.
Last night, Jennie and Doug drove in from Frankfort, and after dinner in Old Louisville, Avery and Karen took us over to a friend’s monthly acoustic singer/songwriter night, where a local musician friend of theirs organizes a monthly roundtable – not assimilar to what they used to do at the old Bottom Line in New York – of songwriters from the Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee areas.
Acoustic nights can sometimes breed disaster, but I found the singers appealling – one sporting a Teddy Thompson/Rufus Wainwright yearning voice, and the others having a full sound with accordian accompaniment. I enjoyed it, and it made me plan on throwing some money down to finally get a new acoustic guitar for myself, to replace the old hundred-dollar one I’ve had since I was 13.
Doug handed me a burned copy of a record I hadn’t heard of – an Irish folksinger named Bap Kennedy – but as the record features such frequent Ireland visitors as Steve Earle and Nanci Griffith, I look forward to hearing it. (On the car ride home, Doug did play Bap’s version of Steve’s "Angel is the Devil," and I liked it quite a bit.)
Doug also asked an important Dylan question: which songs did Dylan not play at the concert that I wished he had played? Well, I could name some obscure tracks that I love – "Day of the Locusts," "Up to Me," etc – but really, I would have loved to have heard "Tangled Up in Blue" and "Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright." Next time.
Louisville is a beautiful town – tons of parks and the streets often lie beneath the canopies of oak trees. So much lush and green. There’ll be some drinking this weekend – it is, after all, the Derby, and this is Kentucky, and I am me – but I’m also finding some time to read (after all the hype, I was resisiting reading the Corrections until a couple of friends who similarly had resisted it told me that it was well worth jumping on the bandwagon). Also getting some time to return to working on some of my own writing.
Sitting in Avery and Karen’s living room now, as Joni Mitchell plays on the stereo. "California," in fact, and yes, come Monday I, too, will be kissing a Sunset pig and seeing the folks I dig. But for now, Louisville is suiting me just fine.
More than fine, with a belly full of barbecue and an ear full of song, a napping greyhound near my feet. More soon.
posted by Anon. 11:59 AM
Blue moon of Kentucky
Leaving today for close to a week in Louisville. Depending on what my internet access is, I'll try to post in the week ahead, but it's likely that any posting will be spotty. As a harbinger of my trip ahead (I prefer the word harbinger to omen, it has a slightly happier texture), who else joined me for a late lunch at the restaurant around the corner from me on Saturday, but Naomi Judd. Wacky times.
posted by Anon. 7:33 AM