Saturday, April 29, 2006

Dylan Opens New Orleans Jazz Fest

Bob Dylan
inaugurated the first post-Katrina Jazz Fest in New Orleans:

NEW ORLEANS -- It's always tricky looking for the motivation behind a Bob Dylan set list. But there was little doubt Friday that Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath was on his mind during a towering 90-minute performance for the opening day of the annual Jazz & Heritage Festival here.

First, there was the sheer intensity of his vocals, which especially in the early going channeled the chesty growl of Howlin' Wolf more than the typical Dylan nasality. His frequent blues-drenched treatments of songs old and recent fit right in with the annual event's celebration of various strands of American roots music.

Mostly, though, it was the relevance of the songs he chose to the monumental destruction and the emotional and psychological aftermath that this region has been struggling with for the last eight months.

Three songs in, he pulled up "Lonesome Day Blues," from 2001's "Love and Theft" album, with its verse:

The road's washed out — weather not fit for man or beast/Funny, how the things you have the hardest time parting with/Are the things you need the least.

And during the encore portion, Dylan subtly but powerfully changed the familiar verse of "Like a Rolling Stone." So that instead of asking "How does it feel/to be on your own?" he zeroed in on the disorientation of displaced tens of thousands: How does it feel/To be without a home/With no direction home?

"Highway 61 Revisited" evoked the age-old conundrum of humanity striving vainly to understand the notion of "God's will," while a rare unearthing of 1970's "Watching the River Flow" brought the consoling observation that in times when it's impossible to understand life, it's advisable to just stand back and watch it.

Sounds like it was a great Dylan show. He really has gotten so much better the last few years, especially after he got sober. He's still weird and sly and estoeric and crazy and brilliant and million other things. But he's a lot less sloppy and incoherent. Getting sober will do that for you, I suppose.

Bruce Springsteen is supposed to close the Fest on Sunday. He's got his new Pete Seeger Sessions album to play. That should be a good show too.

Boy, can that guy pick a shirt, or what?

Could you send me an email? If You've lost my private address, use:

My computer crashed and I had to re-format the hard drive. Among other things, I lost the reality-based email.
He can pick a shirt -- and a hat!
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?