Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bob Dylan

Tonight was the night I've been looking forward to for a few weeks. Bob Dylan and His Band, not to be confused with "The" band, played at Nashville's old barn, the Municipal Auditorium. I've seen Bobby a few times, in venues ranging from big festival downtown, to small club in Detroit, to Starwood, but something told me I had to see this one. I'm glad I went.

I knew my usual ticket finding hustle would be hard pressed with the crowd being a little older, and boy were they, but I also know never to give up hope until about an hour after showtime. Luckily I ran into a friend with a college I.D. that was more than happy to get me a discounted student ticket. I was walking up to my seat in the upper deck when the lights went down and the Man was introduced, with words like Poet Laureate and Generation and so forth.

He came out big with "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" and the only song from The Band's era, "This Wheel's On Fire", which was the highlight of the night for me. I noticed right off the bat that this particular venue might not be the best to see this act. Being that you really had to focus on the lyrics and chord progression to figure out what song was actually being played, the muddy mix and all around echo chasm of the Muni, combined with Bob's gravelly delivery, made it hard to make out some of the songs.

After a men's break during "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again", it was "Just Like A Woman", which again took me until the hook to realize which song it was. Up next was an abbreviated "Tangled Up In Blue" and "Rollin' and Tumblin'", which rocked out pretty hard. The rest of the set, excluding "Highway 61 Revisited" and the closer "Ballad Of A Thin Man", were songs I didn't recognize, but were great all the same, as I got down to the front row for a few minutes. The encore consisted of "Jolene", which again I didn't recognize and I'm pretty sure wasn't the Dolly Parton hit, and "Like A Rolling Stone", which I'm pretty sure is the one of the biggest Dylan hits out there. Then they all lined up like bands usually do for a bow, but there was no bow. It was just them soaking in all the applause and then poof, they bolted. No bow. None needed. For the complete set list, click here.

Imagine going to a show put on by an act that you have been listening to in one way or another for your whole life. You know a huge amount of the catalog, but when the band starts playing, even your favorite songs, it takes you a few minutes to figure out which song it actually is, due to completely different arrangements and mumble-sang words. But you love it anyway because you've heard these songs a million times and a different take on them is not necessarily a bad thing. Then you catch the groove and you can kind of sing along and then you can say you saw Dylan play a Band song in Nashville. Even having seen Bob a handful of times, it was still an honor and a pleasure to see this living legend again. Whether he's playing his organ keyboard, harmonica, Strat, or just singing empty handed, he's still putting on a great show after doing it for damn near 50 years.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

J.J. Grey and Mofro

This year's weekly free outdoor concert series Live On The Green built on last year's solid foundation. With bands such as Dr. Dog, The Wailers, Five For Fighting, and Band of Horses, the scene got bigger and the crowds swelled. Sorry to say, I missed most of the shows but I did make it to the finale featuring J.J. Grey and Mofro and Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk. It was a perfect cool clear night for seeing free live music downtown.

With my backpack full of aluminum bottles that matched the beer vendors, I parked for free and walked the 8 blocks downtown towards the resonating funk. I arrived a few songs into Dumpstaphunk's set. This five piece from New Orleans was led by Ivan Neville, son of R&B superstar Aaron Neville. Their lineup included Ivan on B-3 and clavinet, Ian Neville on guitar, a bass player, a drummer, and a guy who switched back and forth between guitar and bass. I love the concept of two bass players. With Ivan on the clav, and both basses going, the funk meter, so to speak, was off the charts, which wasn't a surprise with that much Neville on stage. It seemed to come so naturally to them. I loved it when they introduced the next song as a "love song" and then busted into another complete funk fest instead of the usual slow sleeper. Then they went totally New Orleans when they invited about 20 ladies onstage for a number whose lyrics consisted mostly of "shake yo' sexy booty". This band was a lot of fun and in my mind, stole the show from Mofro.

That's not to say that J.J. and company didn't put on a helluva show. Grey came out with his usual saunter and played a really fun set, mostly consisting of songs off of his newest release Georgia Warhorse. The ever evolving lineup of the band included Derek Trucks' bass player Andrew Trube and the Hercules Horn Section. Daryl Hance was great on electric guitar but I gotta say that was the worst tone I have ever heard out of a Les Paul. I guess that's what you get when you run a Gibson through a Fender amp. I didn't think it was possible but that thing sounded less like a Les Paul and more like a Fender Strato-Tele-Mustang-caster, which is always a shame. The high end was ear splitting and the attack sounded like a kitten with a ball of string. Come on professional guitarists, get your gear straight. Anyway, the Florida based swamp rock driven by fat bass lines, a super-tight minimalist drummer, and heavy keyboards behind J.J.'s raspy voice and harmonica got the crowd fired up and into a sort of a "Mardi Gras meets Spring Break" atmosphere. Grey covered topics ranging from his "Gramomma's Cookin" to keeping development and high rises out of his home swamp land, two topics that I can totally relate to and support.

J.J. Grey and Mofro have been around in one form or another since the late 90's. I've seen them a few times and every time was a blast. J.J. knows how to connect with his peeps, whether he's playing guitar, harp, or just singing, it's like he's playing a field party in the swamp with all his buddies and a keg. I never really got into his records but the live shows are always worth an eight block hike with a backpack full of beer.