Wantagh, New York

Nikon at Jones Beach Theater

July 27, 2013

[Alex Leik], [Mike Skliar], [Scott Kareff]

Review by Alex Leik

'Twas in another lifetime that I used to make the drive from Virginia to
Long Island with enough regularity that I traded in my manual shift car
for an automatice due to the relentless stop & go on the NJ Turnpike, Belt
Parkway & Southern State Xprsways. It became apparent to me just how far
removed I had become from that life when I made the assumption that 5
hours would be enough time to get me to Wantagh in time to see the start
of AmericanaramA at Nikon Jones Beach. My stepdaughter (her first show at
15 yrs young) and I departed NoVA by 1030AM, and arrived a bit worse for
the wear (thank to aforementioned roadways) by 6PM, just catching the last
2 songs of Ryan Bingham as we walked from the car. A disappointing start
because I had been looking forward to seeing him for the first time.   I
had seen Bob 2x before at this venue, but not since 1999. I was at a BB
King festival in 2003, and my recollection was that this was a great venue
for sound. Upon finding our seats, I was very pleased to see that our 12th
row center were much closer than similar seats at other venues. In fact, I
felt just as close as I did with my 7th row seats in Richmond in April. Of
cours,e I had significantly more leg room there.   Beck Hanson recently
turned 43 I believe, and while I really have not kept track of him since
his few big hits in the very beginning of his career, I was very much
looking forward to seeing him. He did not disappoint. His set was stripped
down to 2 acoustic guitars, a bass and piano/organ, and occassionally
accompanies by an electronic accessory, as well as the local seagulls.
Everything was new to me, save a quick chorus of the T. Rex classic 'Bang
a Gong', and a brief instrumental intro to 'Billie Jean', and of course
his own '2 Turn Tables and a Microphone' ('Loser' would come later, not in
his set). He seemed to have a few false starts and hiccups, not sue how
much he is touring these days.But it wasn't anything that detracted from
theperformance for me In fact, it gave it more of an 'in the moment' feel,
and that is always a plus.   For all of my time and $$ spent on Dylan,
Wilco is the act I was most looking forward to seeing. I was not familiar
with any of their music, except the Guthrie lyrics they put to music, and
they did play that song. What I found was that every song was solid, some
were simply outstanding, and Jeff Tweedy seems to have managed to keep
the outfit moving forward despite the many changes over the years. His
voice is perfect for the part, and I felt their music has a touch of
everything - Seattle grunge, Chicago Blues, Steve Earle, hell even some
80's synth mixed in to really complete the full mesh. The last few songs
were an all star jam with Beck (here they did a stunning version of his
seminal hit, "Loser"). Eventually Sean Lennon made an appearance to
complete the session, playing guitar and sharing vocals with Jeff & Beck
on "Yer Blues" and"Tomorrow Never Knows". It was a rousing end to a
phenominal set from Chicago's powerhouse, Wilco.   I knew right away Bob
had a tough act to follow, but he was up to the challenge. By that, I mean
the first thing I noticed as our hero hit the stage was a voice that was
not quite as gargly as the clips I had been seeing online, and a much more
animated persona...smiles, scowls, 'jimmy' legs driving his hips. Maybe he
is more atease with Charlie on stage again, but the looseness really
continued all night. There were a lot of "yeahs" thrown in from time to
time. As I have spent a lot of time on Beck & Wilco (more than I normally
would on Bob's opening acts), I thought I would limit the Bob talk to the
highs/lows.   Highs: "Early Roman Kings"  never thought I would say
this,but it had an extra kick tonight that really had me stomping my feet;
"Duquesne Whistle" - best song of the night, Charlie was stunning on this,
all the right licks in all the right places, and George just drives this
one at the perfect speed; "She Belongs to Me" - maybe the best vocal of
the night, lots of care, and seemed to be recognized by a lot of the
crowd, very nice ovation; "Summer Days" - maybe I should just say
"Charlie" and leave it at that. As much as I truly enjoyed the feel Duke
added and loved the April Richmond show with him, Charlie Sexton is just
so damn good. His work on"Love Sick" and the beautiful rendition of the
Santo & Johnny 'Sleepwalk" guitar in "Soon After Midnight" were further
high moments. Ad as already mentioned, in general I thought Bob had a
softer, less gargly vocal. And there seemed to be a lot of "new" lyrics
for TUIB. for me, at 72, that's fairlyimpressive to continue to breath new 
life into songs that way.
Lows:  Harp was not as good as in April."Love Sick", "Beyond Here Lies
Nothing" and "Blind Willie McTell" were all harmonica highlights in April,
with the middle of those 3 having more than 1 harp solo the likes of which
I had not seen in recent memory from our hero. In fact I do not recall ANY
harp on Beyond this show, and Blind Willie stumpled through some
passable harp solos; "Hard Rain" suffered from bad phrasing and some
spotty at best piano work. Bob did pull it together for the run at the end
of the last verse, which again I find amazing at 72 that he still rattles
that off as powerfully as he does because I still have trouble keeping the
drummers, talkers, colors and numbers straight after allof these years. 
Nice reception from the crowd, but I'd still have to put it as a low point
overall; Finally...the crowd, which I firmly believe can influence a
performer's mood, seemd rather subtle. Or maybe it was just "drained"
after Wilco blew the roof off of the place But I must give Bob his due in 
that he did  not seem to let it bother him like he normally might (although 
maybe out  lack of the 14th slot surprise was his kiss off). And he did seem 
to  catch eyes with a front row temptress about halfway through the show.

So, maybe I seem to be a little more detailed regarding the Lows. Was it
worth the drive you ask?? Of course, I am still thankful any time I can
see Bob. It's like being at the baseball stadium...for a while everything
just goes away and theres a brief moment in time where nothing really
matters. Fortunately tonight, Beck and (especially) Wilco were able to
enter that arena of comfort. Bob may not have put on a performance the
likes of which he gave in Richmond in August, but it's a great night when
a band like Wilco puts on a performance like this, and then you remember
you still have a Dylan set to sit through. Oh, and the stepdaughter is not
yet fully converted. More work to do on that front.   Onward, & still

Alex Leik


Review by Mike Skliar

This was the first Bob Dylan concert I’ve been to since November 2012 at
Barkley Center, Brooklyn NY.

Same band as last time, although, of course, Bob’s been lately going
thru lead guitarists faster than the time it takes to play the ‘minute
waltz’. This was part of the “Americanarama” tour, and the only show
of the tour where Beck was one of the opening acts instead of My Morning
Jacket.  All in all, a great show all around from everyone, and an added
bonus is that I took one of my nephews- it was not only his first Dylan
concert, but his first ‘real’ concert, period. (I had done the same
for another nephew back in 2006 at Dylan in one of the ballpark tours, its
amazing to me that I can bring a new generation to hear Bob over 50 years
after the first Dylan records were recorded).

I missed most of Ryan Beckham, the opener-to-the opener, but what I heard
was loud and didn’t sound all that good.  Beck was next, an acoustic
delight, and he’s clearly a multitalented artist, playing quite good
guitar, harmonica, singing, doing some wonderful Beach Boys-style harmony
with his three backup musicians, and playing all sorts of material.  Some
of his stuff was very ‘southern-California ‘1960’s-pop’ sounding,
some was rootsy (a great harmonica and vocal-only rave up was fun) and,
improbably enough, he and his acoustic band did a take of an instrumental
that sounded suspiciously like ‘Nashville Skyline Rag”- same
arrangement/instrumentation, more or less, same chord pattern, with a
slightly different melody. If it was a salute to bob, it was a witty and
well-thought out one, tho I think few in the audience ‘got it’. 

Next up was Wilco, who was fantastic. They can turn from folky-rock to
electronica-psychedelic soundscapes and back again in a heartbeat, and the
band was tighter then a drum. Big props to Nels Cline, their lead
guitarist, who was a bit like Richard Thompson or Marc Ribot in that he
got unearthly sounds out of his guitar without ever losing what Martin
Scorcese would call ‘the narrative thread’. He adds a tremendous
amount to the band. I’m not familiar with a lot of their material, but
recognized a few songs, including “Impossible Germany”, a Neil
Young/Crazy Horse meets Beatles-Revolver kind of thing. And speaking of
Beatles, after first a great guest slot by Beck (doing a few of his own
songs and a great “California Stars” with Wilco, they brought out Sean
Lennon, who sang the Beatles’ “Yer Blues” and ‘Tomorrow Never
Knows’- really fantastic stuff, and a highlight of the Wilco set.

Next up was Bob. I had known that the setlists were fairly static, but
it’s a great setlist, featuring what I think Bob is really strong on
now, including a lot of his post-1997 material.  A stronger-then I
remember it from 2012 “Things Have Changed’ opened the set. I noticed
right away that the band had quieted down, that Bob was singing in a
focused and expressive way and that he wasn’t doing too may ‘quirks
for the sake of quirks’ kind of things (no ‘upsinging’ etc.)  Love
Sick was as powerful as I’ve heard it in concert, and a great take of
Highwater was just fine. Soon after midnight was even stronger then the
second-ever reading of it I got at Brooklyn last year. 

He really developed “Early Roman Kings” and had great fun with the
phrasing and delivery, and the band stretched out on this a bit too.
Charlie Sexton is totally comfortable in the band, it seems, and Bob seems
totally comfortable with him- it was a tight and detailed yet rich sound
all the way around.  “Tangled” had some interesting lyric changes I
didn’t quite catch. Bob was back at piano for this, and did some
interesting one-finger runs all night.  (His piano playing wasn’t quite
as great as it was for that Capitol Theater show last September,where he
was really doing some fantastic playing)

While it was great to here Duquesne  Whistle for the first time live, I
got the feeling the band hasn’t fully found its way into this one yet-
and I miss that great string-band beginning that the recorded version has.
Then came a very very strong take on “She belongs to Me” where Bob was
doing this interesting phrasing where he’d hold notes way longer then
I’ve heard him do in a while, almost to the point of those great 1966
versions of things- it wasn’t the same, of course, but had echoes of it
mixed with a bit of that Nashville Skyline kind of crooning, almost.  

Beyond here lies nothing was fine, but not quite as special as most of the
rest of the set- and no trumpet from Donnie. Then came three songs in a
row that were all sublime- “Hard Rain”, “Blind Willie” and 
“Simple Twist of Fate". All were delivered at peak form, and that
last long extended stanza of Hard rain was really a high point.  Simple
Twist had fantastic harmonica work, with a long ending section where he
was really jamming with the band.  A fine but a bit by the numbers
‘Summer days’ followed, and then Watchtower. I was a little
disappointed I didn’t get that extra song in there that the last few
shows have gotten ( a cover of the Band’s “The weight”) but it was
still  a special show. Watchtower is fine, and “Thin man’ is a little
more contemplative then showy this time around, which is a nice change
actually (much as I love that echo-ey version from 2011).  And then it was
over, and Americanarama, which is in a way, this year’s “Rolling
Thunder” rolled on into the beautiful star-laden Jones Beach night. 
Never thought seeing my first Dylan show back in 1978 that I’d be seeing
him about another 75 times in the next 35 years and still see a great Bob
Dylan show 35 years after the first! Thanks, Bob!

Mike Skliar


Review by Scott Kareff

Bob Dylan returned to Jones Beach with his AmericanaramA tour in tow.

Only MMJ wasn't on the bill tonight because lead singer Jim James
committed to headline sat nite at Newport Folk festival before
AmericanaramA was hatched.

Enter Beck, who put on a fine set, highlighted by new songs "Modern Guilt"
and "Gamma Ray" and oldie/goodie "Two Turntables (where it's at)".

We got the full wilco set tonight, impossible germany, humming bird, and
california stars with beck.

But the finale was off the charts when sean lennon joined wilco and beck
for John Lennon's Yer Blues, which people know for:

Yes, I'm lonely
Wanna die
Yes, I'm lonely
Wanna die
If I ain't dead already
Girl, you know the reason why

But which also has the line:

The eagle picks my eyes
The worm he licks my bone
Feel so suicidal
Just like Dylan's Mr. Jones

The ampitheater at jones beach was great as usual tonight.

Bob put on a fine performance.  This was his crowd.  No one leaving during
his seat this evening.

And what the set lacked in variety from Friday night, it benefited from
the better acoustics and from one's having heard the new arrangements once

This was especially beneficial for the new arrangement on Tangled up in
Blue, which was a disappointment in Hoboken but which we could hear better
tonight, but not quite good enough to make out the new lyrics it sounded
like I heard.

A very pleasant afternoon and evening on the beach and amphitheater with
Bob and Friends.


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