Bob Dylan, My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Ryan Bingham
Friday, July 19, 5:30 p.m. Webster Bank Arena, 600 Main St., Bridgeport. (203) 345-2300. $68. (Show was moved indoors from the ballpark next door due to excessive rain) websterbankarena.com
For the past decade (right up until last year), this is what you'd hear announced over the PA at every Bob Dylan show, right before he took the stage:
"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll. The voice of the promise of the '60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock. Who donned makeup in the '70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse. Who emerged to find Jesus. Who was written off as a has-been by the end of the '80s and who suddenly shifted gears, releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late '90s. Ladies and gentlemen — Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan."
That's Dylan's story in a nutshell, but if you want to you can spend... oh, pretty much your entire life studying and dissecting him. "Dylanology" is considered a real thing. He attracts hyper-obsessive fans like moths to a light bulb. A seemingly infinite number of books and articles have been written on him, and documentaries filmed... And why?
He's arguably the greatest songwriter of all time. He's mysterious, inexplicable, unpredictable, a shape-shifter, a poet with a knack for melody, and he's so well-admired by his fans that even those who don't normally get starstruck get tongue-tied around him and treat him as though he were a god — which he seems to find really annoying. Whatever it is that he's got, it completely overwhelms people. The Beatles had Beatlemania, but with Dylan it's more like Dylanitis. It's a disease of obsession that eats away at you until you've listened to every song (even the lousy ones), tracked down all the bootlegs, Googled every article, read all the books, pondered one of his lines for hours at a time, made pilgrimages to the places he used to live, record or perform — and just when you think you've had enough, it starts all over again and you rediscover the things you've already heard, with fresh ears, and it all seems new again.
Since 1988 Dylan has been on what's been dubbed the Never Ending Tour. As a result, we get many chances to see him perform. It's true, his vocal chords have taken quite a beating over the years. And it's true that his constant rearranging of songs leaves the more casual fans scratching their heads as to what song he's even playing at any given time. It can be pretty hit or miss as far as the actual performance is concerned, but for the superfans it doesn't even matter. We will be there. If you lived in the 1700s and Mozart came to town, you'd go see him, right? Well, Bob Dylan is coming to Bridgeport on Friday. He's not going to sound like the ramblin' folk singer, the chic rock star, the reclusive Woodstock-bound country dweller, the newly-divorced aggressive '70s sex symbol, the Jesus freak, the strung out drug addict, etc. He's 72 years old now, and he's still out there doing what he does, which is always something different than what he's done before.
My Morning Jacket are currently at the height of their magical powers, their live show a force to be reckoned with. They're 15 years into their career, they hail from Kentucky, and they are indie rock kings. Frontman Jim James' ethereal, soothing voice hypnotizes the crowd as his tight-as-hell band bashes away behind him. They've slowly and steadily built up a loyal following that continues to grow, and historically-speaking it's likely they will be seen as one of the truly great bands of the early 2000s. They are also playing in Bridgeport on Friday.
Wilco is coming off recent performances at Solid Sound, a unique festival they curate at MASS MoCA in the Western Massachusetts countryside, during which they played even more outside-the-box than usual, collaborating with many folks and playing an all-covers set including tunes by the Beatles, the Stones, the Replacements (with Replacement Tommy Stinson on guitar), Television, Daft Punk, Bob Dylan (heh), the Kinks and the Modern Lovers. They've been reaching for deeper cuts as of late, so who knows what we'll hear from them Friday, when they too play Bridgeport.
Expect some sit-ins between acts, a communal vibe, some of the best organically-grown rock going on today. And of course, the man-myth-legend creature that is Bob Dylan.