Last week the Summer concert series continued as I voyaged to Peoria, IL to catch a sure-fire show of Bob Dylan, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket under the guise of a traveling “festival” named AmericanaramA. The bill was too fantastic to pass up. My favorite artist of all-time in Dylan with two of my favorite bands Wilco and My Morning Jacket. It was supposed to be a co-headlining venture with British blues veteran Richard Thompson opening for them.
This marked the ninth time I had seen Bob Dylan perform live and the eighth time for Wilco. Both delivered fantastic performances. Wilco delivered an eclectic mix of early material with “Airline to Heaven,” “Via Chicago,” “California Stars,” “I’m Always in Love,” “Box Full of Letters,” and “Kingpin” and latter-day songs from their latest effort, the two lengthy workouts from The Whole Love “One Sunday Morning” and “Art Of Almost” as well as “Dawned On Me.” They had the home-field/home-state advantage closing out the set with “Heavy Metal Drummer,” “I’m The Man Who Loves You,” and “I’m A Wheel” to the delight of their gracious Illinois compatriots.
Bob Dylan filled the main event slot. With as much historical significance and clout as he has (Arguably more than any other North American artist), you can’t argue against that. Dylan sauntered on stage with his spectacular backing band willing and able to follow him down any rabbit hole he dares at a split-second notice. He kicked things off with a rollicking runaway wagon version of “Things Have Changed” before sinking his teeth into the live rarity of Time Out Of Mind‘s “Love Sick.” It was good to hear cuts off Tempest this time around as well with “Soon After Midnight,” “Early Roman Kings,” and “Duquesne Whistle.” The band roared into a stampeding “All Along the Watchtower” and came back out for an encore of “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Dylan and company soaked up the admiration, stoic as ever.
Make no mistake about it though, the night belonged to My Morning Jacket. There’s a reason they’ve been heralded as one of the greatest live bands of this generation, because it’s positively true. They might just be the best of this generation. The band played for about 80 minutes and it seemed like they were just warming up. They had the audience completely captivated. There was no doubt some individuals, probably older, that were there only to see Dylan and maybe Wilco. Those audience members had to at least have been instilled with a bit of wonderment during the MMJ set. Front man Jim James was awe-inspiring howling passionately in a register that was as ferocious as it was gorgeous. Guitarist Carl Broemel by now has to be considered the co-captain of the band along with James. He’s a classically trained musician and veered from guitar, to lap steel, to sax during the show. MMJ hit the stage with the powerhouse “Circuital” and they poured every ounce of energy they had into this truncated set. The optimistic thunder of “I’m Amazed”, pulsing neon ballad “Smokin From Shootin,” and underwater disco epic of “Touch Me, I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2” capped off a fantastic triad of Evil Urges tunes. Then came my favorite MMJ song “Dondante”, the monumental closer from Z. To me, it’s their “Jungleland” (Even featuring a sax solo!). It’s haunting, ethereal, and transcendent, everything a masterpiece should be. It was a great sight to see a monster jam next with Wilco joining MMJ on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass classic “Isn’t It A Pity”. They returned for “Victory Dance,” “Wordless Chorus,” and “Dancefloors” before leaving me completely spellbound and I can’t wait to see them again.
Lollapalooza is right around the corner as the Summer concert series hits Chicago next!
P.S.- Welcome back Kings of Leon. They released their first single from their new album Mechanical Bull (Out September 24th) yesterday entitled “Supersoaker.” From the sound of things, the talk of them rediscovering the raucous magic of their first three records is true as this seems like a return-to-form of the full-throttle angst they broke onto the scene with while still retaining an arena-ready size: