Bob Dylan is a weirdo among freaks. Even when he was a leader of the '60s folk scene, he considered himself an outcast, a stranger who was lost, and by his own admission had "no direction home." So maybe it was fitting that the Bob Dylan tribute show last night at the Oriental Theater had no direction either. It really worked for the whole tribute theme.
The five-hour extravaganza celebrating Dylan's 66 birthday played like Dylan's career: An acoustic rise to fame followed abruptly by an electric downward spiral to the early hours of the next millenium that left people wondering when it was all going to end. So pity if you went to the bathroom during the first forty minutes of the show -- it was like missing Freewheelin' Bob Dylan all together.
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Jim Dalton from the the Railbenders laid down "It Ain't Me Babe," with Angie Stevens filling the role of Joan Baez. And the AAA's Daniel Katsuk played a killer version of "Blowin in the Wind" that did justice to the original by mixing it up, not just feeding the crowd a photocopy of a photocopy.
Then the ball dropped like the '65 Newport Folk Fest, when a stable of electric guitars was brought on stage for the revolving door of musicians that filled the second half of the set. More than sixty musicians reportedly played this show, which no doubt helped inflate the turnout.
With so many hands in the pot, the perfomance often felt like one of those God-awful sets played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, where fifteen has-beens pack the stage and take turns in the massive blues-rock circle jerk, everyone playing a masturbatory solo to some crappy Aerosmith song. Every song had a sax, organ, fiddle, harmonica, two guitar, electric piano and drum solo, making for an excruciating average song time of around eighteen minutes. And these weren't top-shelf Dylan songs at this point -- honestly, he may be legendary, but for every one of his great tracks, there is an entire album of shit. We're talking about a twelve-minute version of "Gotta Serve Somebody," which if you haven't ever heard, don't go looking.
The icing on the cake came during a break, when the sound guy played "Positively 4th Street," and the real Dylan sang, "You've got a lotta nerve to say you are a friend of mine," which, for this group of musicians on this night, I couldn't help but think was a little too true. -- Taylor Sullivan