Photo by Chad Anderson
For a tour titled Americanarama the setting could not have been better. In the middle of a cornfield in the middle of Indiana in the middle of a four day Fourth of July weekend, Bob Dylan brought the music with his regular tourmates, Wilco and My Morning Jacket. Though weather predictions had been calling for another day of rain, the clouds had opened up to make for a perfectly cloudy/sunny, warm/cool, breezy/calm night typical of the state infamous for its flip-flop weather.
Known most widely for his work in Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson opened the night pushing a number of songs off of his new album, Electric. He returned to his eighties catalog to pull out “Tearstained Letter” and “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” The set was short and most people had not yet made it through the long lines at the gate in time to hear much but those who did were warmed up by more than the sun that forced its way through.
My Morning Jacket hit the stage next and filled the amphitheatre with the lush sounds of “At Dawn.” The set that followed was a rollercoaster of moods that ranged from soft and subtle to heavy and hard driving but definitely rooted in American Rock. Jim James tore up a Flying V solo on “Lay Low” and then paced the stage in a blue gilded cape in “Victory Dance.” The band wrapped it up with “Guideon” leaving the stage in a sonic warble that left the crowd on their feet.
This noise could easily have feedback and faded into Wilco’s mellow entrance of “At My Window, Sad and Lonely.” The tempo quickly changed as they went into the foot-stompin “Hesitating Beauty” that showed why they had been chosen for the tour. The sun was setting to the left and a hot air balloon passed by close on the right adding more ambiance to the already perfect evening. They continued their set almost always systematically starting a song with soft undertones and whipping up into a sonic frenzy while still maintaining a vain of American beauty.
Bob Dylan may easily be noted as one of the greatest American songwriters. His last incarnation of artistry pays tribute to the Country Western songsters that inspired the greats that inspired Dylan himself. He has come full circle as an artist and took the stage with command. The set at times looked like the inside of a saloon and at others like a bunch a bunch of cowboys around the campfire singing hymns to coyotes. In typical Dylan warble, he and his band recreated such greats as “Tangled up in Blue,” “Hard Rain,” and “Watchtower,” as well as new numbers such as “Soon after Midnight” which highlighted Charlie Sexton as the newly appointed lead gunslinger.
Fireworks in the distance surrounding the venue formally known as Deer Creek emphasized the Americana roots on the stage, and though the crowd may barely have tipped the scale at 7K, the huge heart of American music was realized.