Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low
For all we know, Bob Dylan might have thought he was in Duluth, Ga., last night instead of the city in which he was born. Per today’s story in the newspaper, he didn’t acknowledge the location -- or talk at all -- during the show at Bayfront Festival Park. No surprise, and no big deal, given that he and his neverending-groove band still delivered an inspired performance -- despite the unusual fact that they’re playing the exact same set list on tour this summer save for a change-up in the encore song last night ("Blowin' in the Wind" was added, perhaps to mark the 51st anniversary of its recording). Thus, we’ll save an in-depth look at Dylan’s current outing for tonight’s show in St. Paul.
However, Bob’s grade-A openers on the Americanarama tour have been mixing it up. Wilco especially gave Duluthians and other Northland music lovers something special. The playfulness started right away with a set-opening cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves the Sun,” which might have had something to do with the fog lifting and blue sky appearing over the hills above the city.
After a spin through some of their earliest tunes – the Woody Guthrie-derived “Mermaid Avenue” cuts “One by One” and “Hesitating Beauty” seemed especially catered to the crowd – the Chicago rockers brought out Richard Thompson. Jaws dropped as he and Wilco whiz Nels Cline played off each other on guitar for a couple minutes like two teenagers excitedly making out in “Sloth,” a song by Thompson’s old band Fairport Convention.
Those gaping mouths then turned to broad smiles as Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy invited out Duluth's own Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low to perform what Tweedy called “the most important song ever.” With Thompson still aboard, they set sail through Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” an epic as intertwined with Duluth culture as Lift Bridge postcards and parking breaks – and as wordy and challenging as “War and Peace.” Sparhawk and Parker pulled it off with the help of lyric sheets, one of which Sparhawk tore up and ate at the end of the performance in a colorful display of triumph.
“That was a hard job,” Tweedy said later. “And they didn’t even know they were going to do that until they got here tonight.”
Thompson’s half-hour set with a feisty trio went way above and beyond what you’d usually expect from a fourth act opening a five-hour concert. He mostly stuck to tunes off his impressive new album “Electric,” all of which certainly lived up to the title, especially the snarling "Good Things Happen to Bad People."
Like Wilco, My Morning Jacket stacked its 75-minute set with twangier, folkier numbers, but the Kentucky rockers did stretch their wings later with the more psychedelic and experimental tunes. It certainly wasn’t the most well-rounded MMJ set of recent memory but still proved entertaining. Frontman Jim James appeared to be having the most fun of anyone there, swirling around the stage and twirling a big Mexican poncho he put on halfway through the set. “It is absolutely beautiful here,” he said. “It’s a special treat for us because it’s been so [expletive] hot everywhere else we’ve played.”
There could be a surprise or two lined up for tonight’s concert in St. Paul. Don’t be surprised by traffic and other logistics around Midway Stadium, though, details of which were laid out in a blog post yesterday. Here are the openers’ set lists from Duluth:
Who Loves the Sun / Via Chicago / One by One / Hesitating Beauty / Shouldn't Be Ashamed / Sloth / The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald / Less Than You Think / Art of Almost / Born Alone / Jesus, Etc. / Dawned on Me / I'm the Man Who Loves You / I Got You (At the End of the Century)
MY MORNING JACKET
Golden / Lowdown / Master Plan / Circuital / Librarian / Honest Man / War Begun / I will Sing You Songs / Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, Pt. 2 / Run Thru
Stuck on a Treadmill / Sally B / Good Things Happen to Bad People / Tear Stained Letter / Can’t Win