On Thursday night, we trekked an hour south to Rochester's Mayo Field, home of the Rochester Honkers. Bob Dylan and Friends were in town on their third annual minor league ballpark tour.
After some careful maneuvering, we planted ourselves at a perfect spot in the outfield about 20 feet from the stage. Now it ain't easy to maintain your spot up front with all those crazy, young whippersnappers out there. They push and they shove and they burn you with cigarettes, only for the tallest one of 'em to stand right in front of you and finally stay put. But on this night, we stood our ground and made out pretty well for old folk.
Bob's friends this year featured two acts from Austin, TX : 1) guitar extraordinaire and country singer Junior Brown and 2) Jimmie Vaughan, the highly influential blues guitarist, founder of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and of course, Stevie Ray's older brother.
Our evening opened with Junior Brown, who blew everyone away with amazing technique on the guitar that he invented, a double-necked steel guitar and Telecaster. Junior sped through a youthfully energetic set of classic country, surf and blues pieces. He has a fantastic voice to boot, reminiscent of Johnny Cash.
Not to be outdone, Jimmie Vaughan came on next wasting no time showing off his own impressive brand of distinctive Texas blues. Feeding off the lively crowd, Jimmie and his band performed an hour long set of fiery tunes, towards the end led by guest-singer Lou Ann Barton.
Having been satiated with a heavy dose of rootsy country and blues, around 9pm the man himself strolled out on stage. Obviously, Bob Dylan needs no introduction, but I will say he is looking mighty comfortable in his role as elder statesman. I mean, the guy defies all our expectations for the aging rock star. He stubbornly refuses to be influenced by today's trends both musically and aesthetically. He consistently puts out creative and satisfying material. Then he openly disparages the state of today's musical landscape but somehow Modern Times still hit #1 on the charts! I suppose at this point, he exists on a plane above the rest of us and we're all the better for it. In case you haven't noticed, I worship the guy. One of my all-time favorites.
The good news is that as weathered as Dylan may look, he remains a mesmerizing performer. And perhaps most importantly, he surrounds himself with talented musicians. This night's setlist featured vintage Dylan tunes, given new life with a more clasically bluesy, jazzy style as heard on his last three albums. Bob never once picked up a guitar, instead opting to play keyboard and a bit of harmonica as needed. He didn't say a single word to the audience until finally introducing the band during the encore. But who likes small talk anyway? However, Dylan didn't come off as cold or removed...rather he was obviously enjoying himself, and when the show ended, the band took a gracious bow and appeared sincerely grateful of our adoration. My personal highlights of the set included Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, Highway 61 Revisited, Simple Twist of Fate, Forever Young and Ballad of a Thin Man. The encore featured an unbeatable one-two punch of Like a Rolling Stone followed by All Along the Watchtower. Hmm...I've just realized that Dylan didn't play a single song from his new album, Modern Times. Odd, but no complaints.
It was an ideal live music experience: perfect weather, a great outdoor venue, enthusiastic fans of all ages, fantastic music and Bob Dylan.