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Sara Foss's Thinking It Through
by Sara Foss

Thinking It Through

A Daily Gazette life blog
Her column and blog rolled into one

Thoughts on AmericanaramA

I’ve been out of the office and now that I’m back in the office, I’m swamped with work, which is why you haven’t heard much from me. But I did want to jot down some quick thoughts on Sunday’s Ryan Bingham/My Morning Jacket/Wilco/Bob Dylan concert at SPAC.

First of all, this is a killer line-up. And I really wanted to see Ryan Bingham, the young singer-songwriter with the weathered voice that provided some of the most haunting music for the film “Crazy Heart,” for which Jeff Bridges won an Oscar as a down-on-his-luck country singer, and Bingham an Oscar for best original song. I got to SPAC pretty early, and caught all of Bingham’s set, which was great — I’d love to see him play a full set in a more intimate venue, such as Valentine’s or Linda.

Next up was My Morning Jacket, one of those highly-acclaimed bands that I’ve never been able to get into. For the most part, I find their music dull and somewhat droning. However, they played a pretty fun set, opening up their songs in interesting ways and experimenting in interesting ways. My Morning Jacket is really a jam band, and although jam bands tend to irritate me (you’d never catch me at a Phish concert), I found that an hour of My Morning Jacket was a pleasant way to pass the time. Some of their songs are surprisingly bouncy and upbeat; “Off the Record,” a song I’m apt to change immediately if it ever comes on the radio, struck me as a feel-good summer anthem when performed live. (Sample lyric: “Sorry ‘bout the things that I had to say/And I’ll make it up to you right now at the penny arcade.”)

Next up was Wilco, who I caught last month at Solid Sound at MASS MoCA. As always, they were very good, although their AmericanaramA set couldn’t quite match the sprawling brilliance of their Solid Sound set. It did include a brilliant cover of The Band’s “Chest Fever,” for which Band organist Garth Hudson joined Wilco on stage. The set really hit a groove during this song, which got most of the crowd dancing. I’m listening to the original right now, and it’s great. In fact, I’d say it’s only a matter of time before I acquire this song for myself.

Finally, Dylan. Before the concert I posed a question on Facebook: Would Dylan be great, or terrible? I had no idea what to expect. My assessment: He was pretty good! On Monday and Tuesday I participated in an archaeological dig, and one of my fellow dig participants reported that one of his friends thought Dylan sounded terrible. Frankly, I was shocked. I thought he sounded about as good as a 72-year-old Bob Dylan could sound and, no, I am not damning him with faint praise. He had a tight, backing band, and his weird, nasally voice delivered a mix of old and new tunes with surprising vibrancy and heart.

I never leave concerts early, but at 10:45 I decided to depart, as I had to get up at 6 a.m. for the archaeological dig. As we headed for the parking lot, I remember thinking, “As long as he doesn’t play ‘All Along the Watchtower,’ I’ll be OK.” I mean, Dylan has so many songs ... what are the odds that he would play the one song I was absolutely dying to hear? Well, pretty good, apparently. When I got home, I checked Facebook and saw that he had played “All Along the Watchtower.” Damn social media!

Anyway, my lesson is learned: I’ll never leave a Bob Dylan concert early again, even if I have to get up at 6 a.m. to do archaeology.

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