EARLY WORD: Like Lollapalooza For Dads

This just in: Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Ryan Bingham @ Susquehanna Center on July 28th! Tickets go on sale Saturday at 10 AM.

RELATED: Zimmerman, Robert: Aka Bob Dylan, aka the Mystery Tramp, aka Napoleon in Rags. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Bob Dylan was the all-seeing eye atop the pyramid of rock–a razor-thin, tousle-haired visionary speaking in stoned parables and meth-riddles about the nature of transcendental consciousness from behind impenetrable black shades. His status as generational oracle was earned by a triumvirate of hallucinatory folk-rock albums–1965’s Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, and 1966’s Blonde on Blonde – that he would spend the rest of his career simultaneously trying to live up to and live down, never quite succeeding on either count. — JONATHAN VALANIA

WIKIPEDIA: The polarised responses of Dylan’s fans were exacerbated by the structure of his concerts in late 1965 and 1966; the first half would be ‘folk,’ Dylan solo accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica; with the second half ‘rock,’ Dylan and the Hawks with electric guitars and a full rock and roll combo. The rock segment was often greeted with hostility, as seen in shows in Sheffield and Newcastle upon Tyne in No Direction Home. Footage from the Manchester concert, at the end of that film, includes the infamous “Judas” heckling incident. During a quiet moment in between songs an audience member shouts loudly: “Judas!” Dylan replies: “I don’t believe you, you’re a liar” before telling his band to “Play it fucking loud!” as they launch into “Like a Rolling Stone“.[23] This incident was recorded, and the full concert was eventually released in 1998 as Live 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert in Dylan’s Bootleg Series. One fan who claimed to have shouted “Judas!” was John Cordwell; when interviewed by Andy Kershaw he explained:

“I think most of all I was angry that Dylan… not that he’d played electric, but that he’d played electric with a really poor sound system. It was not like it is on the record [the official album]. It was a wall of mush. That, and it seemed like a cavalier performance, a throwaway performance compared with the intensity of the acoustic set earlier on. There were rumblings all around me and the people I was with were making noises and looking at each other. It was a build-up.”[24]

Another claimant to the “Judas!” shout was Keith Butler.[25] Butler’s presence was documented in the film Eat the Document, when the then 21-year old was filmed leaving the Manchester Free Trade Hall, saying “Any pop group could produce better rubbish than that! It was a bloody disgrace! He’s a traitor!” In 1999, he took part in a BBC Radio documentary about Live 1966, and asked about his reaction at the time, he replied, “I kind of think: ‘You silly young bugger.’”[26]

In 2012, Dylan referred to the incident while addressing criticism that he hadn’t clearly acknowledged his lyrical sources for his new album Tempest:

Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. It’s an old thing – it’s part of the tradition. It goes way back. These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified. All those evil motherfuckers can rot in hell.[27]


Bob Dylan Judas! from magicjar on Vimeo.

For most of the aging multitudes at the Mann last night, it was like the Second Coming of Christ, except he’s no longer able to perform miracles, just magic tricks. But they are pretty good tricks (“I will now pull a hair-raising “Ballad Of A Thin Man” out of my cowboy hat!”) After 45 years of howling on the cross, his voice sounds like the proverbial emphysemic cow with its leg caught in an electric fence, but all the eternal verities still hold true: He’s still tangled up in blues. His hat still balances on his head like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine. He’s still keeping company with jokers and thieves and sideshow freaks, still has many contacts among the lumberjacks who get him facts when someone attacks his imagination. Willie McTell is still blind. The levee still breaks (just ask ‘Brownie’) and there is still plenty of thunder on the mountain (just ask Jack White and Wanda Jackson). They’re still selling postcards of the hanging and painting the passports brown (Tea Party much?), beauty parlor is still full of sailors whenever the circus is in town. He still wants to know, after all these years, how does it feeeeeeeel, to be on your own, with no direction home, like a complete unknown? Because, it’s been a long, long time since he still knew how that feels, back before he got on the last bus out of Hibbing headed to the center of everything. Back then he still gave a damn, but things have changed. – JONATHAN VALANIA

PREVIOUSLY: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Bob Dylan

PREVIOUSLY: The day we stop scratching our heads about the new Bob Dylan album is the day the terrorists win. Mercifully, this one’s no exception, and the questions abound: What does a “Duquesne Whistle” sound like? Why a song about John Lennon and why now? Why does Leonard DiCaprio appear in a 14 minute song about the sinking of the Titanic? How many razor blades must one man gargle before you call him a man who sings like this? How can anyone’s 36th album possibly be good, let alone great? The answers to your questions in the order they appear are as follows: It sounds like Charlie Sexton’s magic harp of a guitar, Tempest‘s secret weapon. There is no wrong time to write a song about John Lennon. Because he’s not singing about the Titanic, he’s singing about America. Eight. Because Bob Dylan is different than you and me. He’s stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains. He’s walked down six crooked highways. He’s stepped in the middle of seven sad forests. He’s heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley. He’s heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter. And he vowed then and there, with God as his witness, that the same thing would never happen to him.– JONATHAN VALANIA

PREVIOUSLY: It has often been said that Wilco is the American Radiohead — an edgy, 21st-century rock band whose audience only seems to grow the more they challenge it. Less remarked on is the more obvious fact that they are also the new Grateful Dead — populist guarantors of the heartland verities of cosmic Americana. So it makes perfect sense that Wilco should headline the second night of the XPoNential Music Festival, curated by WXPN, a radio station that has astutely bridged the divide between edgy and crunchy and, like Wilco and Radiohead, commands a mass audience that is more a community than a crowd.

On Saturday night at the Susquehanna Bank Center, a big chunk of that audience was on hand — upward of 20,000, by my reckoning — and Wilco rose to the occasion. In short, they were on fire. When you factor in rowdy, celebratory opening sets from the Avett Brothers and local-boys-made-good Dr. Dog, as well as cold beer and a dry summer breeze, the whole evening was pretty much perfect.

Like the Dead, the continuum of Wilco’s concertizing has come to matter far more than their individual albums. For the better part of the last decade, they’ve been more or less permanently on tour, so it should hardly come as a surprise that they’ve become a well-oiled rock ‘n’ roll machine.

Taking the stage, they launched into the robotic, neo-Neu trance-rock of “Art of Almost” and were nothing short of dazzling up until the show-closing victory lap through “The Late Greats.” The in-between swung back and forth from maelstrom (“Misunderstood”) to reverie (“She’s a Jar”), from the comfort of the old (“Box of Letters”) to the shock of the new (“Dawned on Me”).The performance was only further enhanced by a prismatic light show and a stage set composed of hanging lengths of rope bedecked every few feet with knotted hanks of white fabric that looked, from a distance, like ghosts shimmying up to heaven.

Front man Jeff Tweedy, looking beardy and stout in a crisp, tailored suit, droopy-necked T-shirt, and not entirely flattering bowler, was in fine voice and good humor. Although it is not uncommon for Tweedy to vibe a certain pinched sourness that suggests he is the only person at a Wilco concert not having the time of his life, on Saturday night, he genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself, evincing the younger, more innocent garage-band version of himself, the one who still loves rock ‘n’ roll, and the simple, ineffable joy of — as he sang on “Heavy Metal Drummer” — playing Kiss covers, beautiful and stoned. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: The Mann was filled with stubbly, red-eyed young men, and the women who go to concerts with them, by the time My Morning Jacket took the stage and kick-started a sweaty, ebullient, three-hour hoedown of Southern-fried beard-rock, soul power, and even a little reggae carpetbaggery. Ten years on, the band’s star continues to rise. The last time through it played Penn’s Landing, and before that the TLA, and the days when it played the Khyber are many beards ago, back before the truce between indie rock and Jam Band Nation was declared at the Bonnaroo Line. The reason is simple: Live, My Morning Jacket is an unstoppable force of nature. Fronted by the irrepressible Jim James – fuzzy-faced, Buddha-bellied, rocking a cape and a Cousin Itt haircut, whirling about the stage dervishly with a towel over his head – MMJ made it abundantly clear that they were playing for keeps, slathering bruising he-man riffage and bombastic beats with ethereal harmonies, sounding as if Lynyrd Skynyrd had swallowed Big Star whole. MORE