Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson
Ray Winder Field
Ask any of the 6,000 or so in attendance who the star of the show was last Saturday night, and you’ll probably get four answers:
1) Bob Dylan, the headliner, who ripped through a tight 105-minute set that, while not a “greatest hits” package, included several familiar tunes.
2) Willie Nelson, the 72-year-old legend, who played every song you might have expected, and then some, in a laid-back show with a relaxed, picking-on-the-back-porch-with-friends feel.
3) The Greencards, an Austin trio that includes two Australians and an Englishman and plays a uniquely American style of jamming bluegrass that would have been right at home on the “O Brother, Where Art Thou” soundtrack.
4) Ray Winder Field, the venerable ballpark that provided a pleasant concert, thanks in part to a huge video screen on the pitcher’s mound that gave those in the center sections of the stands a decent view of the faraway stage in center field.
There were things to like and dislike about all four:
• Bob: Sometimes it seems like he works hard to obscure the identity of his songs through oddball arrangements and muddled vocals. But one thing the 64-year-old Dylan did deliver was passion. He spent much of the show standing behind his keyboard but came to the front of the stage several times to jam convincingly on harmonica. And his encore version of “All Along the Watchtower” was as hot as you’ll hear. A rocked-up “Maggie’s Farm,” the opener that fans first latched onto 40 years ago, set the tone and made it clear this would be a vintage, quirky Dylan show.
• Willie: Twice in 30 years have I wanted to BEG the sound guys to crank it up, and both times it’s been so I could better hear the soft-singing Willie Nelson. The man doesn’t belt. He uses his “inside voice” at all times, which gives his shows a down-home feel — like you’re sitting around Willie’s house listening to him calmly work through gem after gem. Name a song you’d expect and know he did it. Plus “Georgia,” “Me and Bobby McGee” and a great audience sing-along version of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”
• Greencards: The only negative was that their high-energy half-hour set wasn’t longer.
• Ray Winder: The seats aren’t very comfortable, especially for a four-hours-plus show, and they aren’t set up to see musicians on a stage in center field. But the video screen helped, and the rubber temporary flooring covering the outfield grass made the stage-front area comfortable. Buying $3 beer out of the dugouts was cool, and the porta-potties that lined the first- and third-baselines added convenience.
All in all, it was a nice, not-too-sweltering night of music in a familiar setting. And there were more teens and 20-somethings there than expected, primarily music lovers who understand and respect the role Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson have played in paving the way and setting the example for the younger bands they love today.