Review: Bob Dylan's Americanarama Festival at Fiddler's Green - Reverb

Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre, 7-30-13 (review)

Bob Dylan performs onstage during the AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Michael Douglas at Sony Pictures Studios on June 11, 2009 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI)

Bob Dylan performs onstage during the AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Michael Douglas at Sony Pictures Studios on June 11, 2009 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI)

Editor’s note: Bob Dylan did not approve press credentials for the Americanarama Festival at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre. What follows is a review by a paid ticket holder.

Even at age 72, Bob Dylan doesn’t run in place. Backed up by his remarkably versatile band, Dylan brought high energy to an eclectic blend of old classics and newer ballads at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre south of Denver on Wednesday night.

Dylan opened with a gravel-throated version of “Things Have Changed,” commanding centerstage in a white dinner jacket and black pants as the packed house that ranged from inquisitive 20-somethings to ex-hippies cocked an ear.

“People are crazy and times are strange. I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range. I used to care, but things have changed.”

The show was part of Dylan’s Americanarama Festival of Music, a summer tour headlined by Dylan and showcasing a sturdy mix of popular bands, including Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Ryan Bingham, who no doubt helped bring in the Millennials. The tour heads to Salt Lake City Thursday and wraps up Sunday in Mountain View, Calif.

Dylan held close to the tour’s standard setlist delivering “Love Sick,” “High Water (For Charley Patton),” “Soon After Midnight,” and “Early Roman Kings” in neat succession. He moved seamlessly between the microphone and piano, occasionally breaking out the mouth harp to the delight of the audience.

A rock-infused version of “Tangled Up In Blue” from the epic “Blood on the Tracks” album in 1975 represented a clever adaptation with the twisted syntax that helps differentiate Dylan’s roadshows over the years. This certainly wasn’t the version he delivered in March 2000 at the Fillmore in downtown Denver. And neither was his long, winding odyssey on “Desolation Row,” where the Fiddler’s crowd got an audible from the songs offered at previous venues. In his recent Virginia, Jersey and New York shows, the band has offered up “Hard Rain.”

Dylan’s not for everyone, and the ‘60s folk-rocker took a few hits in the Twittersphere during the evening, with one particularly caustic tweet calling him a hissing grampa. But more frequently the crowd reaction on social media was showing Bob the love: “Crossing off part of my bucketlist. Seeing @bobdylan at #fiddlersgreen. #FINALLY”

My favorite tribute was the guy in the long, white beard up on the far reaches of the lawn seats who periodically belted out a request for “Rainy Day Woman.” This old soldier obviously was there to pay homage to a legend – and no doubt pulled the lever in favor of Colorado’s Amendment 64.

Among the other classics Dylan and his five bandmates rolled out were “Blind Willie McTell,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” and “All Along the Watchtower” – a sweet, gritty version more Jimi Hendrix than the acoustic original from “John Wesley Harding.” A huge laser image of a joker popped up above the band following the rendition.

The encore was “Shooting Star” and the crowd certainly was anticipating one more as darkness lingered over the amphitheater’s stage. But the roughly hour-and-a-half set ended with the house lights – leaving many to gently cuss Greenwood Village’s late-evening outdoor sound ordinances.

Liner notes: Highlight of the opening sets was an incendiary mash up of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl,” with the full-wattage of Wilco and My Morning Jacket on stage. Also got a double-rainbow arcing the eastern sky after a short cloudburst that served as prelude to a signature Colorado sunset.

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Steve McMillan is the Editor Public Policy/Digital Publications at The Denver Post. Find him on Twitter.

  • chad

    what a crap review. did you even bother to check out wilcos set? I’m sure it was the highlight of the evening…

  • gbro

    Wow. Not sure who this guy is reviewing this concert. Tangle Up in Blues was “Rock infused.” You have to be crazy to say it was rock in fused. It sounded like four other songs he attempted to sing. You say he brought high energy? Maybe if you were one of the drunk and stoned out their gourd people in the first 10 rows. It was horrible. Here is my review below.

    Terrible Venue, and Bob’s band killed it and Mr. Dylan was a disaster. Dylan didn’t have a range when he was young and now clearly his voice is toast. Sound at Fiddlers Green is always the worst. Combine this with an aging genius artist who really doesn’t care about his fans and does what he always does and that is play what Bob Dylan wants to play. He was going for the Smoky,swingin’ bluesy lounge vibe with a big band flair of days gone by. It probably would have worked in a small indoor lounge type setting. This concert, especially Mr. Bob goes down as one of the worst of all time. I get it he is an “artist” and doesn’t want to play shit from days gone by and if so, he is going to change it up. Tangled up in Blues for example was changed so much it sound like the other 10 songs he played. The chorus was cool but the overall picture sucked. I love listening to old songs done new and updated still keeping to the vibe. What I witnessed was a true disaster of Bob’s music. His voice too is so shot it was the same vocal phrasing over and over and over and over and over. It truly became the joke of imitators imitating Dylan (say couple words in a low inaudible rasp followed by a struggling attempt at a high not. Once again, Dylan doesn’t care give a shit what people think that is part of his deal. The only thing I got out of his show was it was cool to be on the same real estate as a living legend. A bow is good but walking up to the mic and orally thanking fans for sticking around may have made the show palatable. The only thing that would have helped the show is if Fiddlers Green (worst venue in the world) would have had barf bags stuck to the seat in front of us.

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  • Boone

    Wilco was the highlight of the night – amazing beginning to end. MMJ and Ryan Bingham were also fun. People were leaving in droves during the Dylan set (and those who stayed were mostly sitting down). And don’t blame Greenwood Village for the lack of a real encore (or at least one song done with the members of the other bands) – Dylan stopped playing a full 15 minutes before the ordinance would have kicked in.

  • gbro

    Totally agree. Steve McMillan – did you attend the show? Yes Dylan’s Band was tight. MMJ and Wilco infused energy and then like a vacuum it was soaked up after Dylan’s 3rd song. Of course you get the people in the crowd yelling, “play your old stuff” but we all know the folky thing is history. I have seen him several times. This will be my last. If it wasn’t for his band we would have spit. Love hearing new stuff but this was really bad and in my opinion he did a disservice to his fans. He up there now in age and maybe stick to the studio where you can still be creative but fix things. Your review Steve was so off. Just wonder if you get paid by Fid. Green Promo depart?

  • dubstings

    Does anyone have the set list that Wilco played?

  • Florida Girl visiting Denver

    Disappointed. Short changed. Would not recommend going to a Dylan concert. The warm up bands were great but after sitting through all Dylan’s new work, we were ready for at least ONE old piece that helped make him famous. He selfishly did not. Sad he and his management company are so selfish. Wish we had left earlier. But we believed in him – but not anymore. Goodbye Dylan. We have the memories from the good times and last night wasn’t one of them.

    • willcommentforfood

      I can understand your disappointment, but do consider trying his last 5 CD’s, his “new work” which are phenomenally good. Try them, read the lyrics, and listen to the fantastic musicians he assembled with good production of sound. If you do, you won’t clamber so much for the oldies. Also consider that he performs his older songs, or all his songs, differently on each tour, so different you might not recognize them at all (a reggae song like I and I becomes a rock ballad, a rock song like Like a Rolling Stone gets a swing jazz treatment). I’ve seen Dylan live a number of times, and each was great. You have to get over his voice being shot from cigarettes and weed, and you have to surrender expectations. You just saw a legend, perhaps not in his better moments, but you did see a legend. Again, once you get over the bad concert, really try those last 5 CD/s– critical acclaim to the max, Grammy awards, etc, but bottom line, new work with real substance.

      • BlackPot

        His last work was marginal. Bunch of old blues riffs with 4 or 5 of the songs having some good hooks with good lyrics. Dylan to me is a rut again.

    • Richard Grant

      You got at least three songs that any casual Dylan fan should know: Tangled Up In Blue, Desolation Row and All Along The Watchtower. If you honestly don’t know any of those three songs, you really should have listened to more Bob Dylan before the show (I mean who doesn’t know All Along The Watchtower?) Not to mention songs like Simple Twist of Fate and She Belongs To Me, which have both made appearances on a few Greatest Hits compilations before, which are fairly well known.
      Sure he might not have played Times Are A Changin’, Knockin’ on Heavens Door or Like A Rolling Stone, but his current setlist actually does strike a reasonable balance between the different eras of his music:

      3 or 4 songs from the 60′s (which should be recognizable to almost anyone in the audience)
      2 from the 70′s (both considered classics)
      1 or 2 from the 80′s (less recognizable to the casual audience, but Blind Willie McTell is one of his most beloved songs and has started appearing on a fair few best of compilations.)
      1 from the 90′s (from a Grammy winning album of the year and the White Stripes, amongst others, have done popular covers of it so not entirely unknown but obviously more obscure.)
      4 from the 00′s (one of them an Oscar winning song, although they are obviously not for casual audiences.)
      and 3 from the 10′s (from his most recent album, which he is obviously assuming most of the audiences would have bought before coming to the show.)

      So while the concert is obviously dominated by recent material (roughly half the songs are from the last 15 years of his career) his current setlists still provide a reasonable amount of material from his ‘classic’ period, with 6-7 that should be fairly recognizable to a casual Dylan fan.

  • Sam

    I would have expected more from a Denver Post review. I was at the show and interested in opinions, but didnt find much content in this article.
    This was my first time seeing Dylan Live and was hugely dissapointed. Tangled up in blue, simple twist of fate, and all along the watchtower were unrecognizable. I wish I could take a forget me now so that my feelings towards those three great songs would not have been tarnished.
    MMJ was great although the lead singer’s screaming got old for me. I loved the covers of the Stones Waiting on a Friend and The Bands Don’t Do It. Definitely a lot of musical talent in MMJ.
    Wilco was also awesome. Many great tunes from different albums. Muzzle of Bees, Impossible Germany, Art of Almost were all great songs that come to mind. Covers of California Stars and Cinnamon Girl were spot on.
    If only MMJ and Wilco could have played the entire alotted time….
    One last note, I have never been to Fiddler’s Green before, but I had no complaints about the sound or venue. I would definitely go back and am planning on it for John Fogerty in October.

  • Kris Asaro

    Most of You people just don’t get it and probably never will. His “new” songs are some of the most well written tunes of all time and by far the most relevant music today. I think that the people who walked out early probably didnt come to see Dylan anyways and most certenly not a post 1979 Bob Dylan. Matthew 7: 13-14
    Says “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
    God bless

    • willcommentforfood

      Wilco fans didn’t get it. I just laugh because Wilco is so overrated, while Dylan’s work is going to fascinate, engage and remain relevant for centuries, no one’s going to listen to Wilco in ten or twenty years. I do like Wilco, but they’re not a legendary band, never will be.

      • WilcommentforNoApparentReason

        it’s weird, then, that ‘willco’ is the first 6 letters of your name.

        I’m sorry, but you are saying that the Wilco fans didn’t ‘get’ Dylan? Eyeroll. You interviewed all of the Wilco fans, I take it.

        • willcommentforfood

          Thanks for the amusing response, I like your online name there, very good… If a Wilco fan is claiming they

          ‘get’ Dylan, but they really don’t understand the words or music, then they don’t get him. I have, and like, Summerteeth, have and hate Ghost is born except for a couple great tunes on it like Theologians. Wilco’s a really disappointing band that imitates so many predecessors, it’s maddening that they’re so careless and inconsistent with their albums because they seem like they could do better. Sure, if it’s all you know, it’s great, but if you know anything, you can tell they are often pretenders. I love and have both the Mermaid Avenue albums, but I credit more Billy Bragg there… Wilco is ordinary, but consider that Bob Dylan wrote Positively 4th Street and To Make you feel my love (that so many are covering lately and making money from, yet that melody and sweet lyric is another masterpiece by Dylan), and he wrote Masters of War and Forever Young, an incredible range of subjects and emotion– some people’s whole career is doing just one of these kinds of songs over and over without variation or insight. He wrote My Back Pages, When I paint my masterpiece, Chimes of Freedom, Changing of the gaurds, each of those are masterpieces, and so are many others of his songs, in a wide range of subjects, and each are such that one can wrap themselves in the song and feel it as something that decribes one’s own life personally, deeply. That’s incredible artistry. It is an acquired taste, because you have to get past his voice ruined by cigarettes, and that he plays a wide diversity of musical styles, not just one pop style, that takes getting used to but soon becomes profoundly stunning and educates you more about music and art.
          As to your eye roll, I apologize for painting all Wilco fans with a broad brush, but what I see is that many of them think Wilco is the greatest, and Dylan is merely a sideshow carnival. That’s not musical knowledge. I grant he may have played a bad show, or that his voice is shot, so you can get the wrong impression of his music as a result. But if you a lover of great lyrics, you can’t toss out Dylan, he is one of the essential masters, and Wilco is ok at it, but not even close. And it’s almost a crime against music and art to know only Dylan’s greatest hits, if you are an appreciator of great lyrics, then you have to get inside past the hits to the wide number of absolute unquestioned masterpieces he’s written with an astonishing range. Rappers? What a joke they are in comparison. And yes, he’s still at it, writing at a very high level– check out Modern Times, or any of his last 5 cd’s, they are worth listening to repeatedly.

          I’ll grant that maybe Wilco is great in concert, they are good musicians, and I’d be willing to see them, I’d even consider buying more of their albums, but so far I don’t think they are consistent enough to invest myself in further, though I think they’re capable of doing something likeable or very good in the next ten years, so my ears are open to them and I won’t write them off. Dylan’s recent albums really are terrific, and I say that not as someone who likes every little fart he might make, no he had a string of bad records for a while until recently, but even those had a song or two that were masterpieces.

  • R

    Of course Dylan can’t sing anymore but could he ever really sing? To me it honestly didn’t sound much different than it always has. Of course, the arrangements of the songs are completely different and the folksy stuff has turned into blues but after 50 years of touring what do you expect? If you had listened to his latest album before you came you would have not been surprised at all at what you heard last night. Just like any other artist they play their most recent stuff most frequently. Also, as far as the crowd goes this concert being on a Weds. night did not help with people staying the whole time. But to say Wilco and MMJ were the highlights is a complete joke. I think Dylan might have even told them to play their most boring songs so that he would be the for sure main attraction. The sound isn’t that great at Fiddler’s Green anyway so to knock the sound quality of the bands is to knock the sound quality of the venue. I thought the stage setup for Dylan was awesome and really created the perfect environment for his minor-key blues rock stuff that he performed so much of last night. The crowd demanded a first and second encore but only got one. Don’t think that terrible performances are rewarded with multiple encore cheers. Anyway, I thought the show was great and people should cut the living legend a break. Afterall, he could just end his career whenever he wanted.

  • gbro

    We get it and yes his new material is well produced, protooled and solid in song craftsmanship and of course played by the musicians in the biz. We also get that songs change grow mature and artist make them fresh by doing so. Many of the songs played last night had the same feel, shuffling train beat and the lyrical phrasing when you could understand it was the same. People see music differently. I play music and know the sound was subpar especially at the beginning. It to the sound crew a while to dial his vocals in. That had nothing to do with the experience. I pay a lot of money to see music to make me feel a certain way, admire well crafted songs by great musician. Dylan had some of this but the emotional connection was gone. Song styles ran together and many were the same tempo. It was boring and in my opinion the reason he got an encore was the fans including me thought we might get a nugget of a memory to hold on to. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. I observed and listened to many people around me and it was pretty much the same sad feelings of being let down. Dylan didn’t connect with my section and I assume many others. I would love to see this song list played where it needs to be played in a more intimate setting. Of course if you are in the front 10-20 rows the sound may have been better. I’m glad I got to see him one last time but won’t pay to see him again unless it’s at the Soiled Dove. It was painful to watch.

    • willcommentforfood

      Dylan has bad nights, for sure. That record he cut with the Dead live was terrible, and many of the live bootlegs I’ve heard were awful. No question he has bad performances from time to time. I’ve been lucky, saw him with Santana, with the guitarist from SNL in Dylan’s band and they were great. I’ve seen Dylan 4 times over many years from the Rolling Thunder tour (my first time) to a few years ago, and each time was great, but each time I worried it would be like your experience, because I’ve heard those live bootlegs and I know he has nights that are off. You can try him again, or give up, I don’t know. I’ve been careful to go when I heard it’s a good tour, that’s all one can do.

  • Zontar Smith

    I thought Dylan was brilliant, although the overall sound could have been better. Dylan is a great artist because he is never static, always changing and still pushing buttons. Of all of the rockers of his generation, Dylan remains among the most vital because he refuses to be a greatest hits jukebox placidly validating the fans’ warm ‘n’ fuzzy feeling of nostalgia. I thought the radical reworking of his older songs were often brilliant. “All Along The Watchtower” was frightening… the truncated version of that old familiar riff gave it a whole new kick (it almost reminded me of the punk-era cover version by XTC- check it out on YouTube. It’s a blast!). “Tangled Up In Blue” had an urgency that was really refreshing. The only real misfire in the re-arrangements was “Desolation Row”, which just sounded confused and muddled. The newer material was also presented splendidly, Dylan sliding into his latter-day blues singer guise pretty adeptly, and the band riffing with sharp expertise. Dylan always wanted to be an old, gruff blues growler, and now he has fulfilled his ambitions at last. He has BECOME “Blind Boy Grunt”. It’s wonderful to see the old icon realizing his fondest dream. The real surprise of the show was the fact that Dylan didn’t play any guitar at all, just piano and harmonica. I thought he had some pretty ace Vince Guaraldi-style chord extensions on the keyboards that gave the whole proceeding a disconcertingly jazzy tinge.
    As far as the other bands were concerned, two out of three were top notch.
    Ryan Bingham is a talent to watch. His voice combines Dylanesque phrasing with the growling quality of Howlin’ Wolf or Steppenwolf’s John Kay. He has a handful of butt-kicking tunes and his band is really sharp, especially the fiddle player. I hope to see them again, preferably in a cool indoor venue with lots of chilled beer.
    Wilco was the real revelation of the day. I have a couple of their albums, and I like them just fine, but somehow they never really connected with me. But their set at Fiddler’s Green was a real mind-melting revelation from start to finish. Wilco has a wide sonic palette, ranging from gentle country rock to raging avant noise blowouts, and they use these dynamics expertly in the service of really well-written songs. The Wilco/ My Morning Jacket collaboration on Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” was a highlight, a blast of sheer musical joy. They were a joy from start to finish, and their splendid performance has me dusting off those previously-ignored CDs for a reappraisal.
    My Morning Jacket, on the other hand, were just a bland bricolage of derivative ideas. All of their songs sound like a bunch of bolted-together parts of tunes cribbed from better artists. And Yim Yames’ vocals constantly wavered flat or sharp when he wasn’t yowling in an annoying fashion (strangely, the band’s harmony vocals were spot on… what the Hell’s up with that?). The band isn’t bad, and they have talent, but their song writing just doesn’t cut it. And judging from the cheesy singles-bar-ready version of The Stones’ “Waiting For A Friend”, they should probably avoid covers as well, especially when they feature sax playing corny enough to make Tom Scott blush. The disappointment of the day.

  • kdennis

    Wow, great to see Dylan still inspires confusion and inspiration in equal doses. I saw Dylan in 1976, then not again until October 2012. I’ve seen the Americanarama Tour twice now – Chicago and Denver. Wilco shone brightly both times (and they are the reason I attended), and I agree that My Mourning Jacket is talented but seem to assemble songs out of previously used pieces. Dyan is inscrutable, bereft of voice but not attitude, and his band (and especially Charlie Sexton on lead guitar) is brilliant at projecting the old weird America that their leader’s songs are all about. However, no mention by anyone that John Oates – yes, of Hall & Oates – appeared to play a pointless Rolling Stones cover with MMJ, and stayed on for another cover (The Band’s version of Baby Don’t Do It). That was odd. I was on row 18, sound was great, but Fiddler’s is not a friendly place. Doesn’t anybody do any research? The Dylan concert experience has been well-documented for the last decade or so, so those who are disappointed in his show haven’t done their homework before shelling out their money.

  • geochaucer

    The concert was July 31, not July 30. Basic facts matter.

  • Bryley86

    BOB DYLAN. Legend! AMAZE BALLS! True genious! Most prolific songwriter/musician of all time. We are lucky to have him! Xxxx

  • Waranga

    “Cinnamon Girl” was certainly a highlight as were Wilco. Dylan was good not great and now understand why it took me so long to recognize Tangled Up in Blue

    Would have liked to have seen My Morning Jacket but concert started so early and as said finished so quickly. Will keep that in mind for any more concerts I see are on at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater . Show like this with four acts should never have been booked here with the curfew

  • Steve

    *Tangled Up In Blue, Gbro. Not Tangled up in Blues. Cool review though, bro.