Americanarama Festival Of Music At Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
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By Nate Hertweck
The gathering of Ryan Bingham, My Morning Jacket, Wilco, and Bob Dylan on Aug. 3 for the Americanarama Festival of Music tour stop in Irvine, Calif., brought together generations of musicians and fans alike. Before the lights came up at the end of the night, the audience was treated to a diverse, entertaining and electrified glimpse into the gears that drive Americana music.
Bingham's cranked guitar and smoky voice opened the show, reminding the early arrivals that the future was in good hands. Seasoned Louisville, Ky., reverb rockers My Morning Jacket followed and seemed delightfully awakened, greeting the crowd with an emphatic "good morning" — even though it was 6:30 p.m. — and thanking them for coming out so early. Frontman Jim James and company chugged along through a flawlessly raucous set, highlighted by a guest appearance from Los Angeles-based legend Jackson Browne for the latter's "Late For The Sky" and the Dylan-penned "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You." My Morning Jacket capped their set with a deep, heavy groove rendition of the Band's "Don't Do It," showing that they recognize and appreciate the generation of musicians that came before them.
Next up was Chicago-based band Wilco, who have spent nearly two decades carving out their own groove with a modern, experimental take on the conventions of traditional folk and country music. While the songs written by frontman Jeff Tweedy have always defined the band and demanded attention, it was guitarist Nels Cline who captured the audience's imagination, drawing us into his sonic world throughout the band's set. For any guitar lover, the highlight of the set came during Cline's guitar solo for a performance of "Impossible Germany." He gracefully stumbled and tastefully soared over an unforgettable harmonized guitar line, proving that even the most traditional and conventional styles of American music can tap into the limitlessness of experimentation.
Wilco subsequently turned it into a group effort as Tweedy announced, "It's time to bring as many people out onstage as we can fit." Joined by Bingham, James and Browne, Wilco rambled through their classic reworking of Woody Guthrie's "California Stars" from 1998's GRAMMY-nominated Mermaid Avenue.
Wilco provided the biggest surprise guest of the night: singer and daughter of Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, who joined the band onstage for a cover of Cher's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" followed by Sinatra's timeless hit "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'." For these two numbers, Wilco seamlessly transported the audience to the '60s.
Never one to harp on '60s nostalgia, Dylan took the stage triumphantly, opening with 2000's "Things Have Changed," a fine example of his more modern success as a songwriter. Dylan's set jumped back and forth from undeniable classics such as "Tangled Up In Blue" and "Simple Twist Of Fate" to recent efforts "Soon After Midnight" and "Duquesne Whistle" from 2012's Tempest.
The night continued to be defined by guest appearances as Dylan invited Tweedy, James and Bingham back onstage to help him perform the ultimate Americana anthem, the Band's "The Weight."
Any fan of songwriting, folk or Americana would have been thrilled to catch the incomparable Dylan on this tour. However, the true impact of the night was seeing, first-hand, the evolution of the revolution that he ignited more than 50 years ago, which all started with a song.
Wilco Set List:
"At My Window Sad And Lonely"
"You Are My Face"
"I Am Trying To Break Your Heart"
"Art Of Almost"
"Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" with Nancy Sinatra (Cher cover)
"These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" with Nancy Sinatra
"When You Wake Up Feeling Old"
"New Madrid" (Uncle Tupelo Cover)
"California Stars" with Jackson Browne
"Heavy Metal Drummer"
"Casino Queen" with Ryan Bingham
"Cinnamon Girl" with My Morning Jacket (Neil Young cover)
Bob Dylan Set List:
"Things Have Changed"
"High Water (For Charley Patton)"
"Soon After Midnight"
"Early Roman Kings"
"Tangled Up In Blue"
"She Belongs To Me"
"Beyond Here Lies Nothing"
"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"
"Blind Willie McTell"
"Simple Twist Of Fate"
"The Weight" with Ryan Bingham, Jim James and Jeff Tweedy (the Band cover)
"All Along The Watchtower"
"Ballad Of A Thin Man"
(Nate Hertweck lives in Los Angeles where he serves as Content Manager for The Recording Academy. Hertweck also plays guitar in a rowdy rock band, produces artist tribute projects and collects musical gems in all formats. Connect with Nate on Tumblr.)