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The AmericanaramA Festival of Music rolls through Atlanta

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Live review: AmericanaramA Festival of Music

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Live review: AmericanaramA Festival of Music featuring Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Bob Weir at Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood in Atlanta, 6/29/13

When Bob Dylan calls and invites you on his AmericanaramA tour, you don’t say no, as was the case with the above mentioned acts. Call it the anti-Warped Tour, if you must, but this was quite a line-up for any fest anywhere and fans of all ages and interests came out to see it. A legend such as Bob Dylan was more than likely checked off the bucket list of many music lovers this weekend.

Grateful Dead founding member Bob Weir got the festivities started as he strummed through a nice acoustic set. The venue was getting full and hundreds were crammed into the pit even for this early start time of 5:30. At 65 years of age, Weir still seems to have the vim and vigor of a much younger rocker. Weir ended his set with a sweet cover of Delbert McClinton’s “Standing On Shaky Ground,” proving that even seasoned veterans appreciate the music of their fellow artists.

Set list: Hell In A Bucket, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Playin' In The Band, Twilight Time, The Other One / Standing On Shaky Ground

Louisville, Kentucky’s My Morning Jacket turned out to be the energetic standout of the day with a scorching set. “The Dark,” from their first album The Tennessee Fire (1999), launched the set. Jim James was his usual heroic self with a voice that seemingly hits all octaves. The majority of song selections were from Z (2005) and Circuital (2011). James exuded positive vibes as he sang “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” with that near-angelic voice. Donning his magic blue cape for some songs, James did appear to be a super hero and the crowd rose to the occasion, almost expecting him to fly from the stage over the crowd.

The music of this massively talented quintet has earned many labels, including psychedelic rock. That’s fitting, especially with the band’s recent appearance on CBS Sunday Morning, in which they described their musical style as “hairy.” Indeed. For the casual observer, it may appear that these guys are straight out of the 70s, with the long beards and longer hair. But seeing MMJ live is as fresh, relevant and sonically brilliant as anything out there in 2013.

It was apparent that James was loving the whole thing when he said, “Beautiful Hotlanta! Is there any place more beautiful on earth than Atlanta in the summertime? So blessed to be here.” Halfway through the set, Weir joined MMJ for a nice rendition of the Dead’s “I Know You Rider.”

Set list: The Dark, It Beats 4 U, Gideon, Wordless Chorus, Phone Went West, Wonderful (The Way I Feel), I Know You Rider (with Bob Weir), Circuital, Victory Dance, One Big Holiday

Chicago outfit Wilco kicked off their set with “Airline To Heaven,” from the 2000 release Mermaid Avenue II (with Billy Bragg). It was a well-done set which seemed more tailored to the AmericanaramA Fest and not as rocking as the typical Wilco show. Bob Weir joined the band onstage for a couple songs. One of the night’s highlights was performed when they broke into “California Stars (the Wilco/Billy Bragg joint from the first Mermaid Avenue album) which morphed – to the elation of Dead fans – into “Dark Star.” After this rousing experience, Tweedy exclaimed, “Wow. I didn’t see that coming.” A nearby fan in a bright, tie-dyed t-shirt said, "I don't think a lot of people realized what they just saw.” This was the biggest audience reaction from Wilco’s entire set.

Set list: Airline To Heaven, When The Roses Bloom Again, Shouldn't Be Ashamed, You Are My Face, One Sunday Morning, Art Of Almost, California Stars / Dark Star (with Bob Weir), I'm Always In Love, Heavy Metal Drummer, Dawned On Me, Monday, Outtasite (Outta Mind)

Bob Dylan is a man of few words. So few, in fact, that he spoke nary a one to the thousands of fans. Instead, he let his music do the talking as he powered through a set of music mostly fueled by his incredible back-up band, known on the playbill only as “His Band.” Although Dylan shied away from his biggest and most well-known songs (What, no “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” or “Mr. Tambourine Man” at all?), he did give some other gems known very well by his fans. At this point in the life of such an icon, the songs he sings may just materialize to please him and no one else.

The stage was darkly lit, with most of the light coming from huge lanterns one each side of the stage sporting real flames and – much to the dismay of fans furthest away – there were no video screens. It was as if Dylan created the atmosphere of an intimate club gig, but for a few thousand people. Nevertheless, this event was more than likely checked off the bucket list of many in attendance.

The 72-year-old singer/songwriter (born Robert Allen Zimmerman) played a host of songs ranging from his early sixties work up to 2012’s Tempest. Known for his mumbling lyrics, there were times when Dylan’s vocals seemed buried under the tight band, but much of that could be attributed to the less-than-stellar acoustics of Lakewood Amphitheatre.

The Dylan mystique, however, remains intact as he rolls on down the road with his AmericanaramA Festival of Music. America’s voice of a generation, the man that contributed a large part to the folk music revolution and emphasized personal political action is going stronger than ever.

Set list: Things Have Changed, Love Sick, High Water (For Charley Patton), Soon After Midnight, Early Roman Kings, Tangled Up In Blue, Duquesne Whistle, She Belongs To Me, Beyond Here Lies Nothin', A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, Blind Willie McTell, Simple Twist Of Fate, Summer Days, All Along The Watchtower, Ballad Of A Thin Man

Follow the tour HERE.

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