Wednesday's Americanarama Festival of Music tour stop at Farm Bureau Live in Virginia Beach -- featuring Ryan Bingham, My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Bob Dylan -- showed that sonic strangeness is alive and well in the land of the free.
I arrived too late to catch Bingham, but did hear the end of My Morning Jacket's set. I could tell from the passion and hair-slinging energy that Jim James and company poured into their performance of "I'm Amazed" and "Off The Record" that they entertained the crowd with plenty of guitar-slinging, left-field goodness.
Wilco's part of the evening's entertainment started off mostly relaxed and acoustic and ramped up the volume and the oddity as the set gathered momentum. "Sunken Treasure," "One By One," (From the "Mermaid Avenue" album done with Billy Bragg) and "Bob Dylan's 49th Beard" gave way to a peppy, countrypolitan take on "Hesitating Beauty" (featuring some avant-garde chicken pickin' from guitarist Nels Cline) and noise-laced "Radio Cure." Straight-ahead rockers "Box Full of Letters" and "I'm Always in Love" kicked. The band ended its set by inviting My Morning Jacket back on stage for a short version of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl."
Dylan's set found the legendary song-and-dance man in reasonably good form as he sang (barked? growled?) some of his best-loved songs along with newer nuggets. He didn't play guitar, but he did step out from behind his keyboard reasonably often to sing at center stage holding only a harmonica.
While he didn't address the crowd often, he did engage or connect more than other times I've seen him play over the last 10 years.
Beginning with "Love Sick" from 1997's "Time Out of Mind," he and his sharp band plowed through rootsy tunes under amber-colored lights that made the stage look like a sepia-toned, antique photo.
Songs from his newest album, "Tempest," ("Soon After Midnight," "Early Roman Kings," "Duquesne Whistle") were the easiest to recognize. Classics "Tangled Up in Blue," "She Belongs to Me" and "A Hard Rain's A-gonna Fall" were retrofitted with new vocal melodies -- something Dylan's been doing for years -- but they were entertaining nonetheless.
Dylan's a strange bird -- fun to watch and hear, even when delivering one too many seat-clearing harmonica solos.
The evening's highlight came when Dylan invited Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and My Morning Jacket's Jim James on stage to share vocals on The Band classic "The Weight."
The performance was a bit ragged, but still thrilling. It even attracted notice from across the pond. As area music connoisseur James Duval pointed out, the website of British music magazine Uncut included a short notice about and video of the performance.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun