Local Current Blog

Bob Dylan pays homage to Bobby Vee at memorable Midway Stadium show

Bob Dylan at Midway Stadium (Author's rendering)

With a train rolling behind the stage every 15 minutes and the pungent smell of oil and hot gravel clinging to the air, it was easy to see why Bob Dylan chose to return to St. Paul’s Midway Stadium for his AmericanaramA tour with Richard Thompson, My Morning Jacket and Wilco. The unique location and heavy-hitting lineup drew Dylan’s largest crowd in over a decade (14,000 fans), and all four acts seemed to revel in the picture-perfect summer weather by delivering surprising, unforgettable sets.

Dylan was in a particularly nostalgic mood on Wednesday evening, perhaps with the experience of playing his birthplace of Duluth still lingering in his mind from the night before. After dancing through a set that included many staples from recent stops on his Never Ending and AmericanaramA tours, the 72-year-old Dylan paused in a rare moment of reflection to offer a sweet tribute to an early musical role model.

“I used to live here, and then I left,” Dylan began, causing die-hard fans to stand up straight and take notice (he usually only offers up a simple “Thank you, friends!” at shows). “I’ve played with everybody from Mick Jagger to Madonna, but the most beautiful person I’ve ever been on stage with is Bobby Vee. He used to sing a song called ‘Suzie Baby.’”

He continued by telling the crowd that Vee was in attendance that night and that he wanted to dedicate a cover of “Suzie Baby” to the Fargo-born star, who was one of the first musicians to ever hire Dylan to perform while he was still living in Hibbing. In a twist of fate, Vee actually hired Dylan to play piano in his band back when Dylan was using the stage name Elston Gunn, so it was quite fitting that he chose to cover the song in an era of his career that has found him returning to the piano instead of playing the guitar.

Vee retired from performing just last year after revealing to his fans that he has Alzheimer’s disease, making the tender moment from the typically stoic Dylan all the more bittersweet. Dylan and his band’s jaunty cover of the 1959 ballad was a highlight of the set, and one of the only moments they deviated from the cabaret shuffle that defined the majority of their performance.

photo (1)Other highlights of Dylan’s set included the devious “Lovesick,” which featured a wailing harmonica solo from the sprightly singer, a boogieing “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” and a reimagined version of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” that included one of his more imaginative piano solos. As with many shows he’s played in town in recent years, he seemed to save his best voice for the celebratory “Blowin’ in the Wind,” which served as his encore.

Prior to Dylan’s set, both My Morning Jacket and Wilco worked a few special moments into their time on stage. After delivering a fan-pleasing set that had them plucking material out of their entire catalog and even an Uncle Tupelo song (“New Madrid”), frontman Jeff Tweedy invited the members of My Morning Jacket out to do a blazing cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.” (After seeing Built to Spill cover that song a number of times, I thought it could have gone on for about three times as long as it did.) And though Tweedy’s lyrics have always been what attracted me to Wilco’s recorded work, it was guitarist Nels Cline who stole the spotlight live; his solo/freakout on “Impossible Germany” was the set’s highlight.

My Morning Jacket, on the other hand, shared their spotlight with a hometown act, Duluth’s Trampled by Turtles. The two bands met last year while performing together at the Somerset Amphitheater and dueted on MMJ’s “Wonderful (The Way I Feel).” They reprised that performance at Wednesday’s show, then launched into a Prairie Home-inspired cover of the Louvin Brothers’ “There’s a Higher Power” and a wrenching version of Trampled’s “Alone.” Another highlight came earlier in My Morning Jacket’s set, when the final moments of feedback in “Circuital” faded into the hum and roar of a train going past, and perfectly transitioned into their “Steam Engine.”

Guitar virtuoso Richard Thompson played the shortest set of the evening, starting off the night promptly at 5:30 p.m. and stretching four or five songs over his half-hour time slot. Sounding like a predecessor to artists like Lyle Lovett and Bruce Springsteen, Thompson’s complex guitar work shined as bright as the summer sun and had the crowd on the field transfixed.

All told it was a historic night to be in the St. Paul ballpark and one of the best executed shows of the summer so far, hands down.

Audio: Talking Dylan, Bobby Vee and AmericanaramA with Cathy Wurzer on Morning Edition, with a short clip of Dylan’s “Suzie Baby” cover from Wednesday night.

  1. Listen AmericanaramA on Morning Edition, July 11, 2013

My Morning Jacket Set List:

The Way He Sings
Off the Record
First Light
Circuital
Steam Engine
Wonderful (The Way I Feel) (with Trampled by Turtles)
There’s a Higher Power (Louvin Brothers cover) (with Trampled by Turtles)
Alone (with Trampled by Turtles)
Victory Dance
Wordless Chorus
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, Pt. 2.

Wilco Set List:

At My Window
Muzzle of Bees
New Madrid
Don’t Forget the Flowers
Trying to Break
Just That Simple
Impossible Germany
Born Alone
Not For the Season
Wishful Thinking
Art of Almost
Hummingbird
Cinnamon Girl (with My Morning Jacket)
Walken
I’m the Man Who Loves You
Hoodoo Voodoo

Bob Dylan 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
Suzie Baby (Bobby Vee)
All Along the Watchtower
Encore: Blowin’ in the Wind

See also:

Photos: Local musicians at Bob Dylan’s AmericanaramA

 

  • MattyK

    Apparently hitting a bunch of sour notes constitutes an “imaginative piano solo”?
    I was happy to see him one more time, but he needs to stick to vocals and the mouth harp.

    • Joshua Flatla

      He was all thumbs on that piano solo. It would have been simple and sweet if he had just hit the keys correctly.

  • funoka

    Nice job — I’ve seen Bob a few times but never have heard him speak to the audience. Saw Bobby Vee once play with his sons (The Vees) up in Alexandria in the 80s. A very enjoyable act they had going on.

  • Barron John Whittet

    Nice review of the show ! For all the Minnesota music archeologists out there curious about the original regional hit Suzie Baby record from 1959 that Dylan covered, the link above to the song is a rare re-recorded version done out in LA in 1962 for a Bobby Vee documentary with session players and orchestral parts added. The original hit record recorded in Minneapolis’ KayBank studios with the original Shadows (of which Dylan was the piano player for a very short time in ’59) isn’t on YouTube but can be found on iTunes. Just checked. Kind of raw and much cooler IMO. Just has the urgency and sound of hopeful teenagers blowing all their savings on a chance to professionally record their first song. First hit Rock and Roll record to come out of MN as Kaybank was mainly cranking out polka records back then !

    • Rick

      Thanks for the information; just checked that out on iTunes: the track from ‘Rarities’.

    • Andrea Swensson

      Thanks for the info! I think we are going to play the version you are referencing on the Local Show this week.

  • Kevin O’Connor

    Disappointed to see Richard Thompson so marginalized by both the organizers of this show and the writer of this article. In my opinion, he’s the most talented and underrated performer on this bill.

  • Séamus McGuire

    Thanks for giving the setlists for My Morning Jacket, Wilco, and Dylan. Apparently you must have listened to the promoters who actively stated that music starts at 5:30 and then allowed (forced?) Richard Thompson to go on at 5:15. Must’ve been a really really short set. I could swear I heard him play songs, but I must have been wrong since non were recorded on this illustrious blog.

  • jimdog

    Wow, what a great article! Suzy Baby is one of my favorite songs that i have recently rediscovered. Don’t bother with the remastered version on Itunes. They ruined it!! They took out the fine guitar work and covered up the raw teenage emotion with an orchestra backing. WTF?? There is always talentless pretenders around to screw up an original art work. What a pleasant surprise to hear Dylan speak so highly of Bobby Vee !! And what a great song, the original, that is.