Even though I had a blast at the Americanarama Festival last night, it just reinforced why I much prefer club shows to stadium concerts (for a variety of reasons). Unsurprisingly, Wilco‘s hometown set was easily the evening’s highlight, though Richard Thompson and My Morning Jacket were stellar too. As expected, the sound quality was less than exceptional at Toyota Park (home of the Chicago Fire soccer team), but the three supporting acts managed to rise above the issue for the most part- especially Jeff Tweedy and company. I had spied set lists for the previous tour stops and was really hoping the Chicago crowd would be treated to “California Stars” and Wilco/MMJ’s rendition of “Cinnamon Girl.” I received both of my wishes; thankfully the sun had set, making it easier to conceal my emotional responses to the two tunes.
The greatest disappointment of the night was the headlining Dylan. Even though he sounds like three-parts Tom Waits and one-part Bob nowadays, his voice isn’t what let me down. It was the altered arrangements to much-loved songs like “Tangled up in Blue” and “Simple Twist of Fate,” which rendered those and other standards nearly unrecognizable. I didn’t expect the performances to sound exactly like the album versions or resemble Dylan’s classic live shows. However straying too far away from the songs’ original visions created a palpable discontentment that seemed to envelope the entire stadium. Please save the rearranging for bonus tracks or other artists covering the songs. Despite my criticisms I am still glad I got to see Dylan again, though I will embrace my memories of his 1994 show tighter than last night’s.