The Roots

More proof that music is not possible without Bob Dylan came last week at New York City’s Beacon Theatre, where another set of industry heavy-hitters covered and re-interpreted yet more tracks from the D-man’s time-bending catalogue.

In case you’re not aware, or disagree that Dylan’s cooler than everyone else in your iTunes library and thus don’t care that there is another movie about the man…there is another movie about the man. And it’s called I’m Not There, referring to an infamous outtake that never (legitimately) made it to record. Since seven actors portray various stages of the artist’s life, to coincide with the film’s avant-garde approach, director Todd Haynes commissioned an indie fruit basket of everyone from Chan Marshall to Sufjan Stevens to seminal punk rocker John Doe of X, to contribute studio takes of their favorite Dylan tunes; 33 in all. Hence the concert.

Tift Merritt

Though the show had many artists that didn’t make it into the movie, like surprise fill-in for Michelle Shocked, Tift Merrit, whose haunting, country sweetheart performance of “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” brought on a standing ovation. Or The Roots’ genre-melting cut of “Masters of War” which started in the key of the “Star Spangled Banner,” fused into a Hendrix “Machine Gun” breakdown and finally became a marching band tuba funk fiasco in the orchestra section of the audience.

The night was such a hodgepodge of talent and gaps in generation that each new performer had no choice but to step up their genuine game and see how well they could wear their Dylan influence on their sleeve. Artists that did it best were those that focused on the vocals, like Jim James’ reverb-drenched duet with Calexico, “Goin’ to Acapulco” and later with the MMJ crew on “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” James shredding the chorus right out of the theatre, “I can hear that lonesome whistle blowing.” Honorable mention goes to The Magnetic Zeros’ shirtless, free spirit and sunshine banjo version of “All I Really Want To Do,” that was straight up Joan Baez circa Don’t Look Back-era Dylan.

Mascis and Ranaldo

Other notables include Lee Ranaldo, J. Mascis, Yo Le Tango w/ “4th Time Around,” Mason Jennings with “These Times Are A-Changin’, and old-timer Dan Hicks with a sweet choreographed dance rendition of “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

The talent pulled together was a nice ode to Dylan – that also was benefiting the non-profit writing center 826; oddly no mention throughout the night – but one counter look at who could have been there, based on the soundtrack of the film, made us sore – Jeff Tweedy, Karen O, Stephen Malkmus, the rest of Sonic Youth, Antony & The Johnsons, Eddie Vedder. C’mon. You can find us fro-ing out our hair and spinning Blonde On Blonde.–Gavin Paul/photos by Gavin Paul