From Music

My Week in Stages

Wednesday, July 10

Saw Richard Thompson, My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Bob Dylan play at the Saints’ Stadium in St. Paul.

Thompson’s set was unforgivably short and it is a crime that he was fourth-billed at a show such as this. Would love to see him play at the Fine Line sometime. I wasn’t familiar enough with My Morning Jacket’s music coming in to get much out of their set. But, Trampled by Turtles (I am a fan) joined them onstage for a three song set that turned out to be a highlight.

I have wanted to see Wilco play for a long time, and they did not disappoint. Great, high-energy set that featured a few of my favorites. They opened and closed with songs from their Mermaid Avenue album (a collaboration with Billy Bragg that consisted of previously unpublished Woody Guthrie songs) and played a tune from Jeff Tweedy’s pre-Wilco band, Uncle Tupelo. But the biggest surprise was a rocking cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” played with members of My Morning Jacket!

This blog post is really just an excuse to post a few photographs. Click on any one of the thumbnail-sized photos to access the album. Captions may make some sense of the photos–and they may not. There is at least one “Easter egg” hidden in the album.

Bob Dylan closed the evening. I saw Dylan perform just seven months ago, and this is at least the fifth time I’ve seen him live.[1] The last 20 years of his career (1997-2016 or so) will be remembered for four outstanding albums[2] and thousands of live shows where he publicly ran his vocal cords into the ground. There have been great moments, but as a whole these shows have been increasingly disappointing to me. Really, it’s not so much his vocal cords as his “wind” that is the problem. His gravelly vocals fit many of his new songs like a glove, and can be put to good use on some of his oldies (not all of them). But he seems not able to “sing” more than a few syllables at a time, which turns every song into a sort of growling chant that fits almost nothing. In particular, I thought his rendition of “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” was a sacrilege.

Nevertheless, it was a fine night for an outdoor concert and nice to share it with Joann and parts of it with daughter Tammy and soon-to-be son-in-law Nick.

Friday and Saturday, July 12-13

This is the Great River Shakespeare Festival’s (GRSF) 10th anniversary season. Joann and I have attended every year. It has never disappointed us, and this year was no exception.

We saw Twelfth Night on Friday evening. It was our fourth time seeing this play on stage and, not a surprise, the best production of the four. It is apparent that the comedies at GRSF can’t be beat. Chris Mixon–possibly my favorite actor in the company–was a riot as Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Tara Flanagan was born to play Cesario/Viola and was delightful. Joann and I also enjoyed the Saturday morning “Front Porch” lecture where Flanagan was joined onstage by two scholars to discuss the play. It was very interesting to hear her talk about her role.

Our friends Roger and Cathy joined us for the Saturday night performance of Henry V. This was their second year at the festival and we were happy to see them back (both for their company and for the GRSF, which needs all of the support it can get). This performance was on par with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival performance at I saw in 1990, though the intimacy of the Winona State stage made for quite a different experience than the one at the large, open-air Elizabethan Stage in Ashland. I did have some reservations about the casting. I am used to seeing the actor who played King Henry in comedic roles, and he seemed less physically imposing than ideal for the part. He pulled it off, though, and by the end of the play he seemed made for the part. Quite a transformation.

Sunday, July 14

When the owner of Brit’s Pub introduced Graham Parker, he noted that this was Graham’s 10th anniversary appearance at the pub’s annual Bastille Day celebration. I have photographs of Graham’s 2003 appearance which would make this at least his 11th.[3] But who’s counting?

At age 62, Parker is 10 years younger than Dylan. His voice seems 20 years younger. But his energy level isn’t what it once was, or at least didn’t seem to be on this night. It was difficult to hear the passion in “Passion Is No Ordinary Word,” and there didn’t seem to be any chance of combustion when he sang, “Get Started, Start a Fire.” Still, it was an enjoyable set in a fantastic location for an outdoor concert. The rooftop green at Brit’s Pub is the best outdoor space in downtown Minneapolis to have a drink and hear some music. (It is important, though, to be located close to and in front of the stage. It could be that my impression–”low energy”–of the show had more to do with our location at a table off of the green and to the side of the stage than with Parker’s performance.)

One highlight of Parker’s set was a cover of Dylan’s “If Not for You.” Full circle, sort of.


  1. See A Very Short Concert Film. [^]
  2. The four albums are Time Out Of Mind, Love and Theft, Together through Life and Modern Times. Last year’s Tempest was a disappointment and, perhaps, the beginning of the end. [^]
  3. A photograph I took at Parker’s 2003 show at Brit’s Pub has been featured on his Wikipedia page since 2005 or so. (See photo above.) At the time I posted it, his Wikipedia entry did not include a photo. This says something about the growth of Wikipedia. Nowadays, it is an obscure celebrity indeed who doesn’t have a photo there. [^]