Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson :: 09.09.04 :: Community America Ballpark :: Kansas City, KS
Complete with music legends Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and a huge American flag in the backdrop of Nelson's set, Kansas City's minor league ballpark was perfectly laid out for the ultimate night of "American" entertainment. It was only fitting that of the two headliners, one "forgot" to pay his taxes (ever) and the other began his career as an icon of the 1960s anti-war movement. There are more versions of America than the mainstream media sells us.
Willie Nelson by John Croxton
Example: this baseball stadium, contrary to the mixed patriotism cocktail of its performers, is in fact a perfect, slightly shrunken prototype of the quintessential American ballpark. It was a beautiful place for a concert.
These two seasoned musicians could make a landfill beautiful. Willie Nelson served this evening up as a beautifully cooked, full-bodied fillet appetizer that has been marinating for 71 years and remains tender and juicy to this day. (I'm sorry for the continuing beef analogies, but Kansas has been known to do funny things to people. Some places put fluoride in the water; in Kansas they seem to waft the air with the sweet, delicious, delectable scent of barbecue. Willie, please pull me from this hickory-scented devilry!) His patient energy is almost as amazing as his voice. The crowd embraced his classic country rock, inhaling the music, savoring it. He reciprocated with a fist in the air at the front of the stage, saluting us with an empowered punch at the clouds.
He waved at us with his hat and his hand; he threw his headband out into the crowd. Something's thrown back at the stage--was that a bra? Since when has it been acceptable to throw bras at a 71 year-old man as a reaction to his waving? This could open a whole onslaught of Elk's Club and senior citizen parades if the word gets out. His set was more than an hour long, packed with great original music and covers. "Me and Bobby McGee," "Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys," "You Were Always on my Mind" and "On the Road Again" were some highlights, along with his guitarist and son Luke taking lead vocals for "Texas Flood."
Bob Dylan is a different kind of meal altogether. He could quite possibly be the only man alive who can draw people to line up and empty their pockets to hear him sing indistinguishable sentences. We suspected they may have once been words before filtering through his music-weathered lips, riding the stream of his harmonica and keyboard in his utterly unique style that's become a folk language of its own. His voice was steeped in poetry and old-time tire-swing rises and falls--the kind you can feel good about bobbing or spinning to, with a hint of influence from balloons slowly gasping their last long breath, pulling words like taffy. I could only pick out a few words, even from the songs I knew, but I was rather close to the stage where words can be chiseled and digested in speakers and--it doesn't matter, it's Bob Dylan.
He started with "Maggie's Farm" then drizzled his distinct and increasingly ragged voice like a slight layer of butter over toast; he's always telling stories. He played many of his songs, old and new, with an upbeat folk-rock jam and a lot of help from his band. Willie joined him for "Heartland" and he ended the night with the popular encores "Like A Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower."
In this unfortunate beef realm idiom into which I've plunged I can only equate Bob Dylan to king of rocky mountain oysters at the annual testicle festival: he's the meal everyone wants. They know there's something spectacular to the delicacy yet aren't quite sure what they've just swallowed. But as sure as they've been coming for forty years they'll be back for more. As will I, though I'm bringing a bib and a bra next time.
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