July 4, 2000
California Ventura Fairgrounds
They still define rock...
The Volkswagen-travelling forces of Peace, Love and Freedom that fastened to The Grateful Dead for decades have assembled again, to bear witness to spirited playing by Bob Dylan and Phil Lesh on the 'Phylan Up Summer 2000' tour.
They may be well past their prime but they still define rock. It's Dylan's songs of yesteryear that made his mark, both in his career and music history, and these dominate his set. His voice resonates beyond the acid-wanderers and horse-mounted police swarming the venue.
Pulling his hair between songs, Dylan has come to recognise his innovations now depend on the music, as he focuses his creative energies on actually singing the songs and playing stylistically than lyrical messages. Now, he really wants to just jam.
For once an enthused Dylan sings with a growing emphasis on the vocal melodic undulations that in days of yore served more as natterings - stringing together words more akin to a comedic parody. He strums through an acoustic, almost rockabilly rendition of 'The Times They Are A-Changin' conjuring his revolutionary spirit, but gives it a modern twist with a hardcore harmonica solo a la Blues Traveler's John Popper. Backing it up is a country twang to his guitar work and a learned style of extended jamming. He closes the set, as he likes to do, with a fervently (and fragrantly) received 'Rainy Day Women #12 & #35' replacing the horns with charged R&B guitar riffs.
An extended intermission that threatens to put the munchie stands out of business is followed by Phil Lesh and Friends, carrying on the same traditions of free love and spirit that they have since the first Summer of Love, who launch into a set that often degenerates into a sort of battle-of-the-guitars. The former Grateful Dead and Other Ones bassist echoes Southern fried rock, championing '(If You'll Be My) Tennessee Gentleman' which mixes traditional 'Dead warble with Skynyrd-style riffs.
But the notion of "hope-I-die-before-I-get-old" died back in the '60s, as Lesh appeals: "I'd like you all to be organ donors. I wouldn't be here today if not for an organ transplant I had a couple years ago," as he leaves.
Grateful dead? Not a chance with this many tickets still being sold.
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