Corby's Orbit

Corby's Orbit
Listening in All the High Places illustration by John Kricfalusi

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Americanarama - A Cauldron Of Songs

  In the heart of the heat, with our gloriously untanned sun-screened skins glossy and our shirts slowly becoming a tone darker with sweat, the remedy of honest music prevailed yet again at  Americanarama. Because that word, Americanarama, was invented by rockin' hometowners Hollerado, and the genre of music called Americana was actually created on a record called Music From Big Pink, with famously local origins, the whole night was a bit of a roots homecoming for us last Monday night in Toronto.

  Molson's Amphitheatre (rebranded The Moistened Armpit Theatre) hosted Bob Dylan's second date of the tour with its usual inhospitality of overpriced food and alcohol, loutish security and blank jumbotrons.

  Richard Thompson's Electric Trio, promptly stepping up to the plate at the advertised start-time of 5:30, accomplished a half hour of complex string theory and rousingly intricate rhythm before half of the audience had even arrived. The sting of the sunlight's onslaught concentrated the available audience into peripheral embankments of shade far away from the stage area.

  A quick turnaround brought My Morning Jacket on at 6:15. Their pivotal anthem The Way That He Sings came second in the set and was magnified to full throttle from the start, unlike the slow build-up of the recorded version. Cataracts of long hair, saxophones, feedback and sonic blare followed wave upon wave, stunning the audience with the passion and perseverance of these true stone rockers. The shade began to spread out a little more. MMJ closed off with Run Thru, which ended with a raging coda longer than the song. As my friend Dave said, "They did everything but set themselves on fire."

  Listening to songs like Sugar Mountain and Dolphin's Smile during Wilco's set-up (what was it, Bob's iPod?) brought home an awareness that the youngsters who composed more than half of the crowd were just the control group for a Sixties throwback ego-system.

  Jeff Tweedy and his six compadres certainly brought the party, starting with their most agreeable hits, laid out for the Wilco newbies. (Wilco: Expressing compliance or agreement, esp. acceptance of instructions received by radio.)

  A lengthy run through a tune in 11/8 time left even the completists dozing off. The fire was stoked, ultimately, when Richard Thompson returned to the stage to joust ferociously on Fairport Convention's Sloth with Wilco arch-soloist Nels Cline in one of those rare two-guitar carousals devoid of wank. Then a demure Feist came out and dueted on You And I with Tweedy, bringing some Canadianarama to the proceedings.
( An attempt a bit later to build a bit more maple into the show was choked by Feist's inability to come up with coherent lyrics for the second verse of Leonard Cohen's  Suzanne). Wilco's finale reached a solid pinnacle when Tweedy brought My Morning Jacket back for a spirited charge at the Neil Young workhorse Cinnamon Girl. Every face in the place smiled.

                                                                     Picture by Chris Pizzello   
  With the sun well set and scalper prices plunging, Bob Dylan and his pearly-suited troupe (including Hogtown fret-polisher Colin Linden) stepped into a landscape of hanging kleig lights and twin fire chambers with gold and blue tones pulsing off the drums to rock out on Things Have Changed, his Academy Award-winning theme from Wonder Boys. The song set the template for a set heavily loaded with post-millennial compositions: three from Tempest, two from Love & Theft, and one each from Together Through Life & Time Out Of Mind.

  Dylan sang the first few songs wandering amongst his crew and blowing his characteristic reveilles on harmonica between verses that took off to melodic off-roads and romantic vibrato. As he arrived at the piano stage left, he leaned into it and stuck to playing rhythm and improvising licks there for some midset reinventions of Tangled Up In Blue, A Simple Twist Of Fate, A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall, and She Belongs To Me.

  As he ramped up to Twelve Gates To The City with Jeff Tweedy and Jim James back for harmonies and acoustic scrubbing, there was an exuberance emerging from the shaman himself, referencing our own beautiful city, that spread into the crowd and bouyed up All Along  The Watchtower and his standard encore number,  Blowin' In The Wind. 

  Offshore breezes picked up from the fade as the ensemble posed for the curtain call, then, in the middle of the beautiful city, the multitude came ashore with the effects of urgent apocalyptic visions and rapturous love lyrics bristling & refreshed in their memories.

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