Concert review: Summer storm can't stop Rolling Thunder Reunion folk jam
The "Rolling Thunder Reunion" concert was almost short-circuited by real rolling thunder, lightning, straight-line winds and a two-day power outage.
The Duluth Armory Arts and Music Center fundraiser, featuring two artists who have performed with rock icon Bob Dylan, was nearly switched to an alternate stage because power was unavailable at Weber Music Hall on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus. But work crews reconnected the building hours before showtime and the event continued as planned Saturday night.
Summer storm cleanup may have hurt attendance, but the 100 music fans who made it to the show were treated to a small look into a legendary chapter of the Bob Dylan history book.
Singer-songwriter Eric Andersen and violin player Scarlet Rivera, who both participated in Dylan's mid-70s "Rolling Thunder Revue" concert tour, performed a loose, rambling and highly collaborative three-hour set of music. The two worked to generate some of the same spirit as the famous concert tour some 40 years ago.
Rivera's performance included two Celtic jigs with an instrumental bluegrass twist and the Carter family classic, "Wildflower." Local guitarist Gene LaFond helped sing two songs Rivera recorded with Dylan during sessions for his 1976 "Desire" album. Rivera sprinkled each song with her laid-back, country-clear violin work and bravely sang lead on several songs.
"I'm not fond of singing," she said. "Playing with all these amazing singers over the years, I always thought: 'Why should I sing?' "
But her wonderful performance of a co-write titled "The Sacred Wheel of Give and Take" earned her the biggest hand of the night.
Andersen, who traveled from Amsterdam, followed with a band that included Rivera on violin. While it was clear the group had not played together regularly, the nearly two-hour set had the quiet feel of friends playing in a living room, or maybe an early 1960s-era New York City coffee shop, which is where both Andersen and Dylan made their names as next generation folk singers.
Dressed in black and wearing a fedora, Andersen rumbled through original compositions including "Dusty Boxcar Wall," from his 1965 debut album, and "Violets of Dawn," a charming song that name checked a variety of fairytale characters.
The group performed Dylan's 1989 song "Disease of Conceit" with all the gravity of a presidential election. A few songs later Andersen said: "I've been watching a little TV and it looks like we're all going to be goose-stepping and speaking Russian soon."
But his performance featured many mood changes.
Sitting at a grand piano, Anderson, 73, told an odd story about his grandfather, a ship engineer, visiting a Duluth bordello. He went on to play a beautiful song about the march of time called "Wind and Sand."
The group ended jamming on the blues classic "Worried Life Blues" and an Anderson original called "Thirsty Boots," a song Dylan recorded but did not include on his 1970 "Self Portrait" album.
The night of music — which felt too long in the end — included the screening of a trailer for the film "The Song Poet." The yet-to-be released film documents Andersen's role the San Francisco beat scene and his eventual move to the Greenwich Village folk clubs.