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Bob Dylan homecoming: Postcards from Duluth

DULUTH — It was a dramatic and genuinely breathtaking sight Tuesday night around 11 p.m., that of Bob Dylan and his big band on stage at Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth. The 72-year-old music legend stood center stage, American and POW/MIA flags waving in the bug-free breeze at the Lois M. Paulucci Music Pavilion, as the backdrop of the St. Louis Bay behind him reminded all concerned that Dylan’s fracking-free music remains the area’s most vital export to the world. 

“Special” and “timeless” barely does this one justice.

Throughout the six-hour stop on Dylan’s so-called Americanarama tour, the smell of fresh water and crisp northern air melded with that of hops, grains, weed and cigarettes, and provided an almost otherworldly idyllic setting for the sublime and timeless roots-based rock of The Richard Thompson Band, My Morning Jacket, Wilco, and Dylan.

Tonight the entire line-up makes its way to Midway Stadium, where the sounds of Duluth’s tugboats and barges will be replaced by the whine of the occasional train whistle. Get ready, St. Paul; here’s a taste of last night, and of what’s in store, from a few who were there:  


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Sisters Brianna Enemark, 21, and Erynne Johnson, 25. “We both work at Zimmy’s in Hibbing, and we’re both seeing Bob Dylan for the first time,” said Brianna. “It’s so awesome that he came from nothing and ended up this famous person from a small place.” “He’s been an inspiration to a lot of my favorite artists,” said Erynne. “He’s 72. He’s not going to be here another 30 years, but I am, and my little one is, and I want my baby to know about the melting pot and folk music and everything he sings about.”

Brittnay
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Brittnay, 22, got her T-shirt off Ebay: “My boyfriend’s a huge fan. He introduced me to Bob Dylan.”


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Twin Cities musicians Pete Christensen, Curtiss A and James Loney made the road trip north for the show. “I came to pay my respects to the greatest writer of our time,” said Loney. “Yeah; it’ll be easier now than when he’s dead,” said Curt. “He’s an American icon.”

My Morning Jacket
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

“It is beautiful here,” said My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, looking out at a sea of faces and the sun setting over the Duluth hillside. Then he said it again: “It’s beautiful here. Thank you for showing up early tonight. You’re going to have a wonderful night.”


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Star Tribune arts and entertainment editor Tim Campbell and pop music critic Chris Riemenschneider. “How many giants do you get to see in the primordial soup they came up from?” said Campbell of Dylan, as My Morning Jacket churned on stage.


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

At the conclusion of My Morning Jacket’s set, a sun shower momentarily burst forth, and the only tug/barge of the night, The Presque Isle, made its way through the bay to load iron oar pellets at the CN dock in West Duluth.

From The Duluth Shipping News:  “Collectively the Presque Isle measures 1,000 feet in length and is considered one of the 13 US flagged thousand-footers working the Great Lakes today. The barge is fitted with a 250-foot self-unloading boom that allows her to unload her own cargo. The vessel has a maximum carrying capacity of 57,500 tons.”


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Wild Duluth goes wild for Wilco.


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Eva Wood, 25, of Eagle Bend, Minn., was attending the show with her mother, who was visiting from New York. “All the bands are amazing,” said Eva, “and I think the chance to see Bob Dylan is something one should not pass up.”


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Paulina Cruz, 27, Mexico City, Mexico: “I’m studying nearby at Hazelden College and I grew up listening to the classic rock radio station and I’ve always wanted to see Bob Dylan live. Tonight is my first time.”


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy wore a Mark Twain T-shirt and natty Panama hat that gave him a riverboat gambler look that matched nicely by Richard Thompson’s omnipresent beret and regal presence. Thompson and Wilco unfurled a furious guitar duel that was but one highlight out of many from Wilco’s 70-minute set.


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Melanie Sternberg, 28, Duluth-born waitress and artist: “It’s very symbolic that Bob Dylan is playing here today because he is a peace-maker, and Duluth people are, too. It’s not like the ‘60s, but I don’t care. I love it. I work for the spiritual world, and I like good vibes and I like good people. Dylan is still so cool. My generation, you can’t describe it in one way, but it’s a peace-making generation. Music is the universal art. I’ve got a lot to say. Art cracks me up right now. I’m so in the moment right now, man.”


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

“There’s a lot of happy people here; Duluth is the Big Sur of the Midwest,” said actor/poet/writer Nick Hansen, 25 (left). “I just moved here from Austin, Texas, to study social work,” said Connor Smith, 21 (right). “Tonight’s my first night in Duluth.”


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Roy Cougle, 46, Chicago: “I know the Wilco guys from Chicago, and I’m a big fan of Twin Cities bands like Trip Shakespeare and The Gear Daddies. To see Dylan and Wilco together is a blessing.”


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Riley Allen, 20, and her father, Chris Allen, 51. “I discovered Dylan when I took a course at UMD called ‘The History of Rock and Roll.’ Best course I’ve ever taken.”


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Mike Wilson, 43, tastemaker and musichead at Know Name Records in Minneapolis, made the trek. “Why? It’s Bob Dylan,” he said. “I work at a record store, he’s playing here, and he’s the greatest living American poet, rock star, you name it. He’s the one.”


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Iowa State chemical engineering students Ullas Pathak, 25, and Upa Manyuray, 24, were attending their first Dylan show. “I grew up in Calcutta, India. I used to listen to him all the time there, and we’d end our parties with ‘Blowin’ In The Wind.’ ” said Pathak. “At Iowa State our dorm wing was known as ‘The Dylan Wing.’ ”


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Midway through Wilco’s set, Jeff Tweedy introduced Low’s Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker for “one of the most important songs ever.” The super group then turned in what has to be one of the most memorable versions of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” which was accompanied by seagull caws and silly grins all around, and concluded with Sparhawk eating the lyric sheet and stuffing its remains down his pants. “That was a hard job. They didn’t know they were going to do that until tonight,” deadpanned Tweedy as the sun finally sank over Lake Superior.


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Whitney Leigh, 26, social worker/music therapist: “I’ve seen Wilco 40 times and Dylan twice. I brought this bottle because I didn’t want to pay for drinks and I wanted to share.”


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

“It’s Bob Dylllllaaaaan!!!” howled one disbelieving first-timer as Dylan croaked his way through his set-opener “Things Have Changed,” and pretty much summed up the feelings of everyone gathered in Bayfront Festival Park.


MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Ken Maciej, 24, Brooklyn Park, and Kari Maciej, 52, Champlin. “This is way cool,” said Kari. “Thank God the weather held out.”

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Comments (3)

Love to see ...

Sparhawk show up tonite at Midway.

Ten O'Clock Scholar some time ago '59, '60, 1961?...

Skinny kid with a pointy face sits on one of the long wood tables like a penchant Puck. He plays not too good guitar with lots of confidence and a wee bit of arrogance, singing to us with a voice like gravel. We listen. We sip and nibble. We are young. We are entertained by this student/ performer whose voice may need some polishing a friend confides-- yet his lyrics are strange and beguiling. Just another local talent who may not go anywhere? We are confident with a touch of arrogance. We laugh and smile and drop a few bucks on the long black coat that rests beside him as he keeps on singing..."There are no mistakes in life some people say... It's true at times if you see it that way...people don't live or die, they just float...there is dust on the man in the long black coat..."

In respect to Bob Dylan and the"Man In the Long Black Coat", some time ago

Dylan coverage

That's about as good as "crowd coverage" gets, Jim. But I would expect no less from you. The nice surprise is what a fine photographer you've become.