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Hot Tuna (acoustic), The Tabernacle, Mt. Tabor, NJ: Hear that train November 27, 2009

Posted by Anton A in American music, Hot Tuna.
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Last Friday night, Hot Tuna kicked off their fall tour of the northeast with a tasty three-hour acoustic show at the Mt. Tabor Tabernacle out here in the Jersey Highlands. This is a legendary annual gig in a unique concert space; I’ve been trying to get tickets for years & finally lucked out. The octaganal wooden Tabernacle is the centerpiece of a 19th-century Methodist retreat camp, up on a hilltop surrounded by attractive little cottages ornamented with Victorian gingerbread. They sell only 375 tickets for concerts, augmenting the pews inside with a few folding chairs.
Jack, Jorma and Barry Mitterhof played two 90-minute sets of fine pickin’ and strummin’ to a rapt audience. The tones and harmonics they pulled from their instruments were mesmerising in that intimate space. They worked a lot of new material in with such Tuna staples as Living Just For You, Parchman Farm, Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning, 99 Year Blues, Come Back Baby and Good Shepherd.

A nice moment: they opened the show with Blue Railroad Train. In the middle of the song, a Jersey Transit train pulled into the station down in the valley below. You could hear its whistle blow through the walls of the Tabernacle as it approached the crossing. Perfect timing.

I’ll catch up with the electric version of the band next weekend at the Beacon in NYC. Nothing says “It’s the holidays!” like Hot Tuna.


Bob Dylan, United Palace Theater, NYC: I know a place where there’s still somethin’ going on November 17, 2009

Posted by Anton A in American music, Bob Dylan.
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Bob Dylan and Dion: two New York icons appeared up at the United Palace Theater tonight. Dylan has been remarkably astute in his choices of opening acts in recent years.

I remember a friend expounding on Dion some years ago. It was a treat for me to see him for the first time last night. He opened the show at 7:30 sharp. He’s still in fine voice. We missed the first 15 minutes, arrived in time for a cover of Summertime Blues, a moody Abraham, Martin & John, a powerful rendition of King Of The New York Streets, & then extended versions of Runaround Sue and The Wanderer. He’s got a wailing sax man. His band is a bit like a small-scale version of the E-Streeters. Highly enjoyable.

Dylan was astounding, as always. Austin guitar whiz Charlie Sexton has replaced Denny Freeman, at least for this leg of the never-ending tour, & has completely changed the dynamic of the band. Before, the act was often reminiscent of The Band, with that sort of contemplative American roots sound. I liked it just fine, it had a solid place in the scheme of things. With Sexton, this round feels like Dylan back on speed & psychedelics. Sexton’s musicianship pushes Dylan to new levels of energy and the rest of the band to pick up the pace; do they ever respond. This was by far the most energized of the five Dylan shows I’ve seen in the last three years. Bob always brings his best to these year-end New York gigs but I never expected a show with as much fire as this one.

Setlist: Cat’s In The Well, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, John Brown, Summer Days, Po’ Boy, Cold Irons Bound, If You Ever Go To Houston, Highway 61 Revisited, Ain’t Talkin’, Thunder On The Mountain, Ballad Of A Thin Man.

Encores: Like A Rolling Stone, Jolene, All Along The Watchtower.