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Cleveland Plain Dealer: Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp Team Up For A Memorable Concert At Classic Park
07.12.2009 - By John Soeder - Plain Dealer Pop Music Critic

What was major-league talent Bob Dylan doing in a minor-league ballpark?

The short answer: anything he wanted!

The "poet laureate of rock 'n' roll" (per his campy introduction) headlined a fun concert Saturday evening in front of 6,900 fans at Eastlake's Classic Park (home of the Class A Lake County Captains). Also on the bill were Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp.

Unlike many acts of his generation, Dylan, 68, refused to pander to the masses with a greatest-hits revue. Instead, he showcased rootsy tunes from his most recent albums, including rough-and-ready versions of "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum," "Thunder on the Mountain" and (from his latest release, "Together Through Life"), "Jolene."

He also reached deep into his back pages for the epic "Blind Willie McTell."

The choice of material thinned out the crowd's ranks, with many casual observers leaving early. True believers who stayed for the duration of Dylan's 90-minute performance eventually were rewarded with "Highway 61 Revisited," "Like a Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower," although you had to listen closely. Even the hits slipped into the set list virtually unannounced, via unfamiliar arrangements.

The ballpark provided a quaint backdrop (Dylan and Nelson also performed there in 2005), albeit with a couple of drawbacks.

The stage was set up in center field (along with a standing-room-only viewing section), with no large screens to magnify the action. From the stands, Dylan was a speck in a white hat and dark suit, accompanying himself on guitar, harmonica and organ.

The sound quality also suffered at times. Vocals and drumbeats bounced off the walls, transforming the venue into a giant echo chamber.

Still, there was magic in the cool night air.

"Sometimes no one wants what we got / Sometimes you can't give it away," Dylan sang during "Workingman's Blues #2," a down-and-out lament. As stars poked through a partly cloudy sky, his gloriously ravaged voice rang out in the darkness, somewhere between that of an Old Testament prophet and yesteryear's bluesmen.

How did it feeeel? Transcendent.

Up first was country-music icon Nelson, 76. As his pal, congressman Dennis Kucinich, watched from the wings, Nelson managed to squeeze most of the highlights from his lengthy career into an easygoing set.

Strumming Trigger, his scandalously banged-up acoustic guitar, Nelson delivered "On the Road Again," "Always on My Mind," "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" and other favorites with a warm drawl. He also paid tribute to Hank Williams with a suite of honky-tonk standards.

Nelson's band included his son Lukas, who played a mean electric guitar and capably handled lead vocals on his own ballad, "Sound of Your Memory."

Mellencamp -- at 57, the baby of this bunch -- held his own as he mixed stark musings on mortality ("Don't Need This Body") and rock hits with a populist streak, including "Pink Houses," a solo rendition of "Small Town" and "Authority Song."

He also unveiled an inspiring new tune, "Take Some Time to Dream." Mellencamp said he recorded it a few weeks ago at a Baptist church in Georgia.

"Take some time to dream / 'Cause your dream might save us all," he crooned.

It was a simple yet powerful message, gift-wrapped in one of Mellencamp's finest melodies yet.

"Whiskey River," "Still Is Still Moving to Me," "Beer for My Horses," "Funny How Time Slips Away/Crazy/Night Life," "Night Life," "Down Yonder," "Me and Paul," "Flooding Down in Texas" (sung by Lukas Nelson) "Sound of Your Memory" (sung by Lukas Nelson), "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground," "On the Road Again," "Always on My Mind," "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)," "Hey, Good Lookin'," "Move It on Over," "Bloody Mary Morning," "Remember the Good Times," "I Saw the Light"


"Pink Houses," "Paper in Fire," "Deep Blue Heart," "Check It Out," "Don't Need This Body," "Take Some Time to Dream," "Small Town," "Rain on the Scarecrow," "Troubled Land," "If I Die Sudden," "Crumblin' Down" "Authority Song"

"Cat's in the Well," "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)," "Rollin' and Tumblin'," "Blind Willie McTell," "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum," "If You Ever Go to Houston," "Things Have Changed," "Workingman's Blues #2," "Highway 61 Revisited," "Ain't Talkin'," "Thunder on the Mountain"

"Like a Rolling Stone," "Jolene," "All Along The Watchtower"

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