Washington Examiner: The Bob Dylan Show Takes The Stage At Ripken Stadium

By: Nancy Dunham  - Special to The Examiner

Think of The Bob Dylan Show as something akin to wizened musical gunslingers heading into town.

In the almost half-century that Dylan (age 68), and fellow headliners John Mellencamp (age 57) and Willie Nelson (age 76) have honed their musical chops, boy bands have come and gone -- and these three musical impresarios have faced them all down with aplomb.

"Dylan. I love Dylan. I've always been a huge fan," 19-year-old Taylor Butts of Fairhaven, Mass., told a critic for The Providence Journal. "I've read books on him. Watched movies on him."

Let others scream for Justin Timberlake and Lil' Wayne -- these three headliners with a median age of 67 are pulling in plenty of fans who weren't even alive during their heydays.

Don't believe it? Check out some of the fan boards where postings seem more in line with Jonas Brothers' mania than excitement over these more mature headliners. There you'll find fans plotting and plotzing and planning how to get backstage to meet the performers.

"It's hard not to go well when you have three of the best songwriters in the world on stage," said Mike Wanchic, Mellencamp's long time co-producer and guitarist. "I tell you, I've seen a real change in the crowd in the last 20 years."

Although many musicians -- including Bob Dylan -- acquired ex-pat fans from the Grateful Dead base after Jerry Garcia died, Mellencamp's fans are more those that grew up with the music they might have heard from their parents.

The show's mix of musical song styles give fans the opportunity to explore the sounds of the three somewhat divergent singer/songwriters, a rarity in itself.

As Wanchic said, Nelson fans wouldn't normally seek out Mellencamp shows and vice versa. But the show -- which opens with Nelson, moves to Mellencamp and ends with Dylan -- offers that luxury not just to the audience but to the performers that are often compelled to play all the major radio "hits" fans enjoy.

"This is an opportunity not to just have us do the hit parade," said Wanchic. "This is an opportunity to go back in the catalog and pick some great songs. We're not doing this for the exposure and we're sure not doing it for the money. We're doing this because it's such an honor to play on [this bill]."

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