Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Ryan Bingham - Hoboken Pier - 7/26/13
Aaron Frank Americanarama at the Hoboken Pier
Better Than: Most three-day music festivals
Six hours on the Hoboken Pier may not sound like the ideal Friday evening, but Ryan Bingham, Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Bob Dylan made the trip worthwhile for thousands of fans last night. Kicking off around 5 p.m., the Live Nation-backed Americanarama tour stopped in New Jersey for one of two dates in the area this weekend, the second taking place tonight at Jones Beach. But last night's setting couldn't have been more perfect, as the four artists played through the evening, flanked by the Manhattan skyline and a beautiful sunset.
Leading up to Bob Dylan's headlining performance, the most common topic of discussion among the crowd seemed to be his voice. The consensus among longtime fans was that it just isn't what is used to be, barely discernible more often than not, but his presence, still just as striking as it was 40 years ago. After watching some YouTube videos from recent stops on the tour, I'd already lowered my expectations, but was still hopeful for a glimpse of the old Dylan. Even though there were four bands on the bill, most everyone I spoke with, young and old, told me they'd come specifically to see him.
In fact, it was somewhat surprising to meet so many people who were unfamiliar with the three other artists. Grammy-winner Ryan Bingham opened the show as the crowd was still trickling in, followed by southern rockers My Morning Jacket, who only seem to be gaining in popularity. Between solo dates and full-band performances, lead singer Jim James has played in the area around half a dozen times in the past year.
During My Morning Jacket's set, a small group of dedicated fans gathered near the stage, reciting lyrics and reflecting the energy of James' passionate vocals. Known for their sprawling three-hour performances, the band condensed their catalog into an hour-long set, which drew from nearly every album. During "Victory Dance," James stumbled around on stage in a cape with his face partly masked by a towel, and for their last song, Bingham came back onstage for an inspiring rendition of The Band's "Don't Do It."
Considering Wilco adheres more to folk and alt-country than southern rock, it was impressive to see them keep up the same energy as My Morning Jacket. To the delight of longtime fans like myself, most of their set drew from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born. Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople joined the band on stage for two songs, including the closer "All the Young Dudes," which seemed all the more epic with a loud, drunken crowd sing-along.