DULUTH – Whether there were any homesick blues on his part remained a mystery, but Bob Dylan generated an extra level of excitement from Minnesota fans by finally performing in his native city again — and by bringing a trio of exceptional opening acts with him.
Headed to Midway Stadium in St. Paul on Wednesday for a sold-out date on his so-called Americanarama tour, Dylan stopped in at Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park with the same impressive entourage on Tuesday.
Twang-rooted rockers My Morning Jacket, Richard Thompson and Wilco rounded out the five-hour music marathon. The last band already had a special relationship with Duluth, having played Bayfront twice before and even been given the key to the city last summer.
Of course, no musician unlocks more stories and mixed emotions around northern Minnesota than Dylan.
“How cool is it that a neighbor of ours went on to change the world?” said Ely native Cindy Stene, 52, who drove from Grand Rapids to attend her first Dylan concert. “I’m not a huge fan, but this may be the last chance to see him up here.”
His last time in Duluth was in 1999, with Paul Simon at the same scenic outdoor venue. Given Dylan’s age, 72, another 14-year wait indeed seems unlikely.
“I was born up the hill there,” he told fans in ’99, referring to either to St. Mary’s Hospital or the house where his family lived until moving to Hibbing when Bob was 6.
On Tuesday, he made no comment about the homecoming, nor did he drop any special tunes for the occasion. The first half of the 90-minute set was filled with recent songs such as “Duquesne Whistle” and “Things Have Changed.” Most of the oldies came later, including “All Along the Watchtower” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”
At least for fans, some of the classic lyrics resonated a little stronger given the bard’s local roots, i.e., “All the people we used to know / They’re an illusion to me now.”
Wilco and My Morning Jacket — typically their own headliners with devoted followings in the Twin Cities — each had 75 minutes to impress the more Dylan-heavy crowd of about 7,000 fans — enough for each to show off both their twangy, folky sides as well as a few of their more experimental jam-rocky tunes.
Wilco’s Chicagoan members showed their familiarity with the surroundings by inviting out Duluth’s own indie-rockers Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker from Low to sing — with help from several lyric sheets — Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy quipped, “It’s good to be home.”
At least one of the singers said it.
Look for Duluth’s Americanarama set lists at startribune.com/artcetera and full coverage of the St. Paul concert in Thursday’s editions and online.