On the Scene: The 'I'm Not There' concert at New York's Beacon Theatre

My_lIn honor of director Todd Haynes’ new Bob Dylan-approved biopic, I’m Not There, a host of talented musicians, young and old, contributed to the movie’s soundtrack of 33 Dylan songs. And a handful of those artists gathered last night at New York City’s Beacon Theatre to pay homage to the greatest songwriter of the 20th century. Coordinated by Haynes, Michael Dorf, and others, the event raised money for 826 National, a non-profit organization established by authors Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida to encourage young students in creative writing.

I could throw out names that you may or may not know. Old-timers like X frontman John Doe, Blonde on Blonde collaborator Al Kooper, Jimmy LaFave, Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks, and Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo. Okay, I’ll admit it: I wasn’t there to hear "Blowin’ in the Wind" or "The Times They Are a-Changin’" — and the stuff played by these grizzled vets might’ve fell deaf on 22-year-old ears. But in front of a crowd that spanned at least three generations, I could grasp the significance of how one man influenced so many kinds of music, from John Doe’s punk rock to The Roots’ hip-hop.

Haynes’ film follows Dylan through the various stages of his career, with a different actor (Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Richard Gere) playing a Dylan from a particular era. And mimicking the way Haynes shifts perspectives, the concert began with a performance of "When the Ship Comes In" by the young Marcus Carl Franklin (remember that name), then rolled forward to My Morning Jacket’s Jim James (backed by Calexico) doing a sublime rendition of "Goin’ to Acapulco." Fast-forward just a bit further to Joe Henry, coming off his new album, Civilians, acting almost as event maestro, rarely leaving the stage, whether as guitarist or singer on songs like "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)."

addCredit(“My Morning Jacket: Brian Ach/WireImage.com”)

There was the occasional hiccup — an interesting yet unsettling performance by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroesand an obligatory emcee appearance by Ledger — but the night belongedto two bands: MMJ (pictured, with James at right) and The Roots. Fortradition’s sake, it was right to have Kooper, Terry Adams, and Mark Laneganon stage. In all honesty, though, I would’ve been content to listen toMMJ and ?uestlove play Dylan all night. Although they were mistakenlyintroduced as being from Lexington (they actually hail from Louisville,Ky.), MMJ and James connected on a version of "Tonight I’ll Be StayingHere With You" that nicely showcased James’ uncanny reverb. With afresh haircut, James didn’t look his normal shaggy self, but his voiceechoed through the Beacon like he wanted Dylan to hear him, wherever hewas.

The Roots? Well, The Roots literally brought the crowd to its feet.I remember rumblings of the group playing Bonnaroo this summer,including a chilling performance of "Master’s of War," which is whatthey played as their set’s penultimate song. Capt. Kirk let loose onguitar, singing the first verse to the tune of the our national anthem,and channeling Jimi Hendrix throughout. ?uestlove, on the skins, wasworth every penny of the $150 ticket (which, in the spirit of fulldisclosure, I procured for free), and Tuba Gooding Jr. jumping into theaudience with his sousaphone made it hands down one of the topperformances I’ve seen this year. (You can see a YouTube video of themperforming the song at another venue here.)

To make this a true, interactive PopWatch experience, I’ll throw outa question I was pondering last night. What’s the best Dylan coveryou’ve ever heard? Or, better yet, what’s your favorite coveralbum/cover song? Because I’ve got MMJ on the mind, their re-imaginingof Erykah Badu’s "Tyrone" keeps popping up in my mental list.

Comments (8 total) Add your comment
  • Matthew

    The INT benefit was incredible last night! Viva Todd, Viva The Roots, and Viva Lee Ranaldo. My head’s been buzzing all day.

  • Taylor Cole

    Best Dylan Cover: I would have to say the Eddie Vedder All along the watchtower f rom the INT soundtrack. It’s perfect combo of the dylan and hendrix versions.
    As for best cover song ever: I would say Reel Big Fish’s cover of a-ha’s “Take on me>” The live version though. The studio recording from eht baseketball soundtrack was sub par.

  • Xneaky Devil

    Yeah the Roots made the whole show worth it. MMJ too, but the Roots really nailed it. That one in terms of a Dylan cover is way way up there. I love Nina Simone doing Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues

  • booboo

    This show was hamfisted. MMJ and the Roots were amazing and almost worth the ticket just for their 2 performances. Lanegan and Joe Henry were good. Apart from that, this show was sloppy, most acts were unrehearsed, it was plagued by sound problems, and generally hamfisted. It was a bunch of old dudes playing bluesy jammy versions of the masters songs (all due respect to Al Kooper). And where were the other acts they listed as billed at various points – Cat Power, Hold Steady, & Neko Case? MMJ and the Roots made these shortcomings all the more glaring. Of course, maybe they just rehearsed. The crowd, the movie, the venue, and Dylan deserved better.

  • BH

    By far the best Dylan cover is Girl From the North Country performed by Jim James with M Ward and Bright Eyes and Mike Mogis during the monsters of Folk tour. I listen to it once a week.

  • sunset

    Strangely enough my favourite Dylan-cover is also Girl of the north country – but the artist behind the version I`m thinking of is The Waterboys. I will also like to mention that Elliott Murphy does live-covers of Not Dark Yet, so beautuful that it brings tears to my eyes.

  • James

    I gotta agree with booboo about the terrible sound and uneven set. Agreed: MMJ/Jim James and the Roots killed it. Good covers fall into one of 2 categories: 1) unearthing a lost gem and presenting it faithfully and 2) uniquely interpreting something we all know. The second one is tougher. As for the best Dylan cover: I saw the White Stripes open for the Strokes at Radio City several years ago. I’m not particularly a big fan of theirs but Jack White was possessed for “Isis”. A boot of that show is worth your time finding. It got me back into that period of Dylan. Favorite cover ever? That’s tough. Luna did “Rock Your Baby” most New Years’ Eve; it was magical each time. Afghan Whigs’ version of “Creep” (TLC) is a longstanding favorite, as is Shellac’s “Jailbreak” (ACDC). Lambchop’s live covers are usually quite good: “When She Gets Behind Closed Doors” (Pride), “Love TKO” (Pendergrass), “Why Can’t I Touch It?” (Buzzcocks). Best cover album is easy:McLemore Ave by Booker T&MGs (Abbey Rd)

  • sohqlc kfzmdxa

    ntlik ewkgsvxo axizeg yjhvp sfdhnvor dkcufmays fmbu

Add your comment
The rules: Keep it clean, and stay on the subject - or we may delete your comment. If you see inappropriate language, e-mail us. An asterisk (*) indicates a required field.

When you click on the "Post Comment" button above to submit your comments, you are indicating your acceptance of and are agreeing to the Terms of Service. You can also read our Privacy Policy.

Latest Videos


From Our Partners

TV Recaps

Powered by WordPress.com VIP