What: Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, with the Greencards
Where: Ray Winder Field
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 2 (gates open at 5:30 p.m.)
Tickets: $49.50 general admission through Ticketmaster (975-7575) or the Ray Winder Field office (664-1555)
Other particulars: The stage will be set up in centerfield. No seats will be on the field, but ticketholders can stand in front of the stage.
Editor’s Note: “Arkansongs” columnist Stephen Koch recently attended the Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson minor-league-ballpark tour show in Birmingham, Ala., and files this report for their upcoming concert at Ray Winder Field on Saturday, July 2.
Rock fans of a certain age could be forgiven for checking their bifocals at the news. Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson? Together? And at Ray Winder Field no less?
It sounded too good to be true — and, for those who hoped to see Willie and Bob mixing it up onstage — it may be. Closer scrutiny of the advertising reveals this is “The Bob Dylan Show,” so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the two legends do not enjoy equal stage time — or even share the stage. But it still does surprise.
Nelson is paired with Dylan on their second tour of mostly AA baseball parks — winner of a 2004 Pollstar award for “Most Creative Tour Package.” Opening in the harsh daylight are Austin, Texas’ Greencards, who deliver Americana filtered through their Australian/British sensibilities with predictable results.
As the sun fades, Nelson comes on with the familiar Texas flag unfurling under the iconic opening strains of his “Whisky River.” The “And Family” portion of “Willie and Family” is in effect, too. There are the standbys like Paul and Bobbie and newcomers like Nelson’s son Lukas, who takes a vocal and displays his guitar skills, straight from the Kenny Wayne Shepherd-Wes Jeans cum Stevie Ray Vaughan mold.
With dad back at the mic, the newness of “Beer For My Horses” — performed twice in succession at his Feb. 19, 2004, show at Little Rock club Electric Cowboy — has waned to warrant but a single performance. Older warhorses were aired, too, but Nelson’s abbreviated set served harsh notice of his opening-act status.
Meanwhile, Dylan’s sets on the tour have tended to include a mix of again-topical songs like “Masters of War” and “Senor” with more recent, breezier gems like “Summer Days” and “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.” On the Birmingham stop a few weeks ago, Dylan opened with “Drifter’s Escape,” as he has with several shows.
Dylan also seems to be sticking with the piano live these days, much as he did on his last venture into an intriguing Little Rock venue — his May 18, 2003, date at the now-defunct club Nite Life Rocks.
Dylan’s adventurous move to piano came long after his adventurous move to start touring heavily — and in heretofore unvisited cities like Little Rock — in a breakthrough moment cited in his recent autobiography. His first stop here came in 1995 and featured the still further adventuresome guest vocalist: Randolph County rockabilly legend Billy Lee Riley. But song-and-dance-man Dylan can’t figure the merit and percentage in bringing Nelson on to, say, blaze an “All Along the Watchtower” solo at least?
Following the Ray Winder Field date, the pair play Nelson’s annual Fourth of July picnic at the Fort Worth stockyards. Likely his fans will hear more of Nelson at that show. The ballpark tour resumes July 6 with another Texas League date at Tulsa’s Drillers Stadium.