To celebrate legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s 74th birthday, The Southern’s “Released: A Birthday Tribute to Bob Dylan” showcased eight Charlottesville musical groups paying their respects to Dylan and performing their interpretations of his songs.
Kai Crowe-Getty, of the headlining band Lord Nelson, introduced the show with a traditional acoustic cover of “Highway 61 Revisited” track “Queen Jane Approximately.” Following the introduction, he gave an emotional speech about discovering Dylan’s music through his dad, who also joined him on stage for his last song. The two played acoustic guitar together and exchanged lines of the song as if they were talking to each other though the music.
The second set brought another acoustic guitarist, Travis Elliott, to the stage. Playing a handful of Dylan’s more popular songs, including the single “Positively 4th Street,” Elliott brought a pop style to Dylan’s music. Though it fit well with the songs, his performance was amongst the more forgettable of the night.
The last of the solo acoustic musicians, Jesse Harper, had a voice with the same inherent raspiness as Dylan’s, giving his covers the most authentic sound. Unfortunately, his appearance was rather short-lived and included only lesser-known Dylan songs, so it would have been a welcome addition to hear him sing one of Dylan’s classics.
Terri Allard sang backed by an acoustic guitarist and an electric bassist, covering Dylan’s early hit “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” She created a vibe reminiscent of Joan Baez’s numerous interpretations of Dylan songs. The addition of an electric bass also added a welcome element of funk.
Following a short intermission during which even more Dylan songs were played over the venue’s speakers (so as to not deprive the audience of a single moment without listening to his music), the Rob Cheatham Band took the stage. Adding a mandolin and fiddle to the mix, they were able to create a sound that closely resembled a harmonica, an instrument which was noticeably absent throughout the night. With the help of one of the night’s better singers, they succeeded in kicking off the heavier second half of the event.
Eli Cook, the blues rock guitarist who was graciously thanked by all of the previous performers for putting on the event, was the first all-electric act of the night. He started his set with an almost-heavy-metal version of “Highway 61 Revisited” and continued with a version of “All Along the Watchtower” more in line with Jimi Hendrix’s version than Dylan’s. He finished by playing Rage Against The Machine’s cover of “Maggie’s Farm.” Cook’s blues-influenced punk style complemented Dylan’s lyrics flawlessly.
To wrap up the showcase, Crowe-Getty returned with his folk rock band Lord Nelson to perform about half a dozen of Dylan’s songs. This set most closely resembled Dylan’s electric side. The band’s appreciation of the source material was evident from their widely varied song selection. They played everything from “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” classic “Girl From The North Country” to “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” a song that written by Bob Dylan but released by The Band.
With a cast of great local musicians, “Released: A Birthday Tribute to Bob Dylan” showcased the breadth of Dylan’s acoustic and electric styles, resulting in an outstanding homage to the illustrious musician.