Stevie Jackson at Saturday’s show.Photo: George Kopp
At a 1966 concert at England’s Manchester Free Trade Hall, Bob Dylan was ruthlessly heckled by fans for using the devil’s preferred method of selling out, an electric guitar. At Saturday’s re-creation of the famed “Royal Albert Hall” concert, rock-and-roll Luddites finally saw redemption. Belle and Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson’s performance of “Visions of Johanna” was plagued by weird buzzing noises, but he recovered, charmingly, by explaining, “It’s the ghost of electricity.” Norah Jones and Bright Eyes collaborator Jesse Harris scored one for the modernists when he used a banjo on “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” but suffered amnesia on the opening lines.
Saturday’s tribute concert, the kickoff show for this year’s New York Guitar Festival, was held inside the World Financial Center’s atrium and hosted — in addition to many decorative, view-obstructing palm trees — fifteen ax handlers of varying pedigrees (Laura Cantrell, Lenny Kaye, etc.), performing one song each from the original set list, in order. Some were boringly true to Dylan, but Natalia Zuckerman’s transcendent guitar playing on “Fourth Time Around” was perhaps prettier than anything in Dylan’s discography. A standing ovation went to pretty-boy singer-songwriter Freeman, who nailed the epic “Desolation Row.” Though WNYC host John Schaefer’s Dylan-history lessons between numbers were long-winded, we left the show knowing a whole lot about a pivotal moment in rock — and pretty much everything about the trunk of a palm tree. —Elizabeth ClineDylan Tribute Show Visited by the Ghost of Electricity