Im Not There (and Neither is Cat Power)
Last night, an eclectic mix of musicians celebrated the release of the soundtrack for Todd Haynes forthcoming Bob Dylan film Im Not There with a benefit performance at New Yorks Beacon Theatre organized by promoter Michael Dorf. Despite an impressive lineup, which included Dylans former keyboardist Al Kooper, singer/songwriter Mason Jennings, modern rock heroes My Morning Jacket and live hip-hop favorites The Roots, a number of empty seats remained at show time and sound problems plagued many of the evenings performers. The event also featured a few no shows, including Cat Power, who bowed out in the days leading up to the event, Michelle Shocked, who missed her flight, and several key members of the backing band Million Dollar Bashers, including John Medeski and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline. Slow transitions between performances also gave the evening a disjointed feel.
The evening did, however, feature a handful of choice performances, including The Roots live mash-up of Masters of War with Star-Spangled Banner. A streamlined version of the Roots rolled a version of the songwhich also includes gestures from Jimi Hendrixs Machine Gunout at another Dylan benefit organized by Dorf last November and have performed the song regularly ever since. The evenings first performer, Marcus Carl Franklin, the child actor who appears on the film, started the night with an enjoyable version of When the Ship Comes In, while Calexico backed Joe Henry, Mark Lanegan and Jim James on a selection of songs. The latter performer arrived onstage with a fresh shave and a hoody and belted through a powerful version of
Goin to Acapulco, without ever removing his hands from his pockets. He returned later in the show with his guitar and his band, My Morning Jacket, for Tonight Ill Be Staying Here With You, a number the group often covers in concert. Fabled Dylan associate Al Kooper led his band, the Funky Faculty, and special guests Uptown Horns through a faithful rendition of a song he recorded with Dylan, It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry, and appeared with a variety of performers throughout the night. Several indie-centric artists took the stage throughout the evening, including Gomezs Ian Ball and Olly Peacock for Dont Think Twice Its Alright, and an expanded version of Yo La Tengo featuring Stanley ‘Buckwheat’ Dural for I Wanna Be Your Lover and Fourth Time Around. Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks rallied the crowed with a fun twist on Subterranean Homesick Blues and Mason Jennings performed a straightforward, solo version of The Times They Are A-Changin.
Though Michelle Shocked missed her flight, Jimmy LaFave, with whom the songwriter was suppose to share a debut, still offered a version of Buckets of Rain and Tift Merritt made an unannounced appearance to play A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall.
Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo led an alternate version of the Million Dollar Bashers group he assembled for the Dylan tribute through a handful of songs, with a revolving cast, including J. Mascis and John Doe, stepping up to the microphone for a number each. Kooper also filled in for Medeski throughout the segment.
At the end of the night most of the evenings cast, including the Roots and the Million Dollar Bashers, took the stage for a show-closing version of All Along the Watchtower.