I traveled up to Saratoga on Sunday for a great show. The lineup was stellar. Bob Dylan, The Levon Helm band, The Swell Season, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Gillian Welch, Steve Earle, and Raul Malo.
The Levon Helm Band:
After a recent bout with throat cancer, a frail Levon Helm still did a fantastic job on the drums, and came stage center to play mandolin and sing a few tunes. Vocal duties were shared by Levon with his daughter Amy Helm (also in the band Olabelle), Larry Campbell and others.
The highlight of the set was "The Weight". Glen Hansard, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings came on stage to sing along. It was fantastic, and would've served as a perfect ending to any show, but Dylan was still yet to play. Pretty incredible.
The Swell Season:
For me, the Swell Season stole the show. Despite a set plagued with sound issues, and a half hour late start due to faulty stage monitors, they absolutely were a blast.
Glen Hansard is phenomenal on stage, and his solo acoustic Van Morrison cover blew the roof off of the place. It was obvious that he was more than a little bummed out about the sound issues, and let us know that he could not hear anything, and wanted to make sure it sounded ok to the audience. It is a shame that their set was so short, but luckily I get to see them next month headlining Central Park. I cannot wait to see them again.
Gillian Welch (W/ David Rawlings):
Why this is simply billed as Gillian Welch is beyond me. David Rawlings is and has been an integral part of her music. It should be Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Their nostalgic take on American Country Music is refreshing, and while at times, they can bring the room down with sad slow songs, they are always something to watch. Most openers don't get encores, but they did, and they ran back on stage and performed a superb rendition of "I'll Fly Away".
Steve Earle (w/ Allison Moorer)
Raul Malo opened the show, and sadly his set was only 20 minutes. When I was in High School, The Mavericks were far and away my favorite band. Their take on the Bakersfield sound, along with Raul's powerful Orbison like voice was so different from all of the garbage Nashville was churning out.
Raul's set consisted of all Mavericks material, and while I his voice sounded excellent, I just felt there was something missing without the rest of the Mavericks by his side. The Mavericks were chock full of energy when they played live, and while Raul's touring band is very good, it just wasn't the same.
This was the first year for the Saratoga Music Festival. If following years are as good as this, I won't mind the four hour drive home because the show was that damn good.
See the rest of my photos from the show here.