BobFest concert duplicates songs and evokes spirit of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue

bobfest review 2022

PHOTOS BY JAY LUSTIG

Pat Guadagno, left, and Steve Delopoulos perform at BobFest at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, May 26.

This year’s edition of the annual BobFest tribute concert — a Bob Dylan tribute concert that takes place annually, around the time of his May 24 birthday — was also a celebration of Dylan’s 1975-’76 Rolling Thunder Revue. And they got it right in every way.

Every song that was played at the show (see setlist below), which took place at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank on May 26, was actually played on the Rolling Thunder tour — except for two (“Obviously Five Believers” and “Joey”). The arrangements also often echoed Rolling Thunder arrangements: “Isis,” for instance, was played in the distinctively fast, crazed style that can be heard on the live Rolling Thunder version that was included on Dylan’s 1985 compilation album, Biograph.

Also, the original Rolling Thunder shows, in contrast to Dylan’s usual style, were structured like a variety show, with band members and guest artists given their moments in the spotlight. As is customary for a BobFest show, leader Pat Guadago shared lead vocalist responsibility with other members of his Tired Horses band, including guitarist Steve Delopoulos and Rich Oddo, harmonica player and pianist Rob Paparozzi, multi-instrumentalist Marc Muller, backing vocalist Mary McCrink and bassist Phil “Red River” Rizzo. (Rounding out the band were Gary Oleyar on violin, Joe Bellia on drums, and Jack Pyrah, who moved from organ to piano or accordion, depending on the needs of the song).

The middle portion of the show included a succession of solo or small-ensemble numbers, including Guadagno’s brittle, forceful solo “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “Simple Twist of Fate,” performed as a tender duo number featuring singer-guitarist Oddo and violinist Oleyar.

There were also guest vocalists. Anthony Walker (who dressed in Rolling Thunder-style clothes and duplicated Dylan’s whiteface look from the tour) sang lead on “It Aint Me, Babe” early in the evening, and returned later to add backing vocals to a few songs. Pat Roddy sang lead on parts of “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Like a Rolling Stone,” and played guitar.

And Rob Stoner, who played bass and served on musical director on the actual Rolling Thunder tour, back in the ’70s, presented a mini-set of his own in the middle of the show, then jammed with the band on “Obviously Five Believers.” On his own, Stoner played guitar and sang Dylan’s “Catfish” and his humorous, self-written “The Situation Was Too Good to Be Wasted (But I’m Too Wasted to Be Any Good),” both of which he sang on Rolling Thunder. He also talked about recording demos with Dylan for other artists.

Rob Stoner at BobFest.

Intriguingly, Stoner sang a bit of “Forever Young” in the style of Elvis Presley, after saying he and Dylan recorded a demo that way, in hopes that Presley would cover it. Then he sang “Maggie’s Farm” in the styles, successively, of Little Richard, Frank Sinatra, Presley, David Bowie, Johnny Cash and Jimi Hendrix. (This bit, honestly, went on a little too long, and some in the crowd lost patience, chanting “Pat” — to encourage Guadagno to return — as if this were a folk festival and Dylan were playing an electric guitar.)

The Rolling Thunder theme gave Guadagno & Co. an opportunity to explore some rarely heard parts of Dylan history. Delopoulos sang “Joey,” Dylan’s ham-handed ode to gangster Joey Gallo, from the Rolling Thunder Era; he brought an impressive amount of emotion to it, but still didn’t convince me that this rarely heard song should be performed more frequently. Dylan and Joan Baez duetted on Johnny Ace’s romantic ballad “Never Let Me Go” during Rolling Thunder; Guadagno and McCrink warmly sang it together here. McCrink, backing herself on guitar, also bravely tackled the complexities of Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote” — written while she was on the Rolling Thunder tour — and made it into one of the highlights of the show.

Paparozzi’s loping “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and Muller’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, it Takes a Train to Cry” emphasized Dylan’s blues roots. “Idiot Wind” and “Hurricane,” both sung late in the show by Guadagno, evoked the fury of Dylan’s hardest-edged Rolling Thunder moments. But perhaps the show’s greatest moment was when the crowd spontaneously erupted in applause when Guadagno sang the “Blowin’ in the Wind” line, “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?”

The line, of course, was written 60 years ago. But it hits as hard as ever, this week, with the Uvalde, Texas, shooting — and our collective inability to put an end to incidents like it — on everyone’s mind.

Anthony Walker, right, adopted a Rolling Thunder Era, Dylanesque look for BobFest.

Here is the show’s setlist, with the lead singer or singers of each song in parentheses.

“Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” (Guadagno)
“I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)” (Guadagno, Rizzo)
“It Ain’t Me, Babe” (Walker)
“Just Like a Woman” (Guadagno)
“Romance in Durango” (Guadagno)
“A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” (Paparozzi)
“Never Let Me Go” (Guadagno, McCrink)
“It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” (Muller)
“Simple Twist of Fate” (Oddo)
“Mama, You Been on My Mind” (Paparozzi)
“It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” (Guadagno)
“Coyote” (McCrink)
“Joey” (Delopoulos)
“Blowin’ in the Wind” (Delopoulos, McCrink, Guadagno)
“Catfish” (Stoner)
“The Situation Was Too Good to Be Wasted (But I’m Too Wasted to Be Any Good)” (Stoner)
“Maggie’s Farm” (Stoner)
“Obviously Five Believers” (Paparozzi, Oddo)
“Idiot Wind” (Guadagno)
“Isis” (Guadagno, Delopoulos)
“I Pity the Poor Immigrant” (McCrink)
“Oh, Sister” (Delopoulos)
“Hurricane” (Guadagno)
“I Shall Be Released” (Rizzo)
“Mr. Tambourine Man” (Roddy, Paparozzi, Delopoulos, McCrink, Guadagno)
“This Land Is Your Land” (Guadagno, Delopoulos)
“Like a Rolling Stone” (Delopoulos, Oddo, Roddy, Paparozzi)

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