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Pop Music Review

Dylan Tribute Needed More Tribute, More Personality

May 31, 2001|NATALIE NICHOLS

"Any tribute to Dylan is bound to be too much and not enough," singer-songwriter Paul Zollo said Tuesday at the Knitting Factory Hollywood, where he hosted the sixth annual "Bobfest." By paraphrasing his hero, he accurately summed up this overlong, underwhelming celebration of the erstwhile Bobby Zimmerman's 60th birthday last week.

It's creepy to honor living artists with such affairs anyway, but, frankly, Dylan deserved better. He might as well have been dead, considering the often crypt-like atmosphere of this event, featuring about two dozen performers--including Peter Case, Parthenon Huxley, Wendie Colter and Lorin Hart--playing one or two Dylan tunes apiece.

The nearly four-hour show was full of genteel, drawing-room renditions, mostly of his earlier, more popular songs, with a few newer numbers and rarities. Although it underscored his amazing body of work, the overall weakness of the performances also made you never want to hear "Blowin' in the Wind," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Lay Lady Lay" or "Country Pie" ever again.

Such artists as Colter, James Coberly Smith and Rod Smear displayed clear emotional connections to Dylan, but some cheated by using sheet music, which was at least lazy and at worst disrespectful. Indeed, many interpretations were so unimaginative and personality-free that Case seemed like an unpredictable wild man simply for taking his acoustic guitar into the audience and referencing his own street-singing days with spirited takes on "Song to Woody" and "Fixin' to Die."

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