Concert Review: Jakob Dylan at the Morton Arboretum

Jakob Dylan at Morton Arboretum

One of the reasons a concert becomes our favorite is because, in some way, it became a psychological and emotional shelter from life’s storm right when we needed it most, and it gave us just the right amount of mental diversion so we could forget about whatever we were hoping to erase from our minds for a couple of hours.

But besides protecting us psychologically, our favorite concerts also transform and change us in ways that go beyond our desire to escape. Our favorite concerts make us see life, those around us and ourselves in new ways.

And if you’ve ever experienced a profound or life-altering moment at a concert, then you know exactly what live music can do and how it can change your life forever.

The reason I’m starting this Jakob Dylan review like this is because I’m trying something new. And as you follow along, I hope you discover something new about your concert adventures, too.

The other reason I’m telling you this at the start is because I want to be honest with you.

I don’t want to just write a concert review that’s fake, contrived, pretentious or worst of all, not from the heart.

If I did just tell you the facts and leave out the feeling, I would be lying to you.

And I just don’t see the point in doing that.

So I’ll be honest with you and tell you that there were a lot of reasons why I was looking forward to this Jakob Dylan concert.

It started when I read this concert review earlier this year. The review made me smile and got me even more excited to hear Dylan’s new songs live.

And since this concert was going to take place in a unique venue that I hadn’t been to before, it made going to the show extra special and even more intriguing.

Dylan’s latest album Women and Country has been on constant rotation in all my music playing devices because like all his other albums, I’ve connected to Women and Country‘s timelessness, mystic songwriting, and it’s emotional rawness.

And for many reasons I won’t say here, I’ve found a lot of hope, comfort, compassion and healing in the songs as I travel through a tough period in my life these last few months.

And because of that particular emotional struggle I wasn’t sure, and to be completely honest, I was a bit afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to review this show because of all the emotions I had running through my mind.

For whatever reason, I thought all those emotions might keep me from reviewing the show objectively.

nikon camera lens

But then I realized that objectivity isn’t always an ally when reviewing concerts, journalist or not. Especially if you want to capture the essence of the fan experience.

And in this case it turns out that objectivity was helpful for keeping me balanced and on track while writing the review. But it was those very same emotions — not my objectivity — that truly inspired me to write the review.

So ironically the reason I had to not review show quickly became THE reason why I should review this Dylan show.

That said, this Jakob Dylan concert was both a moment of escape for the grind of life but it was also a moment of revelation that gave me insight that I will never forget. I can’t fully explain in just one blog post how experiencing a concert can be bring peace, confidence and comfort to a concert fan.

But I can tell you this…

When you see an artist like Jakob Dylan perform for fans in such a beautiful surrounding as the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, some amazing things can and did happen.

But it didn’t start out so pretty and wonderful.

At first, I thought things might not end good because even before we left the parking lot to head towards the stage, Colleen dropped her camera and broke her Nikon lens that she’s used for almost every show since we started covering concerts.

When it happened Colleen was crushed, extremely sad and disappointed. And for both of us, in a strange way, it felt like we had lost a family member.

But alas the death of her precious Nikon lens didn’t stop Colleen from capturing great shots of Dylan and opening band Augustana.

Dan Layus of Augustana

Sowing the seeds for a beautifully lazy and hazy summer night was pop folk trio Augustana lead by lead singer Dan Layus. Their set gave me a new perspective on the band because until this show, I haven’t been able to fully appreciate Layus’s songwriting due to past experiences hearing their hit song “Boston.” But during this stripped down acoustic performance in the intimate festival-like setting of the Morton Arboretum’s outdoor venue I did get that chance.

And big part of it was due to Layus’s in-between song conversations with the crowd as he told us some of the back story of their most popular tracks. And, of course, his in-song shout out to the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup didn’t hurt either.

Layus unveiled a few new songs along the way, but it was his cover of Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me in Your Heart,” — with vocal help from a member of Chicago band Margo and the Nuclear So and So’s — that made the entire crowd unravel in pleasure and ponder the beauty of friendship, love and eternity for a few minutes, priming us perfectly before Dylan took the stage.

Grabbing his guitar and flashing quick grins to his band Three Legs and then to the crowd, Jakob Dylan rolled into the lead track of Women and Country, “Nothing But the Whole Wide World”. Like the living museum of trees and woody paths that stood tall and swaying around us, the song branched out long and gorgeous. Verse to verse, chorus to chorus, graceful grooves and soulful undercurrents of folk and country flowed from band and out to the crowd who sat relaxed and rooted as firm as the trees around us in pleasure, peace and tranquility.

Then dipping back to 2008’s “Seeing Things,” Dylan played the mystical and forewarning “Evil Is Alive and Well.” And along the way he mixed in one of his best Wallflower tracks gliding through “Sixth Avenue Heartbreak” as fans swayed and sang along soaking up every note and singing every lyric as if the song were their own.

Adding local flavor to Dylan’s set was Chicago-based singer Nora O’Connor who sang backup and lead vocals and did a couple duets with Dylan. O’Connor’s been a longtime player in the Chicago music scene and has worked with fellow singer-songwriter Neko Case (who is featured on Women and Country) on many past projects. And for the rest of the summer, O’Connor will be joining Dylan and his band the Wicked Legs as they tour the US and then head to Europe.

Sure, we lost a camera lens before the show, but that was the only downer of the night. And it didn’t stop us from focusing on and enjoying the flurry of magnificent live music moments that unfolded before us during the show.

Yes, I thought I was going to escape from the grind of life at the concert. And for some of the concert I did escape.

But for the most part, seeing Dylan live somehow left me with a greater sense of clarity and courage. It was sort of like when you listen to the blues or a sad country song and you love it and personalize it, because hearing the song lets you know that you’re not the only one struggling or feeling down.

And as we walked out of the venue and the warm night breeze blew through trees, I was surprised to feel like I did.

I didn’t expect to go to a concert and afterward gained a sense of relief or cathartic clarity by hearing Dylan sing his songs. But that’s exactly what did happen.

You know this might be the most personal I’ve ever been in a concert review. But like I said at the start, that’s what needed to happen if I was going to write the most honest and truthful review I could for you.

Believe me, I had no idea that this show would be like this or that I would write this review like this.

Morton Arboretum Jakob Dylan Concert

As I see it now, I consider this Jakob Dylan concert as a welcomed reminder that as live music fans, we’re also human beings with complex emotions and myriad memories running though us constantly.

And when we go to concerts, whether we realize it or not, we take all of our life experiences with us — the good, bad, joyous and tragic. And because of all those emotions swirling around inside of us, seeing a live show can truly be a profound moment of revelation and discovery.

Knowing that, you’ll want to be aware when you go to your next concert — whoever it is or where ever it is — because you just never know what you might find, or what might find you. And whatever that is, I hope it changes your life. And I’d love to hear about it when it happens.

See more pictures from the show on Colleen’s Flickr page.

Get more info about Morton Arboretum’s summer concert series In Tune With Trees.

Buy Women and Country via Amazon:

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