Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Standing Ovation for Bastiens at Guthrie-Dylan Dinner Concert

Last night, Valentini's Italian Restaurant on London Road hosted a benefit concert for the Armory Arts & Music Center. The four-course meal was accompanied by a five-course set of music by the talented tenor/musician Bill Bastien and his gifted wife Laurie on violin. Dressed like the folk heroes of American song that they were presenting, the Bastiens gave us their hearts, thereby capturing the overflowing hearts of the great songwriters of folk.

After a few introductory remarks by Susan Phillips, president of the Armory Arts & Music Center, and the Center's VP Mark Poirer, the Bastiens brought us into the terrain of folk history with some of the songs Woody Guthrie performed in his time, beginning with 900 Miles. The Woodie Guthrie set included the Golden Anniversary Waltz, Pastures of Plenty, Do Re Mi, and Old Joe Clark.

After a scrumptious salad was served, the first Dylan set commenced.

Bastien is more than a musician. I'd heard that he is a great storyteller as well, and as you know every song has a story. The stories were as rich as the heritage from which they birthed.

Bastien's treatment of many of the songs varied, and this first Dylan set included some haunting interpretations of simple, painful songs like 500 Miles, Don't Think Twice, Just Like a Woman, and I Shall be Released.

The main course was then served, along with a wonderfully smooth wine.

When the concert first announced as part of the festivities for Duluth's Dylan Fest, I failed to make the connection between Valentini's and the fund raiser. Raising money here to renovate the Armory only made sense when you look out and see that the Armory is just across the street. Usually I am better than that at connecting the dots.

The Armory is where Bod Dylan saw Buddy Holly's second to last concert before his life ended in an Iowa plane wreck two days later. Purportedly Holly looked directly into the eyes of the young Dylan and "passed the torch" so to speak. Something clicked and Bob Dylan's life purpose was established.

The Bastiens then gave us a set from Arlo Guthrie's Americana, beginning with City of New Orleans. Little Beggar Man, Man of Constant Sorrow, The Last Train and Coming Into Los Angeles followed. Bastien, who also teaches at St. Scholastica here, enriched each song with colorful tales like kite tails streaming in an open sky.

The second Dylan set followed immediately, allowing us to enjoy the Valentini's meat ravioli with sugo, roasted Italian vegentables and bonless slow-cooked chicken breast in Rosemary win sauce. Yummmm.

The selections were interesting, and some surprising. I Ain't Got No Home, O Sister, Highway 61 Revisited, and All Along the Watchtower made for a memorable set.

After dessert and coffee we were offered up chestnuts which included, Turn, Turn, Turn.... The Water Is Wide, Blowing in the Wind, Orange Blossom Special, and a singalong This Land Is Your Land. Standing ovation followed immediately. Wonderful way to kick off a week honoring Dylan, who turns 70 today, May 24.

Happy birthday, Bob, to you.

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