Pat Guadagno and The Tired Horses: BobFests since 1998

“This one here might be about war, or it might be about peace,” said Pat Guadagno, introducing Bob Dylan’s “Jokerman,” May 25 at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank.

The occasion was the 19th annual BobFest concert by Guadagno and his Tired Horses band, honoring Dylan’s 76th birthday (which was May 24). And the theme of the show was Dylan’s songs of war and peace. But some songs didn’t fit neatly into one category or another: War songs, after all, can be about making a case for peace, and peace songs can be about showing war in all its horror. How would you classify “Blowin’ in the Wind,” or “With God on Our Side”?

Guadagno, wisely, didn’t try. He and his band — an all-star group of Jersey musicians (see lineup below) — just played one song after another without attempting to classify them, and also strayed from the theme from time to time. (I don’t really think that “Maggie’s Farm” or “All Along the Watchtower,” for example, directly addresses the subject of war and peace.)

Still, the show represented a deep dive into a subject, as well as an opportunity to perform many rarely covered Dylan songs (see setlist below). Most rock musicians performing the work of rock legends seem mainly concerned with imitation of easily recognizable hits. This show was different, mixing standards with relative obscurities, and adding unconventional arrangements to virtually everything: a loping, easy-going feel for “When the Ship Comes In” and “Neighborhood Bully,” for instance; chugging funk for “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” (probably influenced by Leon Russell’s version) and “Maggie’s Farm”; some rich, Band-like America for “Man of Peace”; some aggressively jagged blues-rock for “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).

Guadagno sang lead less than half of the time, with most of the members of the large Tired Horses band singing lead at least once, and some — such as harmonica player Rob Paparozzi (memorably animated on “Maggie’s Farm”) and guitarist Steven Delopoulos (whose best moment was a tender, soulful “Every Grain of Sand”) — featured quite a bit.

Singer Mary McCrink made “Ring Them Bells” into a fiery show-stopper; Aura Guadagno was a powerhouse, too, on “Forever Young” (a duet with her father). The show peaked with urgent versions of “Masters of War” and “All Along the Watchtower,” both performed late in the set. A group a cappella version of “Paths of Victory” was the uplifting show-closer.

BobFest is a great example a grass-roots success story, starting out in a restaurant/nightclub (Red Bank’s Downtown Cafe), then moving to a small theater (Red Bank’s Two River Theater) before finding a home at one of the state’s largest theaters, The Basie. There were no grand plans for it at first, I’m sure, but it’s grown into a much-anticipated event, with many of the same musicians participating year after year.

Most shows in the past have focused on a specific album or albums, but I think the change to a subject worked well, and could lead to lots of interesting shows in the future: Songs of love … songs of faith … story songs … funny songs

Text borrowed from NJArts.Net

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