The May 22 concert at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion featuring separate performances by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison was probably a hidden recipe for all along. But each of these fabled artists still managed to reach moments of brilliance during their individual sets.
Dylan came on first. In addition to the two songs he and his band performed from his Grammy-winning album Time Out Of Mind ("Cold Irons Bound" and "Love Sick"), Dylan chose to sing three songs from his 1974 album Blood On The Tracks, "If You See Her Say Hello," "Simple Twist Of Fate" and "Tangled Up In Blue". It is not unusual for Dylan to sing "Silvio," as he did during this appearance. But the inclusion of "Rank Strangers To Me," a song Dylan did not write from the album Down In The Groove, was surely unexpected. The same can be said for "This Wheels On Fire," a tune Dylan wrote with the Band's Rick Danko, which he was never known to perform up until recent times. Many fans know it from the Band's version on Music From Big Pink.
Dylan did not forget those in attendance who have followed him from the earliest days of his career. He opened with "Maggie's Farm," also played "Highway 61 Revisited" and "It Ain't Me Babe," closing with "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35."
Joni Mitchell spoke warmly to the audience throughout her set and her performance brimmed with ideas, mostly coming from her comments and her lyrics. If she did not play many of her best-known songs, she played some of her great ones.
Joni strummed her electric rhythm guitar on all songs, beginning with "Night Ride Home." Perhaps to the displeasure of some, she avoided most of the tunes from her 1996 collection hits (Reprise) and turned instead to some of the obscurities on its companion CD, Misses.
Van Morrison came on with a bang a little while later, entering to the familiar guitar lick from "Domino," one of his few hit singles (#9 in 1970), following right away with the stuttering vocal intro of "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile)."
The man in the black pork pie hat then proved himself, over the next hour or so, to be the consummate soul singer - a well deserved reputation that he's built, fortified and enhanced ever since his days as a member of Them in the mid-60's. He thrilled the crowd with call and response vocal parts in the best "Godfather Of Soul" tradition, and managed to turn the too-large arena into a far more intimate place through the power of his personality an his musicianship.
Fans of Joni Mitchell an Van Morrison owe it to themselves to see these special artists in a more appropriate setting than a sports arena. When they headline their next individual tours it is bound to be in much more audience- friendly venues and more worthwhile for the individual concertgoer.