What's the definition of baby boomer heaven?
A triple bill of fiftysomething folkies Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell - together for the first time.
The folk gig of the century is happening tomorrow night in Vancouver's General Motors Place, the first and only Canadian date on a mini-tour that will hit seven cities down the West Coast. These dates sold out literally minutes after they went on sale - big surprise.
Say what you want about Dylan having become the latter-day genius of gibberish, but you will rarely find three artists sharing the same stage who were so seminal to the history of pop music.
"This is not just a classic rock cash grab," says promoter Paul Haagenson of Universal Concerts. "These are people who have had careers that are integral to what you listen to today. They've all had career ups and downs, but they've all retained an incredible amount of integrity."
Bob Dylan's on an "up" at the moment. Following a brush with death from a heart infection a year ago, the inscrutable folkie bounced back with a vengeance.
He's even forming complete sentences.
While still a cagey fellow who rarely explains himself - like his total silence after The Times They Are A-Changin' was used in a Bank of Montreal commercial (possibly not his fault, but we'll never know, will we?) - it's as if looking death in the face snapped him out of a 20-year torpor.
After his hospitalization, he suddenly appeared in Italy singing Knocking on Heaven's Door for Pope John Paul II. The rock 'n' roll pontiff (who had yet to receive his guitar from B.B. King) incorporated Dylan's lyrics in a sermon.
Dylan's coolness increased dramatically at this year's Grammy Awards, where he won his first album of the year trophy for the critically acclaimed and appropriately titled Time Out of Mind (produced by Daniel Lanois; some have called it a great Lanois record with Dylan on guest vocals). Most cool of all was Dylan's reaction to the shirtless "Soy Bomb" dude who crashed Dylan's Grammy performance - he simply raised his eyebrows and didn't miss a beat. Headlines have been hooting "BOB IS BACK!" and "DYLAN ON A ROLL!" ever since. He appears to be having the time of his life. To warm up, Dylan is playing the 1,000-seat Rage nightclub in Vancouver tonight.
And his opening acts are no slouches, of course.
Edmonton fans have had a special thing for Mitchell ever since she broke her hiatus from live performing to appear at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival in 1994. She didn't do any of her hits - "I'm not a jukebox," she told reporters - but the show was still lauded as one of the best of the year.
Since then, the singer of Big Yellow Taxi has been earning more attention for musical honors than for her music. She collected the $150,000 Swedish Polar Music Prize in 1996, was named a winner of the Governor General's Performing Arts Award and was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame last year.
On a personal note, Mitchell was reunited with her long-lost daughter, model Kilauren Gibb, and became an instant grandmother. It'll be interesting to hear if Mitchell sings about it on her next album, tentatively titled Taming the Tiger, due for release later this year.
Playing first, but certainly not least, is the legendary Morrison, the youngest artist on the bill at 52. He's also playing a satellite show in Vancouver, the 2,700-seat Queen Elizabeth Theatre, on Friday. The show sold out in eight minutes.
With the release of The Healing Game last spring, Van the Man delved deep into his soul roots and came up with a winner. It's one of his best albums since he went solo. Morrison, as much a recluse from the media as Dylan and Mitchell, recently finished his autobiography, Van Morrison - In My Own Words.
Morrison seems to have a permanent spot on folk fest producer Terry Wickham's wishlist.
"He's just a brilliant artist," Wickham says. He adds that tomorrow's event is more than just the sum of its parts. It's a smart example of tour packaging. Getting Bob, Van and Joni in one shot is a hell of a deal, even for $60 a ticket.
"These are three legends all together," Wickham says. "They're certainly in the top league. The catalogue of their albums speaks for itself, and it's significant that they're all singer-songwriters. It'd be a great show to be at. Pity it's not coming to Edmonton."