Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan: Valley Rockers Plan Tribute Concert

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Valley-based rockers Rick Blair and Demos Papadimas will salute Bob Dylan on his 83rd birthday Friday, May 24, with a tribute concert at Westside Bowl.

The lifelong Dylan devotees have put together a show they’ve dubbed “Forever Young,” after the Dylan song. It will include guest appearances by Jackie Popovec and Rick Deak of The Vindys, Rob and Adrienne Berry of The Berrys, Chris Rutushin of Radio Lark, Nick Aducci and Kari Ann Rutushin.

The backing band for the entire show will feature Michael Estok and Angelo LaMarca, who, along with Blair, are members of Rolling Boxcar International; and Andre Ptichkin and Dylan Kollat of JD Eicher’s band, who perform with Papadimas.

Tickets are $10, with all proceeds benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley. The show will start at 8 p.m.

Dylan birthday concerts take place every year in many cities. The Westside Bowl show will be a first for the Mahoning Valley, but for Blair it’s nothing new.

“In one way or another, I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said. “On May 24, the only thing we’re listening to around my house is always Dylan.”

Blair’s own musical career was precipitated by his love of Dylan. “I learned to play guitar so I could sing Dylan songs,” he said.

The idea for the tribute concert stemmed from the respect Blair and Papadimas have for the legendary artist.

On May 24 of last year, Blair messaged Papadimas with the idea of doing a birthday tribute show in Youngstown. “Within 30 minutes, Demos texted me back and said he reserved that date at Westside Bowl,” Blair recalled. “With his enthusiasm, it was easy to go forward.”

Papadimas, it turns out, had also been thinking of doing such a show.

An Interesting Task

Blair and Papadimas both cite Dylan as their primary musical influence, although they differ in their musical approach.

Between the two, the tribute show is in good hands.

“We’re going to do it justice,” Papadimas said.

The two started by compiling a list of at least 60 songs and then paring it down.

“We wanted to touch on every period of Dylan’s career, and the list we made was so long that it would have been like a three-day festival,” Papadimas said. “But that’s the great thing about Dylan. There is so much to choose from, so many directions we could go in.”

Demos Papadimas rehearses for the Bob Dylan concert at Canfield Christian Church. (Photo by Chris Rutushin)

The guiding principle was to play the songs that define Dylan, even if it means forgoing some of his hits.

“We’re not going to play ‘Lay Lady Lay,’” Papadimas said. “It was one of Dylan’s highest-charting songs, but it just doesn’t define him like, say, “Tangled Up in Blue.’”

The concert will intentionally leave out Dylan’s modern-era output, stopping after the “Time Out of Mind” (1997) album.

“We decided against the last few albums, just to trim it down,” Papadimas said.

Over the past 50 years, dozens of artists have recorded songs written by Dylan. Many turned them into bigger hits than the original by using fuller arrangements and punching up the vocals and production.

It’s a hallmark of a great songwriter, Papadimas said, noting that Dylan songs can be adapted to any musical genre or vocalist style.

“There’s a melody and a lyric, and not a whole lot of riffs,” he said. “You can do his songs so many ways.”

The Westside Bowl show will be broken into two sets, each ranging from 60 to 75 minutes. Blair, Papadimas and LaMarca will take turns singing lead vocals.

Dylan himself rarely plays his own songs the same way twice, often changing them so radically that they become unrecognizable. That won’t be the case at the May 24 show.

“We’re not trying to replicate the records, but the melody and structure of the songs will be the same,” Blair said.

Pictured at top: Rick Blair, right, and Angelo LaMarca rehearse for the Bob Dylan tribute concert at Canfield Christian Church. (Photo by Chris Rutushin)

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