page by Bill Pagel
Review by Jim Bartoo
The third leg of the Dylan Southern California Triple Crown went off
without a hitch Friday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles -- blending
a rousing selection of hits with yet another fine sampling from "Love and
While the previous two shows (Santa Barbara on Sunday and La Jolla on
Wednesday) featured an intimate setting with a primarily college audience,
Staples was, as expected, the full-scale return to Los Angeles (his first
Los Angeles proper show since his Hollywood Bowl stint with Paul Simon in
1999). fitting the occasion, he brought out many of the big guns from the
get go -- including a stunning "Song to Woody" and a blistering "High
Water (for Charley Patton)."
Though the cavernous Staples Center lacked a bit of the communal feel of
the previous campus gigs (most of the floor patrons were seated throughout
the better part of the show), it more than made up for it in energy and
performances. The set list was easily the strongest of the three, albeit a
much more user friendly/greatest hits version.
One of the more interesting things to transpire during the past three
shows has been the intrigue surrounding the new songs. I met many people
during these performances who did not have the new album yet and were
really taken by the material. While most of these folks were at the show
because of fond Dylan memories, they proved open and impressed enough to
want to expand their horizons and follow Bob into the next century.
An interesting random side note on the show came just prior to the band
introductions. Grooving to "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" and beginning his
intros, he said something to the extent of: "Madonna was here a few weeks
ago telling everybody to think globally...I think it's time to re-think
that!" No elaboration or anything and judging from the non-reaction, it
appeared that most people didn't even make out what he said.
All in all, the past week has been a real treat, both performance wise and
certainly in the cross-section of audiences. It's a shame to see it end
but for the rest of the country, hang on tight cuz the circus will soon be
Review by Mat Gleason
The venue looked almost sold out, although the rim of seats above the
luxury boxes wasn't even offered for sale. Bob and the band stared across
to all of the Lakers Championship banners - excellence on both sides of
Seeing as backstage security has been made so tight, celebrities were
crowding the partitioned soundboard area. Towering among the A-List was
basketball great Bill Walton. This created a stir with the sports-mad
Staples Center security staffers swarming around him pre-show, thus
paradoxically reducing security everywhere else.
Song to Woody was heartfelt, the band tightening up as the night went on.
Its Alright Ma terrifyingly timely, funny thing, you'd think if any song
he'd flub these lines, but Bob made it through clean. Later on he might
have missed a cue, or sung the same verse twice, nothing awful, no
detraction from an awesome set that grew in power.
Through binoculars rented for TEN bucks Bob's face is seen to grow redder
and redder as he blows the harp fierce during She Acts Like We Never Have
Met. Masters of War was the first song to take advantage of the Staples
Center scope and go for a dramatic lighting that underscored this
masterpiece. Through binocs, Dylan's face was madly sincere with the lines
in this song.
Mama You Been on My Mind was an unimaginably superior version. He was
painting pictures with his words using that masterful voice, it is just
becoming wicked with melodic gravel - Saw him in LA in 1998 last and the
improvement in range and captivating depth in Bob's voice is shocking - in
a good way. He certainly made the thousands of grey-haired stock
portfolioed ex-hippies feel hip.
The set was moving, grooving, many of the observations of the reviews
posted here up to this date would accurately describe the show, my
personal perspective is this: I saw Sonic Youth in 1988 and Dead Kennedys
in 1980, both benchmarks for overwhelming intensity that took it farther
than it usually goes and left a mark - Drifter's Escape was a rocking
assault that just shattered what it means to crush melody into dissonance
and rescue it from the ashes in a process that never ceases to keep the
energy at the most tantalizing level. Transcendent, gentlemen.
Other than that, nothing in this show was done mannered at all. Each
number was fresh, provocative and delivered a hundred percent.
Review by Tim Whittome
Of the 37 or 38 Bob Dylan shows I have seen, I have seen one or two truly
awful shows, some good shows, many great ones and then the elite
half-dozen or so that have been truly outstanding. Last night's belonged
to the latter - a truly outstanding show delivered with amazing
conviction, strength, urgency and every other emotion along the way and
in-between. This was sheer energy and pertinence from start to finish ...
Although it seems a life time ago now what with recent events, I last saw
Dylan at the Antelope Valley Fair in Lancaster just 60 miles north of Los
Angeles and, at the time, it was assumed to be the last show of the year
with nothing planned beyond August until the new dates that got posted not
long after the August 25th show ended. There was every anticipation that
the prospective United States tour would feature new material from the
forthcoming Love and Theft album. Beyond a much needed freshening up of
the set list and a welcome break for Dylan's hoarse voice by a month's
respite from the road, few of us could have anticipated much else that
would be required. We always new that Dylan had relevance but could we
have suspected that he would also have pertinence. Last night in Los
Angeles I saw what I had hoped for (except for Visions of Johanna which I
don't think Bob will ever play when I'm around) in the new tour along with
elements I hadn't expected back in August when the Antelope Valley Fair
was on. As I said, that show seems a life time ago now and not just
because of the events in New York and Washington on September 11th. It
was those events which lent last night's show an added edge and pertinence
that reached awesome heights.
On another level, the Staples Center was a venue that actually seemed more
suited to Dylan's dignity and stature and I hadn't seen too many of those
recently what with the various fairgrounds and race tracks that have
adorned his road trip around the land. Not that such shows are bad - they
have provided some real highlights along the road - but to turn up in the
dust and disorder of such surroundings doesn't seem to fit the man
somehow. Few of the venues seem to expect someone of Bob's stature and
few meet whatever expectations they do have. The staff often don't know
who he is and for us, the parking, seating and general ambience are all
It was good, therefore, to finally be able to see Dylan in a proper venue
suited to the purpose. It was also my first indoor Dylan performance
since the El Rey (also in Los Angeles) back in 1997. Staples was nice,
clean and, if a little clinical, it was efficient and they did at least
expect someone important to be showing up.
However, I do have to say that the pleasure of this show was seriously
threatened by two aspects - the terrible crowd that existed on the floor
of the arena and the overbearing presence of huge (and I mean really huge)
security guys wandering up and down the aisle every five seconds and
eclipsing the stage as they went. I believe I had the worst seat in the
house and as a warning to those who may have used the so called 'priority'
seating arrangements of Bobdylan.com, please don't expect the best. I got
my tickets three minutes into the sale of the Los Angeles show and got
some of the worst tickets I have ever got for a Dylan show - if not, THE
worst. Who gets the best seats is beyond me, but I guess in a town like
Los Angeles, some will go to the music elite etc. Either way, I saw
little and to the irritating presence of the security can be added the
appalling indifference and selfishness of every one of the seven rows
ahead of me in one of the back blocks of seats. No one would sit down
before the show and one lone guy standing up ruins the view of those
behind in a dead line behind him. On top of that, the five guys in front
of me WOULD have to get up every five seconds to stumble off for a drink
or whatever - and this RIGHT in the middle of a fantastic version of High
Water. Why bother with going if all that is important is a drink from the
bar? It confirmed my view that while British audiences feel that they go
to church when they see Bob, American audiences, by way of contrast, go to
see themselves being there. Sorry to have to say this guys, but you don't
know how annoying it is to be behind someone that doesn't care what he's
looking at or even if he is looking at it. Give up the good seats to
those who do want to be there - there were plenty of us last night.
Anyway, to the actual performance itself...
Of the opening acoustic set, Song to Woody and It's Al Right Ma were both
outstanding - "Ma" was drenched with meaning and I loved it - my first
live hearing of this song since London 1991 or 1990. I have never cared
much for Soldier's Grave but the opener of See That the Light Does Shine
was pleasant enough although I was still frustrated with the rows ahead of
me to notice too much of what was going on. Dylan was in great voice,
though, and clear as a bell.
Then came a wonderful Tweedle Dee, a nice I Don't Believe You, a poor Most
Likely You Go Your Way and an outstanding rendition of High Water -
Dylan's first performance and every bit as terrific as the one on Love and
Theft. There was applause when Dylan sang the words of the High Sheriff
wanting someone 'dead or alive, either one I don't care'. I thought of
Bush at that point.
The second acoustic set was just as strong as the first with yet another
outstanding version of Masters of War which just bounced around the arena
picking up support as it went and proving once again that this song is a
very flexible instrument for Dylan's emotions - from anger over his
divorce from Sara in the 1978 versions to the more somber reflective
versions of now - applicable to the current war perhaps or maybe to the
hint of wars to come under an extreme Republican administration (as he had
made clear in the Antelope Valley version earlier in the summer)
Mama You Bin on my Mind was heartfelt and very moving and so too was It's
All Over Now. By this point the show was already way up on my list of
outstanding shows and what came next in the second electric set was
further confirmation of this.
Summer Days was great and Sugar baby was truly wonderful with Dylan almost
just performing solo. It gave real depth to this song which is one of the
many highlights of Love and Theft - a delicate and moving song to finish
the album with and a swift turn of pace as a live prelude to the best
version of Drifter's Escape I have ever heard - this just rocked around
the arena with Dylan's vocals at their most powerful - it's nice to be at
the beginning of tours before the hoarseness sets in. I felt that coming
at the end of the summer shows for the Antelope Valley hadn't been too
good and I believe I wrote at the time that Bob's voice was shot by that
Anyway, Drifter's was followed by an equally great Leopard's Skin Pillbox
Hat and an introductory speech that was sadly hard to catch - the only
word I did was the word 'global' which I took to be a reference to the
terrorist attacks but beyond that, couldn't catch Bob's words at all. Was
it to urge us to support the government or to abstain from it? Such
pregnancy in a little word that leaves us free to build stories as we
Dylan then stood to attention as did the others and then they all
disappeared before returning for yet another show stopper - Things Have
Changed - one of the best performances of the night and again, what a
song! What a backdrop - curtains raised in a reddish glow to resemble the
Oscar ceremonies themselves.
Even Rolling Stone was great - filled with meaning and so fresh which was
surprising given its ubiquitous presence these days. Knocking on Heaven's
Door was also surprisingly a highlight as it had been earlier on in the
year for me. Honest With Me which followed has to be the new Cold Iron's
Bound - loud, energetic and real. Just great! So too was Blowin in the
Wind - again drenched with meaning and power and even the bonus of Rainy
Day Women meant something. No one wanted to leave and by this point, even
I had forgotten my disputes and frustration with the irritating rows in
front of me.
So here I am now writing about a show that really was one of the best I
have seen and perhaps the most satisfying since the glorious last night in
London in February 1990. Enjoy on the future nights ahead across the
United States and let's hope that when Dylan reaches New York, he decides
to tour the site of the World Trade Center.
Review by Ben Karmelich
I've seen Dylan a couple of dozen times over the last 15 years and I go
mostly out of respect for the man but also for the enjoyment of the
concert. Even though the Dylan concerts get better every year and he
slowly adds more songs with actual arranged harmonies to his repertoire,
too many of his songs are still unrecognizable and sung without any regard
to a melody line. Still I enjoy every minute of it. However, I have
learned to never bring any friends or significant others with me to his
concerts as I end spending too much time tying to explain what he's saying
and not enough time enjoying the concert.
His opening gospel/warm-up song of Wait for a Light to Shine was well
Song to Woody and It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) are great songs and
Dylan is slowly becoming more commanding as a vocalist again. But, in my
opinion, his own live versions can never give the song the justice they
deserve. I felt the same for his versions of I Don't Believe You, Most
Likely You Go Your Way and Baby Blue.
However, his new songs are giving new life to Dylan's performances.
Summer Days just rocked and Dylan belted out every line. High Water and
Tweedle Dee had a similar effect. But Sugar Baby gave me new faith in a
Dylan concert. It was slow and sweet and the crowd was hanging on every
word. It brought back the feeling of the slow Jerry Garcia ballad that
was always the second to last song at Grateful Dead concerts. Drifter's
Escape and Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat did rock and you can really hear how
tight his band has gotten from years of touring. There was no surprises
in the encores but it's nice when the crowd gets into it. Too bad Dylan
can't belt out a familiar melody line in Like a Rolling Stone. Knockin'
on Heaven's Door had a nice vocal arrangement and I never get tired of his
latest arrangement of Blowing in the Wind.
I'll always love Dylan's lyrics first. He writes the most powerful and
emotional tunes. I enjoy his concerts too. But to me, it just never has
the impact of his recording. I will make exceptions for this live version
of Summer Day's and Sugar Baby.
Review by Jeanne Davis
Staples Center is huge compared with college gyms, but Bob and his band
pulled off a strong, solid show. By the end even older couples were
sneaking from their seats in the arena down to the floor, and everyone was
rewarded with an extra encore after the usual set of four.
It's fun to see him with production values - his backdrop curtain was
echoed by a huge black curtain hanging from the ceiling of the arena that
blocked off the sight of empty seats behind the stage. VIPs were seated
on the sides of the stage, and floodlights on the crowd during LARS got
people up and dancing. The best part of the show for me was the attention
grabbing, dramatic, Masters of War. The shadows on the back curtain
emphasized the noirish characters in the song, and the performance was
Mama You Been on My Mind fooled some people into thinking at first that it
was Don't Think Twice, and It's All Over Now Baby Blue would have been
unrecognizable if you didn't know the lyrics - the music was completely
different from recorded versions. Song to Woody was phenomenal, and
Drifter's Escape was almost punk.
Now that I'm getting to know the new songs better, I find I really like
Sugar Daddy. He sounds like he's almost growling the admonishment, like
the woman's telling him to get on down the line for his own good. Summer
Days is a crowd pleaser and gets everyone dancing.
During the main set closer, Leopard Skin PBH, Bob began his band
introduction by saying something like "We're all thinking global, but I'm
trying to get you think differently." He also elaborated on the Kemper
pun, making it clear he thinks David really is better than no drummer at
Bob took enthusiastic guitar solos and pushed out his energy into the huge
space, all the time keeping the "I got nothing to live up to" attitude.
The group's harmonizing was beautiful and linked as a trio Wait for the
Light to Shine, Searching for A Soldier's Grave, and Blowin' in the Wind,
making them outstanding.
Three really different shows in one week - Bob's still got the best tour
on the road! Hope it swings back to this neighborhood again soon.
Review by Chris Huff
Azuza Pacific b-ball team to my left, Bill Walton to my right, here I am -
stuck in the middle with Bob.
I'm going to start by speaking blasphemy. I think Bob Dylan is the most
arrogant man alive. Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton are two of the
hottest blues-based guitarists out there. So why does the Grand Poobah
himself insist on taking pretty much every guitar solo? He'll croon some
beautiful, intense, fiery, passionate song, and then crap all over it with
some junior-high school lead guitar, playing the blues over major keys,
etc. Imagine the arrogance of somebody who insists on security people
being fired simply because they don't recognize him. An annoying
incident, perhaps, but he should be proud of them for doing their jobs and
protecting HIM. Even his huge oversized ego should appreciate THAT. Now,
this isn't just sour grapes because the one time I met Dylan he was rude
to me and rude to a 10-year-old kid next to me who asked for his
autograph. It's your fans who put the money in your bank account. I
know Dylan doesn't care at all, and we should all be grateful for the
crumbs thrown to us, blah blah blah. But if there anything at all I've
learned from my obsession with the music of Robert Zimmerman's alter ego,
it's to call a spade a spade. And Dylan's attitude, for the most part,
Now that I've unleashed my vitriol, I'd like to say also that since he put
the bottle down, Dylan's stage performances have been exquisite, and
Friday night at the Staples Center was no exception. The two old songs
he's been doing, especially "Searchin' For a Soldier's Grave," give me
chills. Hearing Dylan sing about Americans who died true and brave is
exactly what I need right now. The man is focused, with a few minor
exceptions he is lyrically perfect, and although I still sense him getting
bored mid-set sometimes (the Porter Waggoner-esque recitation of Baby Blue
at this performance), he is incredibly passionate about his new material
and gets it up for the old stuff more than I ever saw him do in the
Eighties or Nineties. "It's Alright Ma" was particularly thrilling for
me, as was the Hendrix take on "Drifter's Escape". Both Charlie and Larry
were playing Strats with whammy bars for the latter, don't make me laugh,
dueling Hendrixes. The Old Man's sense of humor has survived intact, and
really, to get a sense of his full stage show, you have to be close enough
to see his facial expressions. The little leg dance cracks me up as
well. Now I see why everybody compared him to Charlie Chaplin in 1961.
It was kind of hard to see that when he was re-arranging "Tangled Up In
Blue" in '92 in his own incoherent booze-fueled stupor.
It is particularly touching that the young college shooting guard next to
me says that his favorite song of the night is "Summer Days." Only Dylan
could get a 20-year-old to relate to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys'
swing. I will now do a backflip and compare Dylan to Shakespeare,
Mozart, and the great human geniuses of all time. No other performer in
his idiom has written material of such intensity, power, and timelessness.
And he's still doing it. The Beatles were 4 people, as you may
remember, and with the exception of some Jeff Lynne dalliances, broke up
in 1970. "I Don't Believe You" is one of my favorite tracks from the
1966 tour, nobody made that plaintive organ wail like Garth, etc. I'm
digging the guitars on it, it is Dylan's most mannered vocal of the
evening, almost like he's making fun of the stupid kid who fell in love
once. "Sugar Baby" is raw and absolutely like the Tiffany crystal of
ballads on the new record. That song burns a hole in my skull. "High
Water" is more of the same thing. All this, and "Song to Woody" also?
Too much to ask. Personally my favorite new song is "Things Have
Changed". Since Dylan is so concerned with people being "honest with
him," it is on this number that I feel he's really honest with us. "I
used to care, but things have changed." He still does care about his
music, though. Most of the time.
- Chris Huff 10/20/01
Review by Eli Ellison
The Best of Times...The Worst of Times
By Eli Ellison
There's a reason I make an effort to see Bob outside of my hometown - and
the Staples Center is it. I saw CSN&Y(emphasis on the Y) at Staples a
while back. I swore to never return, but if there's one person that can
make me break a vow - it's Bob. I went to the San Francisco show last
week, and despite what other reviewers have said, I thought the Bill
Graham venue was excellent (well, except maybe for that unbelievable line
that stretched around the entire block). Securing a spot about 20 feet
from the stage, we watched Bob and the boys turn in a solid performance.
"It's Alright Ma" and "Sugar Baby" were the highlights for me. The floor
was GA and a really appreciative crowd danced from start to finish.
Flash forward to Friday night at Staples. With my 9th row center ticket
in hand, I hoped for the best, but knowing my fellow lazy Angelenos all
too well - feared the worst. A group of McYuppies devouring their Big
Macs and yapping on their cell phones in the Staples lobby made me cringe.
The arena itself is sickeningly sterile and completely void of character.
I'm sure you have something similar wherever you live, but what can you
On to the show...Bob hit the stage at @8:20 - 8:30pm. The "Light to
Shine" opener sounded great - Bob and band both sounding tight. Not even
a minute into the song - it started. "Sit down!" "Sit Down!" - the yups
yapped. After turning around and yelling a few choice obscenities at them
- I decided I didn't want things to get ugly. Fights would start,
security would get involved and it would ruin what turned out to be one of
the absolute best Bob shows I've personally seen. I just don't understand
why these people even bother going to concerts.
After an inspiring "Song To Woody" wrapped up - another great "It's
Alright Ma" followed. "TD & TD" cooked! I thought this would get
everybody up for some foot stompin' - I was wrong. "High Water" - what
can I say? My favorite track from "L&T" was even better than I had hoped.
Bob's vocals were crisp and dead-on. Larry's banjo pickin' - phenomenal!
Hope this song finds its way into the set-list again. I'd love to hear
some other versions. "Summer Days" swung and "Pill Box Hat" FINALLY got
the crowd on their feet.
The encores featured some smokin' guitar work from both Bob and Charlie.
Bob was definitely in a groove and the harp made a couple of impressive
appearances throughout the night. I didn't mention some of the other
songs played, but I can assure you, the entire set was top rate. Can't
wait to get my hands on a tape of this show. Bob, please don't play
anymore of these bloated arenas. Yuppie Bench Bums, please stay home.
Review by Parth Venkat
First of all, As great as Bob is, the LA crowd was that bad. Other than
me, and maybe 10 other people, no one knew any lyrics and worse that that,
no one was standing/dancing. That was dissapointing. But as always,
Dylan was anything but. He has always been, and continues to be my hero.
As a 18 year old, i can't see myself having that power at 60. Waiting
for the light to shine was a fabulous opener. Just a great way to open,
saying thiisn't gonna be the run of hte mill dylan concert. And it just
wasn't, you didn't hear him just do the whole highway 61 album just to
make ticket holders happy,but instead really gave waht seemed to me an
original amazing concert. Oh yeah, the mandolin, in Wait for hte light to
shine, was just so much fun. Then i loved hearing song to Woody, you
know, he still remembers where he came from. It's alright, ma was as good
as ever, but again, i was the only one who knew any lyrics, so that kinda
detracted from hte experience (oh yeah, other than bob that is). When he
hit Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum i once again was dissapointed by LA. I
loved it. I love the song, he pretty much played it like on the album,
and it was just great. But i didn't feel like anyone in LA enjoyed it.
Next few tracks were just the same. Fabulously done but the crowd just
didn't get into anything. I loved high water, the version of you'll go
your way was original. Then he hit master's of war, which even though no
one in the audience got, blew me away. I guess i just lve the electrified
folk songs, let alone one of my favs, whichis so good for hte present
time. IT was wierd though, he mixed up a verse. He ended with you big
the big boms and stuff, rather than the i hope that you die verse. IT was
cool though. The it's all over now, baby blue was heavenly. Best version
of the song i've ever heard. Far bettter than the BIABH version (whihc in
my mind says alot). Summer days got the crowd into it, they liked the
swing, sorta. So people actually cheered for the first time, but still
not as much dancing as youd have expected. But then again, the security
yelled at me and 4 others 3 times for dancing, but we didn't really
listen, we just moved. Sugar baby was great, really feeling song.
Drifter's escape could have bee nthe gem of theconcert. I have to admit,
not being the biggest jwh fan, i didn't recognize it. But he really
wailed, it was rocking and just awesome. I loved it. Leopard-skin as
always great, fun, what can you say. In the first encore, he hit things
have changed which i just loved hearing live. I had kinda forgotten about
it with love and theft out. Ah well, great as expected. Like a rolling
stone was a newish rendition too. With both that and blowing in the wind,
he phrased them simarly. He had kinda 3 not pattern, a low, low high.
The verses seemed a bit slower. The Staples center flood lights made it
great. Oh yeah, and finally the crowd actually stood up, it was just
about time. Then he hit knocking on heaven's door, which was just great.
I just hoped axel rose was listening to hear how its supposed to be sung.
And then he finisehd with rainy day women, which was entertaining as ever.
I guess at the end, i hoped he'd come back and finish with maybe
mississippi. I would have really loved to hear it. But the concert
rocked. Maybe not as much fun as when i saw him in ann arbor last year at
the hill, but mostly because of the crowd and venue. The show was
phenomenal. It really was more of a show for the true fan and not the
casual one. And you have to thank Bob for that. As always, he just blew
me away. And this mornign, my legs hurt and throat hurt from the dancing
and singing. -Parth
Comments by Jeff DeMark
Regarding Chris Huff's diatribe about Dylan's arrogance in relation to his
incessant guitar soloing: Imp happy somebody has finally said something
about it. I don't know if it's arrogance, blindness, insecurity or just
plain ego, but my God, he has two of the greatest guitarists around RIGHT
NEXT to HIM and he rarely gives them a chance to shine. Why is that? He
certainly is the best songwriter of the past 50 years, has all the acclaim
in the world, couldn't possibly spend all his money, gets ovations
constantly but he still needs to prove he's a great guitarist? That's
fine but please let those guys play a little because they are way better
than you, Bob. Just a little more sharing of the spotlight, a touch more
generosity would make the songs sound even better.
I saw both the shows at the Jackson CO. Fairgrounds in Medford, Ore. and
thought the first time a year and 1/2 ago with Phil Lesh, Dylan hardly let
anybody play a lead at all and I couldn't understand it. It became so
boring and pedestrian and hurt the songs. This last time he seemed to be
letting the reins go, Charlie had some stellar moments as did Larry C.
Maybe he clamped down after the initial shows. I don't know. I'm quite
sure Bob D doesn't give a damn what I or anybody else thinks. Lord knows
I LOVED the show, thought it was by far the best I've ever seen him. He's
got all the talent and soul in the world but I guess he's all too human,
too. Still, if you're going to see him, see him now because he's at his
peak in many ways.
Jeff DeMark in No. California (formerly of Madison, WI)
Comments by Sven Lewandowski
The show at the Staples Center in L.A. might have been the best of all
six California shows but it was spoiled by the security !
People were not only searched at the entrances but also checked with
hand-held metal detectors. So I wonder if there will be any bootleg at
allÖ As I was not only going to the concerts but also visting and
exploring the cities I had my camera equipment and my hotpack with me. I
tought that such a big venue would have lockers or else I could leave my
stuff at the securtity check-in. Some hours before the doors were opened
a security man assured me that there will be a check-in. But when they
opened the doors I was told that there was no check-in nor any lockers
and that there was no way to get inside with all my stuff. So what to do
? The security manager suggested that I could give my ticket back and
get a refund ! He was not jokingÖ (how strange it would be - flying from
Germany to the US to visit a concert and then giving back the ticket
After some fruitless discussion I made up my mind and went to the
Holyday Inn hotel near the venue, explained my problems and asked them
to keep my things for some hours. First they told me that they couldn´t
do it but at last I persuaded them that I had no bombs with me and that
I was in a real difficult situation. Okay, they took $ 10 but I´m
thankful to the gentleman at the reception and like to thank him once
So I went back to the venue, was checked and finally got inside. There
was no general admission and all seats were reserved. Mine was quite far
away from stage but I had quite a good starting position for a stage
rush. But things turned out to be very different.
In the beginnig everything was fine - somehow I was able to get in the
first block and I was standing in the second row for the first four
songs. But as soon as the show had begun the security started to get
people to sit down on the seats they´d reserved. And much to my
surprise: I worked ! I really can´t remember that the security has been
able to make people sit down at any show I´ve ever been to in Europe.
But the Americans didn´t even really try to rush towards the stage ! I
mean the security would not have any chance if 150 or 200 people would
try to rush forward...
But the security did their job and while the band played ìTweedle Dumî
even I had no more chance to escape the security and so I had to leave
the first block and sit down on my seat. But my seat was at the aisle
and in the aisle some securtity stood - right in my field of vision ! So
I stood up and stood near the mixing desk (with was at the opposite side
of the aisle where my seat was). But almost immediately a security guy
came and told me to sit down again. I told him to tell his collegue to
sit down too so that I could see Dylan. I worked for some time and then
my field of vision was blocked again. I stood up again, the security
came and so onÖ All the time securtity was walking around, crossing your
field of vision and they really did their best to distract you and to
spoil the whole show. Fuck them - and never go to a show in America
where there are only reserved seats !
The show itself was a very good one and if the circumstances hadn´t been
that bad I might say it was the best show of the six California shows
I´ve been too. The set list was quite inspired and all songs were
performed with commitment.
ìSong To Woodyî and ìIt´s Alright, Maî were very enjoyable - maybe
because I was so close to the stage.
ìTweedle Dum & Tweedle Deeî were very well done, fine percussion and
Dylan´s voice was great.
ìI Don´t Believe Youî followed again - now not a real surprise but a
nice choice. It was extremly well done with a lot of good guitar work
and Dylan on harp again.
Then I say Larry reaching for the banjo and I was happy and sad at the
same time ! I felt it was a pity that there won´t be no bootleg of the
show and on the other hand I was glad that he debut of ìHighwaterî took
at the Staples Center - my last American show (and also my 40th !!). I
have to admit that I would have been quite frustrated if he´d did
ìHighwaterî for the first time at DenverÖ (like I´m now a little bit
frustrated that he did ìFloaterî two shows later).
But so I got another first live performance of a Dylan song (my others
being Love Sick, If Dogs Run Free and Cry A While)
What to say on ìHighwaterî ? It´s most probably the best new song on L&T
but the live performance was even better than the album version. Dylan´s
phrasing was phantastic, he really leaned into the song and the song
featured also a much longer and much better intrumental part than on the
album. The band really seemed to enjoy playing the song and Larry on
banjo sounded great. And I think it was a good choice to perform the
song electric instead of acoustic like it was to be expected. So the
mixture of electric guitars and the banjo created a terriffic and
thrilling sound. There is no doubt that ìHighwaterî was the highlight of
the show. But other highlights were to follow.
ìMost Likely You Go Your Wayî was surely another one ! Fine vocals and
fantastic guitar work by Larry and Charlie !
ìMasters Of Warî was good, but the usual choice. ìMama, You Been On My
Mindî was no surprise either, but as I already told I like this song
because it was perforÖ (you might know the story by now).
ìIt´s All Over Now, Baby Blueî was a quite predictiable choice at the
following slot that usually featured a well known song. And ìBby Blueî
was a standard song Dylan hadn´t performed at this tour yet. Once again
we got a great performance - all performances at Staples Arena seemed to
be great that nightÝ!
ìSummer Daysî proofed that Dylan had now found out like it that song has
to be sung and so we got another great performance. People were dancing
to the song - even in the aisles and there was nothing that the security
could do against it ! But as soon as Dylan started with ìSugar Babyî,
that was like always treaten very well, the people sat down again... It
was unbelievable how well-hehaved they were !
There´s nothing to be said on ìDrifter´s Escapeî and on ìLeopard-Skin
Pill-Box Hatî besides they were also well done. ìLeopard-Skinî featured
the band introduction but before he introduced the band Dylan told us
that he remembers the venue because he was rewarded with the Golden
Globe here (or something like that). He said something about Tony too
and made his usual joke on David Kamper.
The encores featured the usual song with ìKnockin´ On Heaven´s Doorî as
the changing acoustic song. But after the usual encores the band came
back (for the first time on this tour) and did ìRainy Day Womenî. The
audience loved it and it was also a good performance of a song every fan
has heard at least twenty times before (for me it was the 25th time).
Especially Charlie provided some strange guitar licks that made the
performance an unique one.
Then they were all gone and the it was all over - at least for me
because the show at Staples Arena was my last one and the next day I
flew back home to Germany.
So now that I´m at home for some days it´s time to sum up what the
(Californian part of the) tour was like. My aim for this tour was to
hear about five songs from the new album, two or three cover songs I
haven´t heard before and one or two older Dylan songs he never performed
for meÖ What I got was only one new cover. I expected to hear
ìHummingbirdî but instead I saw some hummingbirds (and learnd a new word
in English)Ö And I didn´t hear any old Dylan songs I haven´t heard
before. But on the other hand I got all eight (!) new songs he performed
(so far). I don´t think that he performed so many songs of any new album
only shortly after it´s release in the last fifteen years ! So I was
quite satisfied. But still it was a pity that there were a lot of songs
he performed every night (ìWait For The Light To Shineî, ìSearching For
A Soldier´s Graveî, ìMasters of Warî, ìSummer Daysî, ìSugar Babyî and
three out of five of the encores). So a lot of slots in the set-list
were ìblockedî and therefore the varation index was not as high as we
like it. So I got 48 different songs in six shows. That´s not bad but
neither outstanding (better than Germany in spring 2000, but less than
UK 2000 and one song less than Germany 1998 - even with longer shows
The quality of the performances was mostly high. Especially Dylan´s
phrasing turned out to be very fine (at least most of the time) and
Dylan seemed to be very concentrated on his performances. His harmonica
solos were better than ever before and he treated the harp as a real
instrument not just as a crowed pleaser to be blown when nothing else
was left to do.
Out of six shows three were very good or outstanding (San Jose, La Jolla
and Los Angeles), two were good (Sacramento and San Francisco) and one
was rather weak (Santa Barbara) (tell me if you don´t agree !!). But all
in all it was a very good tour with a lot of highlights although I would
not rate any of these shows as one of my top five. La Jolla and Los
Angeles were quite near to make it but my top five (out of 40 shows
altogether) are still: Bournemouth Oct 1, 1997; Leipzig June 2, 1998;
Köln May 11, 2001 (only from Gates of Eden onwards); Glasgow Sept 17,
2001; Cardiff Sept 23, 2001. But as we all know: the personal rating of
a show depends not only on the musical quality of the performance but
also on other circumstances, for example the venue, the day, the kind of
people that are standing next to you, whether you liked the city, had a
good day etc etc. So if there hasn´t been a security problem, i.e. a lot
of problems with the security at Staples Arena, maybe the show at
Staples would have made it into my top five. And if ìMississippiî had
been sung with more commitment maybe La Jolla would have made itÖ
Let´s wait until bootlegs come out and maybe I´ll have to change my mind
But anyway: I enjoyed my (first !) trip to the USA much more than I
expected and I had to give up some of my prejudices but I got news ones
by now and some of the old ones turned out to be quite true too.
But what was more important to me: One fear didn´t turn out to be true
at all. Dylan´s performances weren´t as weak as in Europe in July ! And
that was the one of the most important thing too ´cause it would have
really spoil everything !
And there was also a change on the list of songs I have heared most
often. Since ìTangled Up In Blueî was not perfomed in California ìLike A
Rolling Stoneî now overtook the top of my list (performed at 31 out of
40 shows I´ve been to). I wish he´d drop it at the next tour -
See you in Europa next year !
comments are welcome, please email to:
Review by Howard Mirowitz
I talked my wife, Ellen, into going with me to the Staples concert Friday
night by threatening to take our son, the hockey goalie, who had 3 games
scheduled on Saturday, the first of which was at 10:00 AM. She absolutely
put her foot down. "He'll be exhausted! ... I'll go instead." Heh,
heh. I'd dragged her to Irvine last year and she admitted that she liked
it. Maybe this time I could push her over the proverbial edge ...
I gathered up a few choice CD'R's and other needful supplies and we hopped
in the Jeep and headed up the I-405 to pick up LeeAnn Hansen and Becky
Dalton, esteemed members of the famed Orange County Dylan Fan Club. They
had been at the La Jolla/UCSD concert the previous night. We planned to
try to rendezvous at Staples with the rest of the Club. Becky was totally
flying, having just won the Sony mother-of-all-freebies, the entire Dylan
official release corpus on CDs -- over 50 discs in all -- not to mention
coming first overall in the dylantree.com pool for the La Jolla show AND
winning $1500 in August at the Hard Rock Cafe show in Vegas!
Becky quickly ushered us into her "Dylan Room", where we got to see the
actual box from Sony -- an amazing sight. Unfortunately there weren't any
back-stage passes included. (Sigh. Just when you finally reach the top
you find out you're on the bottom ...) We shared a quick meal of lasagna,
salad, wine and Beattie Zimmerman's Banana Bread and we were off,
reviewing the La Jolla show and Becky's marvelous luck on the way up.
We arrived at Staples around 45 minutes later at 6:15 PM, too late for the
soundcheck, but too early to step into the arena. For those of you who
have not been to Staples Center, it's the sports venue where the Lakers
(basketball) and the Kings (hockey) play. It's located right next to the
L.A. Convention Center, where all parking within 2 blocks is either
controlled by the Convention Center or Staples, and thus ridiculously
expensive, or else part of a hotel, and thus also ridiculously expensive.
We paid the typical exorbitant fee of $20 to park the Jeep and just looked
at Staples for a while. None of us had seen it before. It's surreal.
There are practically no straight walls in the building -- it's a bunch of
immense slanted ovals stacked on top of each other, sliced at odd angles
by tilting glass wedges, with giant TV screens and neon signs sticking out
here and there at odd angles. It looked like the offspring of mating a
25th Century shopping mall with the alien spaceship from "Close
Encounters Of The Third Kind". Across the parking lot, on the back walls
of the three parallel wings of the Hotel Figueroa, a gigantic 20-story
high, stark black-and-white tryptich loomed over us, depicting the three
immortal L.A. Laker centers -- Wilt The Stilt, Kareem and Shaq -- Nike's
way of telling us to "think different" ... an appropriate state of mind
for a Dylan concert in the world's capital of mass entertainment.
Since we were early, we decided to head for the sports bar at the
concourse level of Staples and ran into a line of people waiting to go
through security. This was not a perfunctory thing -- it took about 1-2
minutes per person, a full body scan with metal detectors, emptying all
pockets, etc. We wondered whether anybody would be able to get any
recording equipment past that intennsive check, although none of us tried.
(I did manage to sneak in a plastic bottle of liquid refreshment hidden
in Ellen's purse, though. Har de har har.) After hanging around in the
bar for a while, we entered the Staples concourse through the back door,
and shortly ran into two other Orange County Fan Club members, Ronnie and
Pam. Ronnie's boyfriend was working as part of the stage crew, and
somehow they had heard from him that a banjo had been seen being carried
in with the other equipment. We all looked at each other and -- our eyes
locked as our minds snapped in unison: Highwater! Could it be true?
Only time would tell ...
We spent some time at the souvenir stand: "limited edition of 1000"
concert posters for $10, T-shirts for $20 to $30 ... of course we all
sprang for our own mementos, even though we sort of knew that they had way
more than 1000 posters, and that they'd all be available out on the street
and in the parking lot after the concert for $5 and $10. Ellen commented
on the number of women she saw wearing leopard-skin pill-box hats, and was
roundly congratulated by the rest of the group for her budding
When we finally decided to find our seats around 7:45 the arena was
practically empty, with the usual classical music playing -- Wagner's
"Ride of the Valkries" from "Apocalypse Now" was kind of jarring. We
guessed that the security checks were taking so long that people weren't
able to get in. As 8:00 came and went, and the audience continued to
trickle in, we knew the concert wouldn't start on time. Our seats were
about halfway back, 5 rows up from the floor. Not great, but a good view.
As we waited, we decided to take out our binoculars and see if we could
spot the banjo on stage. All the instruments were tilted up behind the
amplifiers and stage monitor speakers, and all you could see was their
necks, so it was hard to tell. Periodically a roadie would pick up one
of them to tune it -- he would turn slightly -- and one of us would shriek
out "I see it! That's the banjo! .... arggh, no, it's Larry's mandolin
...". There wasn't enough light to see clearly and we were just a little
bit too far away.
Frustrated, we suddenly heard a cheer go up, but nobody was on stage.
That's when we remembered where we were: Hollywood. One of the big
advantages about goinig to concerts and other public events in L.A. is the
game of celebrity-spotting. Obviously some Dylan fan like Jack Nicholson
or Tom Hanks had been recognized by the crowd.
Staples, inside, is like a hugely scaled-up version of Shakespeare's Globe
Theater, which had several stories of balcony seats for the wealthier
classes rising above the floor where the plebeian "groundlings"
clustered. At Staples, in addition to the floor seats, between the second
and third stadium tiers, there are three tiers of "sky boxes", which are
individual balcony sections rented by wealthy individuals and corporate
sponsors. Each sky box is an enclosed room, like an apartment, equipped
with several large screen TV's, a wet bar, catered refreshments and
seating outside the apartment, overlooking the arena. Huge Lakers and
Kings championship banners and the retired numbers of their heroes'
jerseys hang from the rafters above. We aimed our binocs at the sky
boxes to see who else we could recognize. Was that Steven Spielberg?
hmmm... We saw that Jakob and Sam Dylan and their kids were down next to
the left side of the stage.
8:30. The concert still hadn't started. By now Staples was practically
full to the rafters. All the sky boxes were occupied with people hanging
over the balcony railings. The crowd was getting restless, clapping and
yelling whenever a roadie's head poked out from behind the side stage
entrances. Suddenly one roadie came out with the nag champa and a big
cheer went up. Then the opening chords of Copeland's "Rodeo" rang out on
the sound system and the lights went down ... we waited ...
WOW! The stage lights came up and illuminated Dylan and the band wreathed
in swirling clouds of incense, lit by spotlights trained on the stage.
And they began to play "Wait For The Light To Shine". Dylan was wearing a
black suit with white piping around the lapels, and a matching black and
white acoustic guitar slung down, pointing at the front rows like a
grenade launcher hanging from the shoulder of a Delta Force ranger about
to hit the Taliban HQ. Larry was cooking on the mandolin and we were off
on Dylan's magic swirlin' ship.
Before we could catch our breath some strange chords sounded and we all
wondered ... what song is this? Then Dylan started singing -- "I'm out
here a thousand miles from my home" ... it was "Song To Woody"! His voice
was masterful, powerful, rock solid. We all whirled around and looked at
each other in awe. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd ever hear
this live at a concert. I lturned to Ellen and tried to explain with my
eyes what this meant. Dylan sang "Here's to Cisco an' Sonny an' Leadbelly
too" and the crowd cheered! You could feel a sense of history begin to
gather itself and descend over everything as Dylan's lyrics linked him to
every wandering minstrel and troubador who ever made a living by singing
the themes of his times in verse and song. Dylan ripped out a tremendous
acoustic lead, and as the song ended, Larry and Charlie came in to round
out a perfect 3-part guitar harmony. Whooeee!
No time to think. The spotlight narrowed down to shine on Dylan alone as
he began strumming the opening chords to "It's All Right, Ma". The crowd
cheered every famous line. At "Others say don't hate nothing at all/
Except hatred", Kemper cut in hard, and the song began to drive with a
sinister, rockin' beat as the lights came up on the whole band. Dylan's
voice curled around the verse: "even the President of the Yew-nahted
States/Sometimes must have to stahhhhnnnnd ..." -- he came to a stop ---
and then he ripped out the last word: "Naaaaked!" And the crowd surged to
its feet, roaring.
Whoa, gotta slow down. Larry's mandolin began to pluck out the familiar
tune to "Searching For A Soldier's Grave". The band's harmony was
beautiful, in a kind of crystalline perfection, like a diamond turning
slowly in the light of the setting sun. Dylan's guitar was loud, at
times overpowering the other instruments. And it continued to be turned
up loud throughout the rest of the concert.
Time for a song from "Love & Theft". The boys reached for their electric
axes and we got: "Tweedle Dum And Tweedle Dee". This was lively, but the
acoustics of the huge arena made it sound a little like the boys were
playing in a big echoing warehouse. Kemper rolled out a nice tom-tom beat
as Charlie whanged out that nice little looping, ringing riff --
"duhduhdeedleduhduhdeedleduhduhdeedleduhduhdee" -- looking at Tony,
grinning like a maniac. And at the end, Dylan pulled off another little
vocal twist: "Said Tweedley Dum ..." -- full stop -- "To Tweedley Dee."
The next song's sliding, triple-repeat intro -- "whah-dee-da-daah,
whah-dee-da-dah, whah-dee-da-dah da-da-dah" -- let us know that we were in
for "I Don't Believe You". This started out as a fairly canonical
rendition, but when Dylan got to the end of the second verse he went
somewhere else entirely. He let out with: "Am I still dreamin'
yeeeeeaaaaahhht?" and the crowd responded with a yell like Shaquille
O'Neal had just slam dunked a game-winning basket. And then Dylan walked
to the rear of the stage and came back with a HARP! And he took that harp
and just god-damn grabbed the audience and twisted them right out of their
seats. A long, rockin', rollin' solo, moving all over the instrument's
range, with slow, sexy parts, loud wailin', and fast chuffin' honkin'.
This performance was as good or better than any I've heard, including the
What could be better? Larry went to the back and came back with ... THE
BANJO ... YEAAAH! Highwater!! This was, as LeeAnn already wrote in
another post, a tremendous effort. The song projected, even more than on
the studio version, that deep, sinister, looming aspect of impending doom
that we've been discussing on rmd. On the studio cut, that feeling
seems to come from the soft, low "hooo-ooo-ooom" voice-overs at the end of
each verse. This night, without that voice-over, Larry's relentless
banjo and Tony's growling bass carried that load. Before the last verse,
the band inserted an instrumental break that dropped down gradually to
nothing but Kemper's drums; super effective, super menacing, like the
footsteps of something huge following you into someplace dark and scary.
And after the last verse, they slowly retarded the tempo until the song
came to a final, crashing end. Unbelievable. Most of the crowd did not
appear to realize the significance of the song's live debut, but it was
OK, by now we were all just looking at each other with shit-eating grins.
He can't possibly top this. Well, the band launched into "Most Likely You
Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine" and here was an absolutely definitive
performance of this "Blonde On Blonde" rocker. Kemper's brr-umping drums
laid the foundation and, unbelievably, the guitars somehow sounded like
organs! We peered intently through our binoculars trying to see if Augie
Meyers had somehow sneaked on stage without our noticing it. Dylan's
voice was dead spot on, he hit all the ups and downs and all the little
twisty curly sneering line-enders that made the performance totally
nonpareil. "You say you got some other... kinda lover, and
--Yeeaaaahhhhsssss ... I believe ya do".
Back to acoustic equipment and the stage lights went to deep orange and
green as Dylan began to sing "Masters Of War". The lights shimmering on
the 15-story-high curtains hanging at the back of the stage made it look
like fire and brimstone was cascading down on the band as Charlie's dobro
whanged and the damning verses pounded their nails into the war
profiteer's casket. At the end, they repeated the first verse, which
pulled our thoughts from the graveside and zoomed us back out to the
meaning of technology in war, to the distancing from the reality of death
and destruction that modern weapons afford; that, perhaps, it is that very
distancing, that ability of such weapons to make war seem like nothing but
a video game, that actually makes it possible for the weapons industries
to get the political support they require to profit from their
"Mama, You've Been On My Mind": Another classic, well sung, with
beautifully intertwining guitar work, and Dylan's vocals beautifully
walking a razor's edge between perfect wistfulness and longing, and
perfect cracking and breaking. The crowd's excitement surged again as
Dylan pulled out his harp for a brief, but passionate solo; all too
quickly he stuck out his right arm and waved his hand at the band, and
they brought the song to an end.
Then, Larry moved over to the pedal steel, at the far right side of the
stage, and the stage lights went to deep red. Naturally, with the
lighting, what song would you expect? "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" was
what we got. This was a nice, slow, country version, with lots of
side-to-side knee wiggling by Dylan.
Now, having calmed the crowd down, Dylan decided to pump things back up
with "Summer Days". The stage lights went to bright yellow, and the band
really got into it. Charlie was hummin' on lead, Larry was smiling and
crankin' away and Tony was literally dancing with his upright bass,
leaning it from side to side, spinning it around and around. And Dylan
made it very clear who he's singing about when he's "standing on the
table, proposin' a toast to the King". When he sang that verse, he
sounded EXACTLY like Elvis, down to the vibrato in his voice. It was
uncanny, and the crowd noticed. Everybody was clapping with every line and
at the end there was lots of noise.
The lights went down and came back up as a deep blue and green that
shimmered on the backstage curtains like the deep water of a country lake
on a hot Southern day ... and here came "Sugar Baby" with Dylan back to
his "Love & Theft" craggy, Louis Armstrong-like voice . A sudden hush
quickly spread over the audience as the elegiac lyrics swept through the
arena. Dylan seemed to assume the aura of a character in a play, maybe
acting out some internally idealized version of himself. It was like
watching Hal Holbrook play Mark Twain in "Mark Twain Tonight". Whatever
part he wanted to play, he played that part so well; changing his voice
to deliver a line here, emphasizing a phrase there. When he wheezed out
in an old, cracked croak, "Some of these bootleggers, they make pretty
good stuff", he got a big rise from the crowd. And he got another one
when he intoned, "There ain't no limit to the amount of trouble women
bring". Before this night, I'd always felt that "Highwater" was the
highlight song of "Love & Theft"; but hearing this performance, and seeing
the way Dylan delivered those lines, I have a completely different
appreciation of "Sugar Baby", and I now think it's the pick of the litter.
The electrical equipment came back out and we got a very interesting
"Drifter's Escape". This version was similar to the one he played last
year, which I heard at Irvine, but Charlie's "bolt of lightning" was more
noticeable, like a high-voltage shriek of pain. In the middle of the
instrumental break, Dylan walked over to have a chat with Charlie that
lasted at least 30 seconds; then they played a really nice duet lead that
brought the entire crowd to its feet. Then Dylan went back again to get
his harp -- three times in one night, a new record for concerts I've
attended in the last few years -- and ended the song with a brief solo.
With the crowd still standing, the band cranked up "Leopard-Skin Pillbox
Hat". By now, the audience was pretty beered up, as the concession stands
had been left open all during the performance, serving not only brews but
also mixed drinks (at $7.50 per glass!). So Staples wanted old-time rock
'n roll, and Dylan gave it to them.. "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" was
REALLY LOUD, and REALLY ROCKIN', although marred somewhat at the beginning
by Dylan seeming to play in a different key and tempo than the rest of the
guys. But they pulled it together and Bob got ready to introduce the
band. Before he did, though, he had some words of wisdom to share: "A
couple of weeks ago someone (referring to Madonna, but I don't think he
actually said her name) told you to think globally. I've got some advice
to give you. Rethink it." After the band intro, they went into a terrific
windup where Charlie, Tony, Dylan and Larry all stood right next to each
other with their guitar necks pointing out over the crowd, banging out the
final chords in unison, and then they went into the Formation, and Bob
gave the teeniest little bow, just nodding his head, and then they were
walking off the stage.
Well, the crowd was roaring, and the candles and lighters came out. The
venue security tried to make everyone sit down, and stop lighting up
lights (and recreational smoking materials), but they couldn't hold back
the flood, and Dylan and the band came back out for encores, with
everybody on their feet throughout.
"Things Have Changed" was great, and he even sang the verse about
Hollywood which I had thought he might leave out, as he did on the Oscar
performance. The crowd noticed that with a kind of surging noise. "Like A
Rolling Stone" had the joint singing and clapping for all it was worth.
"Knockin' On Heaven's Door" was a masterful, moving hymn to the heroes who
died on 9/11, with the new chord pattern, absolutely perfect harmonies
and a third verse: "Mama, wipe these tears out of my eyes/I can't see
through them anymore". "Honest With Me" kept the energy level high and
Larry was whanging away with the bottleneck and a big grin. And, finally,
"Blowin' In The Wind", so appropriate in these new and dangerous times,
with the whole audience singing along. Another formation, this time no
bow from Dylan, and off the stage they went.
But the crowd wouldn't give up, the candles and cigarette lighters came
back out, Staples rocked with rhythmic stomping and clapping, and Dylan
and the boys returned one last time for a crowd-pleasing rendition of
"Rainy Day Women" with Larry on pedal steel and Dylan muffing a verse and
recovering, making up something about driving a truck, and nobody cared
because it was such fun, singing "Everybody must get Stohnnnnned", and
waving their hands in the air, and out on the floor girls were sitting on
their boyfriends' shoulders and the whole stadium was vibrating and and so
happy. So happy. Somehow the band left the stage again and the house
lights came on and it was over.
But what a concert. What a night. On our way back to the Jeep we didn't
even mind that the posters and T-shirts we'd paid $10 and $20 for at the
Staples concession stand were being hawked by street vendors for $5 and
$10, just as we knew they would be. The extra money we paid seemed to be
our gift to Dylan, our tiny way of saying thank you. As we passed through
the crowd I overheard someone say, "You know, he's not a rock and roll
performer at all. He's a national institution." And it's true. Seeing
Dylan in concert is like touring Washington D.C. or the historic district
around Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Every song is a monument, every
tune is a landmark, every famous lyric an icon of American contemporary
expression. You recognize Dylan's tunes within the first three or four
notes, before he even starts singing, just like you recognize the Capitol
or the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial by the merest glimpse
in the distance. And what's even more amazing is that this institution,
Dylan as a persona and the corpus of his work, is still under
construction; like it says on the back of that other national institution,
the U.S. dollar bill: "Annuit Coeptis" -- "Continually renewed".
page by Bill Pagel
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