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Review by Dick Fleming
I made the afternoon drive from Western Maryland down to my hometown for
Dylan's second Salisbury appearance. He last played Salisbury in '94,
about the time he was beginning his critical "comeback." A lot has
happened since, and boy, things have changed. And they've remained the
same. The last time around, fans swarmed the stage during the encore and,
astonishingly, Dylan never flinched. Even cracked a smile as kids who
weren't born when he made his first comeback, post-'65 crash, danced
around him with abandon. (This was pre-Soy Bomb.) Security freaked, but
decided to go with the flow and avoid a scene. It worked out, and the vibe
was unforgettable. The vibe was there again tonight. It's a strange thing,
going home to see Dylan. I went with a friend who is as passionate about
him as I am, and a few others who were seeing him for the first time. I
felt a little inhibited. I worried too much about what everyone else was
thinking when things got off to an uneven start with awkward beginnings on
the first two songs - "Duncan and Brady" and a momentarily unrecognizable
"Chimes of Freedom." The band seemed to be struggling to follow Dylan's
cue, and I cringed inwardly. Not that Dylan needs any apologists, but I
gave the guy a good recommendation in the local paper on the basis of five
or six years worth of superb shows. I foolishly "needed" for him to live
up to my advance billing. The problem is, I understand why some people
don't "get" Dylan, but I can't quite articulate to them why I do. I'll
keep trying. Some folks can't quite appreciate the edgy tension and
release of waiting for all that frenzied passion to come together in a
moment of sublime rock 'n' roll intensity. Living for the moment is a
high-wire act that the performer and the devoted listener share at a Dylan
show. The casual fan searches in vain for the reward in all that restless
reinvention. Their loss. Anyway, my worries were unfounded. The crowd
warmed pretty quickly, and Dylan delivered. Big time. As he launched into
the third song, "It's Alright Ma," there were emerging signs this show
would be special. What a terrific set. Nothing post-'71 but "Tangled Up in
Blue" and the encore opener, "Things have Changed." "Dylan for President,"
someone in the crowd shouted, and the selection of songs and flashes of
ferociousness reminded us why Dylan first mattered. And still matters. The
pacing didn't have the sustained buildup of some of Dylan's more
high-energy shows, but the shifting moods paid off in countless subtle
ways. A gentle, weary "Mama, You Been On My Mind" yielded to the
ubiquitous but never tiresome "TUIB." Lovely harmonies lifted "Searching
For a Soldier's Grave." "Damn, that sounds like bluegrass," sez my friend
Rob, who knows from bluegrass. "Yep." Stick around. You ain't heard
nothin' yet. That great voice, a little raspy and somewhat the worse for
wear, but still performing like a fine jazz instrument. Circling the
melody, caressing and strangling it, whispering tenderness and screaming
rage, all passion and pain and, every now and then, absolute joy. Larry
and Charlie swap Fender-bending leads on a souped-up "Country Pie." "That
boy's playing that Telecaster," sez Rob. He's getting it. "Positively 4th
Street" doesn't carry the venom it used to, but you get the idea. "You got
a lotta nervvve." Dylan's no longer pissed, but he's not taking any shit.
"Stuck Inside of Mobile" is diminished a little by Larry shifting to
acoustic rhythm, but Dylan's doing some nice, focused lead work. "Just
Like A Woman" is a tender crowd-pleaser, but it's not over the top. I'm
still waiting for the band to go balls-out. Then, "Drifter's Escape." WHAT
THE HELL?! The arrangement is similar to the treatment Dylan's been giving
"Cold Irons Bound." A Bo Diddley kinda beat, Larry and Charlie going at
it, raising the stakes. Then Dylan saunters over to a stool in front of
his amp, picks up a harmonica and STARTS WAILING. I mean some of the best
goddamned blues harp you'll ever hear anybody play. Who knew? Suprising
doesn't begin to capture it. Un-FUCKING-believable. Even as you're hearing
it. You want it to last forever, or to just drop dead right then and there
and be done with it, because nothing could even get any better. Can anyone
listening possibly have any doubt that this is an artist just hitting his
stride? Of course, it doesn't matter. it's just all in a night's work. But
the night's not over. "Leopard-Skin Pillbox" hat rollicks with bar band
abandon, Dylan getting his licks in and mugging to the crowd. Then, it's
time for "the lineup." The house lights go down, the crowd noise soars.
People hoot and whistle and clap their hands and stamp their feet in the
bleachers and hold their lighters in the air or just stand there in
disbelief and think how inadequate any expression of appreciation is to
convey what it means to be part of this scene. Encore. "Things have
Changed," hilarious and apocalyptic. "Like A Rolling Stone," snarling but
without the raw contempt. Then ... "If Dogs Run Free." "Who wrote this
one?" asks Rob. "Who wrote this?" echoes around our row. The band is
swinging with that tongue-in-cheek lounge groove, and Dylan's doing that
faux-beatnik recitation over Larry's jazzy noodling and the crowd is
clapping on the downbeat. Cool personified, or is the joke on us? Who
cares; it's a treat either way. "All Along The Watchtower" shifts the show
back into high gear. Then Dylan downshifts with an acoustic "Don't Thing
Twice," restoring its essence of sarcasm masking heartache. Then it's time
to go electric again with the rumbling swamp boogie of "Highway 61," then
back to the acoustics for a gloriously anthemic "Blowin' In The Wind."
Another lineup. Dylan surveys the crowd, grimacing a little, but looking
justifiably pleased. Enduring the expressions of adolation that mean more
to us than to him. The arena goes dark again and the air is thick with the
anticipation of one more encore. Alas, Dylan has left the building. Headed
for another joint. Which way is the caravan?
Review by Scott Marshall
This review is from various fan's eyeballs. Even an interesting Tony
Garnier episode toward the end. But it's long, so take a deep, hearty
breath and buckle up.
Took the beloved wife (not a Dylan fan) on a 130-mile road trip from our
Virginia Beach apt. to Salisbury's Wicomico's Youth & Civic Center. A few
miles before we got there, a restaurant/pub called Adam's Ribs had a
marquee out front: "Bob Dylan Pre-Concert Party 5 PM" I went in to take a
restroom break. Before that, though, I asked a waitress about the party.
She had no idea what I was talking about. But a couple of locals at the
bar did give us directions to the civic center.
We pressed on. Historically, with a little help from Mike Wyvill & John
Wraith, I knew Dylan had played the venue once before (Oct. 26, 1994).
Salisbury is a smallish town, my '98 atlas says 20,000 population. When we
got to the venue there was a deserted mall across the street that looked
rather odd and also a high school football field with bleachers that would
seat a few hundred. My wife thought it an odd place to have a Dylan
concert. I chuckled but agreed.
Outside the venue in question, though, there were a few characters to say
the least. This was about 2-3 hrs. before showtime. My wife stayed in our
minivan waiting for me to do my pre-show business so we could then hit a
restaurant before the show. The marquee outside, besides saying "Tonight
Bob Dylan 7:30," also had advertisements for Avon, a Red Cross luncheon
and Market America.
Indulge me for a moment if you don't mind. I almost dropped out of school
this semester. But recently I decided to continue thanks to the mercy of
some professors. When I found out one of my professors would let me do my
feature story on the fans at this Dylan show, a glimmer of hope was
further rekindled. So, I had the ol' clipboard, notebook paper and pen,
ready to scratch out some quotes from some fellow attendees at the Dylan
concert(in order to do my school assignment).
As I approached the box office, there was a tent set up with a few folks
standing around talking. I never was sure why the tent was there. Plenty
of tickets were available for the show. But one guy said something about
scoring tickets for his sister's friends who were lesbians and how by
doing this favor he might gain favor and become a part of some sexual
rendezvous. This seemed to please him. He smiled.
I was told that I needed to talk with a woman who was "following Dylan."
Since the Oct. 29, Madison, WI show, Peggy has been following the tour.
She saw Dylan for the first time in 1988 and not again until 1992. But
since '92, she's seen 240 Dylan concerts! Among other things, she says
Dylan is a very sexy man and that her experience of concert-going is more
of a metaphysical thing. She finds so much truth and wisdom in his lyrics
that everytime he sings there's a "consciousness-awakening."
The more I think about it now, right then I could've started singing Van
I'm afraid that my clipboard, my Ballad of a Thin Man motif definitely
scared away some facts that I needed for my story (i.e. names and ages)
Another person hanging out was one Mobius Meanderer, a name that will
certainly cause my journalism professor's eyebrow to raise. Why was Mobius
at the Dylan show? Two words: "the Dead." He saw Dylan for the first time
in '86 at RFK Stadium with the Dead. He still could't shake the memory of
the fact of Dylan wearing black leather during the sweltering summer heat
Carla who wouldn't give me her last name, only her middle ("Beth"), loved
Dylan's music because he loves music. So does she. But she can't play
music but she loves his music. She loves when Dylan does cover songs
because then you get to see what kind of music Dylan likes. As to Dylan's
constant touring, she thinks Dylan's finally realized that not everybody
"gets" what Dylan is doing but that Dylan is going forward whether people
get it or not.
But one woman whose name will remain obscured for the ages, was on the
tour all the way from down in Italy but didn't want to go "on the record."
I assured her I wasn't with any policing agencies or any publication and
then she opened up a bit. Then when I mentioned I was trying to write a
book on Dylan too, she made it clear she didn't want her quotes in any
publication or book, but my class story would be fine. But when I asked
for her name and age, she recoiled. So much for that. Issues of me aside,
she painstakingly kept to herself. I ended up feeling like a ding-dong for
bothering her in the first place. After all, it was just a freaking story
for my class.
For her part, Tara Zaiser, the Director of Marketing and Public Relations
at the Civic Center, thought the pre-show response was quite diverse.
"Believe it or not," as she said. Many die-hard Dylan fans in their 40s
and 50s as well as a huge response from the younger bunch at nearby
schools like Washington College (Chestertown, Maryland) and the University
of Delaware (Newark). Tara said even folks from New Jersey had called for
tickets. She knew of people coming to the show with their kids, kids who
were college-aged. Dylan has real "staying power" she told me. How did the
Dylan gig come about, I wondered. She said they're co-promoters and one of
their promoters ran the idea by them and then after studying the "past
numbers" (presumably decent ticket sales at the '94 gig at the same venue)
and knowing about Dylan's "resurgence on the college campuses," it was a
At the show, not surprisingly, I found there to be no shortage of
teeny-boppers. One Mom of two teens, Annabelle, thought proof of Dylan's
stature can be seen in how many people sing his songs. She recalled the
relevance of "Hurricane" all over again listening to the song on the way
to the concert. Daughter Chelsea had seen Dylan in concert once before,
loved his lyrics, called him a "singing poet and troubadour" and said
Dylan was different than every other artist. Her sister Tori also grew up
listening to Dylan and felt the concert was a once-in-a-lifetime
Two teen fellows, Wayne and Ben, were about to enjoy their row #4 seats.
Wayne liked the simplicity of Dylan's songs, the folksy sound and Dylan's
real, unique voice. Not the greatest but it stands out, he said. His
friend Ben was at his first Dylan show and had always liked Dylan's voice.
His Dad used to play Dylan's records all the time.
Ken was in the military when Dylan's "protest" songs came out in the '60s
but he always liked Dylan's writing style, never did like his voice
particuarly, but thought Dylan to be a brilliant songwriter. His kids had
recently co-opted all the music he grew up with (Beatles, Dylan, etc.) and
his daughter even quoted a Dylan lyric in her high school valedictorian
speech (he forgot which lyric). But Ken did remember the keynote speaker
who followed his daughter's speech made a remark that he was glad she
called Dylan a poet...because he couldn't sing.
Karen, who sat next to me, was an eyewitness to the '94 Salisbury show and
vividly recalled the teen-age stage-crashers during "Like a Rolling Stone"
in which security didn't do anything and Dylan sang on as if nothing had
happened. And Karen reminded me that Dylan's opener then was "Jokerman"
off Infidels and that it was "killer."
If you're still reading this review, this is quite amazing. Amazing too
was my experience about 30 mins. before the show. As I gazed from about 5
yards back of the souvenir table of T-shirts, posters, etc., I noticed a
fella engaged in a conversation with one of the talbe workers, pointing to
T-shirts, etc. The guy was none other than Dylan's bass player Tony
Garnier. This was downright odd, I thought. And there was a guy behind
Garnier (I think probably a friend) who had a big grin on his face saying
softly but audibly, "Hey, this is Tony Garnier of the band," to which I
heard Garnier give a "Shhhh." To my knowledge, no one really knew he was
there. I pretended to act as if I was still looking at the T-shirts but
decided I'd wait for Garnier to depart and then ask if he'd mind
scratching me out an autograph. What the heck, he's been in Dylan's band
since '89 and every show I've been to since 1990, of course, has had
Garnier adding his talents to the fray. So I waited.
Finally, he began to walk away and I walked alongside him and asked. He
didn't mind and gave me a quick autograph as I said that I enjoyed his
playing and managed this thought-provoking question: "Haven't you been
with Dylan since '89 or '90?" to which he responded with a smile, "Yeah."
Why did I ask him this when I knew this? Nervous I guess. Anyway, later I
felt compelled to go up to the T-shirt table guy and ask him what was all
the commotion about--why did Garnier take so long trying to select his
items? He informed me that he was just placing an order to be filled at
the next gig and that probably he just wanted some stuff for family or
friends before the tour ended. So anyway, that was an unusual almost
As I settled in my seat (about 35 rows back, floor seats), I noticed the
marquee within the civic center had some diverse upcoming acts: Barry
Manilow on Dec. 11 and Sesame Street Live on Dec. 12-13. Put that in your
variety pipe and smoke it.
Oh yeah, the show. I enjoyed very much my first "Duncan and Brady," and
felt privileged to hear "Chimes of Freedom." And I didn't think "It's
Alright, Ma" could be as powerful as the album version. I was wrong.
The moment and way in which Dylan enuciated "I just don't fit" in "Just
Like a Woman" was absolutely fablous. I think I laughed out loud with
delight. And as "Drifter's Escape" started out, I could've sworn it
sounded like Lenny Kravitz's riff on "Are You Gonna Go My Way." But
Dylan's harmonica bit on this song was indescribable, intriguing and
really unique beyond words. And finally, I was tickled to be able to hear
that gem Dylan's recently dusted off for all to see and hear--"If Dogs Run
Well, that's it, the long-winded rant that it was. If you read this all
the way thru, get yourself a cup of java. Or something.
Take care, Scott Marshall
Review by John Dicken
While some closer followers of Dylan's concerts may have found the Nov. 15
Salisbury, Maryland concert to be typical and nothing special -- the
not-sold-out audience relatively restrained, the auditorium's acoustics
surprisingly decent for a multi-use mid-sized warehouse-style convention
center, the set list relatively typical for this tour with no major
surprises, the performances solid but not necessarily exceptionally
inspired -- this was just my "fifth time around" over the last decade with
each concert reaffirming and solidifying my recognition of Dylan as a
dynamic master and with gems in each concert. This time I went with my
mother -- born about a month before a certain Robert Zimmerman -- who also
enjoyed and was impressed by the performance even though she is at most a
casual fan that knew few of the songs in the initial set, could decipher
only snippets of lyrics, and who mostly humors my near-obsession.
Nonetheless, her enjoyment was reassuring since I sometimes wonder if only
the true fans who thrive on Dylan's "theme and variation" performances of
masterpieces and resurrection of obscure pieces from deep in the repetoire
can appreciate him in concert. Evidently others can, too.
So a few highlights from this set of songs of alienation and yearning --
"Duncan and Brady" begins the evening showing that despite the lyrics to
the contrary this man has NOT "been on the job too long." A pleasant
"Chimes of Freedom" led to "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" with
these surreal political times (and perhaps the singer himself?) putting
emphasis on Mr. Gore's favorite lyric -- "He not busy being born is busy
dying" -- and cheers for "even the President of the United States must
stand naked sometimes." While the lyrics of these early songs through the
pleasant "Mama, You Been on My Mind" and Bob's singing always amaze me, I
was most struck by the musicality and the instrumental performances, with
superb mandolin and other solos by Larry and intense, craftsmanlink
performances by the whole band. Throughout this concert, the superb
musicianship of the instrumentalists stood out in a way that it hasn't in
my prior 4 concerts. I was fascinated by the reworked "Tangled Up in
Blue," but agree that it is not my favorite version. The standards of the
tour of "Searching for a Soldier's Grave" and "Country Pie" were new for
me and lived up to the positive reviews I have been carefully following on
Bill's page. (Thanks Bill and earlier reviewers -- this wonderful
internet service can help make attending a Dylan concert not just 2 hours
of enjoyment and amazement but weeks of anticipation, prediction, and
research in listening to songs that despite near saturation with Dylan
have somehow not yet been fully listened to.) I also had never heard
"Positively 4th Street" live and, despite not initially recognizing it,
was pulled into the lyrics as if it was a whole new song. I had not
expected the obscuring of "Stuck Inside of Mobile...." and missed the
energy of the version performed a year and a half ago on the Dylan/Simon
tour. But "Just Like a Woman" was a highlight here for both my mother and
me, and I was pleasantly surprised by the heavy rock reworking of
"Drifter's Escape" -- surprising me as this folk story from JWH became the
hardest rocking song of the night and with a too-short virtuoso harmonica
denouement. Dylan brought back "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" for a solid
closer, though I had been carefully listening too and interested in the
potential of "Cat's In the Well" that had closed the two previous
concerts. (But again Bill's page let me vicariously enjoy those concerts
through pulling out perhaps my least-listened to Dylan CD for
The encore set truly is the highlight of the show -- "Things Have Changed"
lives up to the caliber of the rest of Dylan's work, "If Dogs Run Free" is
a truly fun (and IMHO credible jazz performance despite some RMD postings)
work that engaged the audience, the reworkings of "Like a Rolling Stone,"
"All Along the Watchtower," and "Highway 61" may not be my favorite
interpretations but prove that these masterpieces are refreshing even if
they have been in nearly every set I have seen, the careful enunciation
and gentle guitar work through "Don't Think Twice..." made it one of my
two or three favorites at this show, and the closing "Blowin' In the Wind"
truly shows both the fanatic and casual fan that this genius not only
wrote the best rock/folk/gospel/blues/country-influenced music of the last
half of the twentieth Century, but that he can reinvent them to make a
whole new meaning and musicality, polishing a gem that has become cliched
so that it clearly still has tremendous value in the hands, voice, and
mind of its composer and his audience. Thanks -- and I will look forward
to critically relistening to these and hoping for a few new surprises at
Towson later this week.
Review by Richard Broadbent
The Wicomico Youth and Civic Center was only about half full (an usher
said 2000+ tickets were sold) for Bob Dylans' show Wed. night. I would
call them (us) an enthusiastic audience, however! When the time came to
cheer for an encore, this group was more vocal than a crowd nearly twice
this size last week at the Bethlehem, PA show.
For the first time I've been able to see multiple shows of a single tour.
Sure is fun to be able to compare them. In addition to Bethlehem and
Wicomico I'll be in Towson Sunday night. Bob's song selection has always
been interesting and it's always great fun to guess what song he's
starting! A number of songs were different between these two shows. How
great to hear Mama, You Been on My Mind and Chimes of Freedom!
I first saw Bob in Balto. and DC in Oct./Nov. 1965. Also saw shows there
in '74 and '78. Then I didn't see him again until '97. I loved those
earlier shows. The Baltimore show in 1965 has always felt like a big
beginning of a portion of my life (I was 15), a revelation of sorts
really. But I must say the six or so shows I have seen with the Bucky,
Larry, Charlie, Tony and David band are right up there with the best music
I've seen live. Bob, Larry and Charlie et al have one of the greatest
guitar driven band sounds ever to be heard. They just absolutely smoke on
things like All Along the Watchtower or Cold Irons Bound (which I heard in
Columbia, MD last summer). Then they are just lilting on things like If
Dogs Run Free. And then there is the "heavy-acoustic" power of things like
Blowin' in the Wind. Boy, I just love it!
I love pondering why Bob seems compelled to be doing these out of the way
shows in rather obscure arenas, and to relatively small crowds. Feels to
me like he wants to be heard anywhere by those who will listen and maybe
to reach new audiences. Most everybody in my row had seen him before.
Everyone really seemed to enjoy the show!
There was at least one overzealous usher who kept trying to make people
sit down, in the end though he was overpowered by a large mass of people
wanting to get up and shake a little. Unfortunately saw a T-shirt
(bootleg) vendor get busted outside after the show.
All in all though, it was one of the most fun nights I've had. My wife and
I were wide awake during the three hour ride home, buzzing from the sheer
enjoyment of it all. "How does it feel,?" It feels really good! Thanks,
Bob - see you Sunday.
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