Review by Peter Stone Brown
Flood and Tornado and flood warnings pervaded all news radio as a skating
rink destroying storm barreled up the old East Coast as I headed for New
Jersey's largest skating rink, currently known as the Continental Airlines
Arena. While a nice little wind gust on the Ben Franklin bridge did my
heart and nervous system wonders. Somehow I managed to stay ahead of the
storm and made it safely to the last forgotten diner deep in the heart of
Tony Soprano country. While in the diner, a whole other drama ensued as
an ex-confederate refugee from the Land of Lincoln got lost in the
twilight zone fog of the Lincoln tunnel to learn that a what should be 30
minute trip can easily take four times that. This was combined with two
other waiting dramas, while the clock was ticking and somehow I made it to
the Meadowlands complex in time to see Bob Dylan.
Once inside the keyboard was a whole lot closer to the center of the stage
than it had been during the summer and the band's setup didn't seem as far
back on the stage either. The beginning of "Cats In the Well" found Dylan
in craggy, rough voice mode but he managed to sing his way out of it.
Craggy or not, that certain thing he has when he means business was very
much in evidence. A couple of minor chords on the keyboard kicked off a
reasonably intense version of "Senor." The song had barely ended when
they kicked into a speedy "Rollin' And Tumblin,' " with Denny playing the
slide part and Bob roaring out certain lines, especially "I did all I
know just to keep you off my mind."
"Positively 4th Street" followed. I saw Bob Dylan sing this song at the
time it was a hit in Newark, New Jersey, so any live version after that
has had something pretty difficult to live up to. For whatever reason
tonight he sang it like he remembered why he wrote it, spitting out the,
I know the reason you talked behind my back," and "You know what a drag
it is see you" lines with venom. There was one point where he sang a
line out of order, which could have thrown the song into chaos, but after
fumbling the next line, he got the song back on track. The under-rated
Denny Freeman played two excellent solos.
Then it was into the current arrangement of "It's Alright Ma." This is of
course one of Dylan's greatest songs, and while I prefer it solo on
guitar, with the "Wake Up Little Susie" riff, turned into something like a
lightning strike, there's something incredibly menacing and low down about
this version, set to the Sonny Boy Williamson II "Help Me" riff, but in
some murky muddy swamp of the mind that it just builds and builds and ends
up overwhelming. Dylan's voice tattered voice at times in shards, yet
singing with full force only enhanced the contempt in lines such as "Old
lady judges watch people in pairs/limited in sex they dare to push fake
morals, insult and stare."
A close to perfect "When The Deal Goes Down" led to "Things Have Changed,"
but my concentration was broken by someone near me deciding to have a
conversation. However one of the true highlights of the night, a stunning
version of "Simple Twist of Fate" followed. Starting off slowly with a
gorgeous pedal steel intro by Donnie Herron, this song showed this band's
excellent use of dynamics and imagination. Each verse was treated
differently with subtle changes to illustrate each scene, sometimes by
Dylan himself, who was not above slipping in a quick joke on the last
verse when after singing "People say that it's a sin," he quickly added,
"How do they know?" While the studio version of this song will never be
topped, this was easily one of the best live renditions I've seen, aided
by two excellent solos from Denny Freeman.
A revised "Highway 61," with a couple of new stops and licks thrown in led
into "Spirit On The Water," with Dylan emphasizing the "You think I'm over
the hill" line.
Dylan was clearly having some fun on "Tangled Up In Blue," alternating
singing high and low almost answering each line like a conversation and
finding new meanings in doing so. While the arrangement is based around
the acoustic guitar, the use of power chords turns it into something else.
The standout of the night came next, a splendid, "Nettie Moore." Donnie
Heron's viola and Stu Kimball's finger-picked acoustic set the tone, and
Dylan responded by singing tenderly, and sweetly, the incessant heartbeat
of the drums, bass and lead guitar barely audible. On the choruses, Dylan
took the song someplace else entirely, almost as if he was singing a high
harmony to the melody, one of those little vocal things that only he does
and that he is still clearly capable of doing. Nothing else really
mattered after that.
A speedy "Summer Days" followed and Dylan was clearly having a good time,
at one point either fumbling a line or singing it incomprehensibly. I
looked around and way up at the top of the arena on the very last row was
a bunch of dancers apparently having a great time, blocking the vision of
no one. When I saw this song a few months ago in Reading, all three
guitar players took solos, sometimes doing a call on response that echoed
the work of the best Western Swing bands, past and present. This time all
the solos were handled by Denny, but at the very least it was more fun in
the previous arrangement.
"Thunder on the Mountain" in opening the encore makes the connection
between swing and rock and roll and in this set list, in opening the
encore it echoed both musically and lyrically the opening song of the
night. Sometimes Dylan can go into automatic pilot on the encores. Not
so tonight, in what was originally the New York metropolitan area show of
the tour and Dylan treated this show as such. It was a night with no
filler where each song was treated as something of value.
Peter Stone Brown
Review by Mike Skliar
Bob gets better and better. A stormy night outside, and bob the tenatious
troubodour inside, singin his rain-soaked tales of awe and wonder...
my first of the 'modern times' tour,and bob was in just amazing form
tonight... the ballads in particular were just spectacular
first, the opening band, the racanteurs, surprised me.. I liked them alot.
I had known that jack white is an excellent guitar player- but both he and
the band were tight, focused, and did a variety of things well... it was a
bit over the top in that it echoed alot of 70's arena rock (led zep, even
some jethro tull) at times, but it was well executed, full of energy and
interesting arrangements... all that being said, an hour of it was
plenty.. i was glad to see it but glad when it was over as well, so we
could focus on bob. and now, the bob dylan show:
1. Cat's In The Well
the average cats in the well...
2. Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)
already I could tell it would be a great show, very very well sung
version, with the organ adding to the mood well.
3. Rollin' And Tumblin'
the weakest of the new songs tonight, a bit sludgy on the sound, but still
4. Positively 4th Street
heres where it stepped up a notch or maybe a mile... careful singing, no
upsinging, playing with the phrasing like a cat plays with a mouse..just
5. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
again, the phrasing and concentration is as good as ive ever heard him-and
the band was perfect for this song
6. When The Deal Goes Down
beautiful.. and dennys solo was longer then the recording... goes thru the
entire verse, and nice jazzy touches,, he's really growing into these
songs. bob sung it so movingly.
7. Things Have Changed
a big highlight- a slightly different rearrangement, with the signature
riff now syncopaed a bit differently.... and bob chopping up the words
like a giddy kaleidoscope
8. Simple Twist Of Fate
another big big big big highlight. of the few times ive seen him do this
song live, this was easily the best.... cant wait to hear a recording of
9. Highway 61 Revisited
short and sweet, no stop time stuff.
10. Spirit On The Water
very very good.. the delivery on the 'ghost' verse/bridge was
sly/funny..as was the whole song... yes, its a bit long, but isn't that
what we want from bob?
11. Tangled Up In Blue
again , great version. about halfway thru he started doing that 'duet'
with himself- not as affected as other versions from this tour , overall
it had alot of energy and was well recieved. The band gave this song
excellent & spirited support without stepping on the vocal
12. Nettie Moore
anotehr great new song- sung very very well. Big wink by everyone in the
audience during the 'I think the rain outside has stopped' line.. as it
was a pouring rainstorm on the way in to the arena for everyone.
13. Summer Days
tiny vocal flub, and the jam is nothing special, but it was better then
some ive seen recently. Still doesn't have the magic of the versions from
the larry/charlie era tho.
14. Thunder On The Mountain
very good, tho still not my favorite song from the new album. Bob should
start his shows with this song, it'd be a great mood-setter. Beats 'cat's
in the well'.
15. Like A Rolling Stone
16. All Along The Watchtower
both fine.. nothign out of the ordinary, which is to say excellent.
Watchtower is a tad less intense then some previous years, but thats ok.
All in all, quite an evening!
Review by Howard Weiner
I'm beginning to believe what the scriptures tell. Thanks to global warming
I'm enjoying another 65 degree day in mid-November in Manhattan. Renting
this new apartment with a private outdoor patio has been one of my best
decisions of the year. Another good move was going to see Dylan last night
at the Continental Arena in East Rutherford. Whenever he plays at the
Meadowlands it's a huge event and last night was no different. It was the
show of the tour. What it is it about this sports complex that's surrounded
by swamps, highways, and air pollution that brings out the best in Bob?
Maybe this place reminds him of his trips to see Woody in '61- something's
Bob kicked the ceremony off with Cat's in the Well. It's cool to see Dylan
play this a lot lately, especially as an opener. It's one of Dylan's most
underrated songs from one of his most underrated albums. Dylan was
looking dapper, I swear he did look great- black top hat with rhinestones,
black suit with silver buttons and some sort of light blue scarf. I was in
section 106 which wasn't that close to the stage, but I enjoyed the
distance between us. I've seen him up close many times this year. I like
observing his mannerisms from a distance. He was bristling with physical
energy all night -his foot work was superb. He looked like a cat getting
busy in a litter box.
My first Senor of the year 2006 was waiting in the second hole. Few songs
in the Dylan's oeuvre excite me like Tales of Yankee Power. Bob was clearly
annunciating and his harmonica solo was explosive. I was so ecstatic I don't
know if I can fairly critique this performance, but I'll venture to say it was a
classic. My friend and I got a nice chuckle out of this song because I was
singing it to him when he missed the exit off the Turnpike and managed to
get lost. It was hard to believe- we've made this short jaunt to the East
Rutherford so many times before. Senor is an indication you're in for a great
show from Dylan. Senor is a great show. I'm still trying to figure out what it
means. It's elusive, suspenseful, and moody- it's Dylanesque.
A tidal wave of sound followed in the form of Rolled and Tumbled- it was
the best version these ears have heard. Musical masterpiece theatre
continued with well sung versions Of Positively 4th Street and It's Alright
Ma. Dylan's vocals were very steady on 4th Street, the up-singing was
gone. It's Alright Ma works very well on the heels of 4th St. Our nightly
dose of that song didn't feel forced. As Ma came to a dynamic ending, Dylan
swiped his hand across the organ like a magician performing his pulling out
the table cloth trick. When the Deal Goes Down was soothing after Dylan
vented on his mid 60's rants. Denny Freeman cut loose with some Wes
Montgomery like solos on Deal. It was very comforting prior to Dylan's next
Things Have Changed has become a rare treat these days. This rendition
smoked in the seventh spot. I was content- Dylan had already stamped this
night as classic. He didn't have to play Simple Twist of Fate next. I hadn't
seen this since the G.E. Smith era back in '89. He'd been playing it a little
this tour and I was stunned by the amazing arrangement. Dylan was scolding
the audience as he sang "the room was…bare!....he didn't see her any-
where!" It's only a matter of hours before this show will be downloaded on
to my hard drive. I can't wait to relive these first eight songs; it doesn't get
better than this.
Highway 61 Revisited was its typical mad dash with Dylan leading the way
with his spooky organ-grinding. I hope a video of this show surfaces. I felt
transient joys just observing his on-stage antics. Spirit on the Water came
off nicely on this night. I was psyched because that opened the twelfth spot
for Nettie Moore. Tangled up in Blue appeared between the Modern Times
songs and it was a little messy. Dylan blew some lyrics, but rallied with a
feathery echoing harp solo that was met with a roar of approval from the
fired-up crowd. Nettie Moore was breathtaking again. Summer Days closed
and the usual suspects Thunder, Stone, and Tower were the encores.
On 7-12-87, across the parking lot, the Never Ending Tour unofficially began
at Giants Stadium. That concert was by far the best of the six Dylan/ Dead
shows, and was one of the key turning points that led Dylan down the path
he has been on for almost twenty years. Dylan obviously feels some kind of
sentiment for this place. All you gotta do is hear his Brendan Byrne/Continental
performance from 11-13-99. Three of my five fall '06 shows are in the books.
I get to rendezvous twice more with Jack Fate in Philly and NYC. What kind
of musical history lies ahead? I might be in for some Hard Rain or Blind Willie-
whatever it is, I'll be there.
Review by Donald Miller
I am not comfortable writing an amateur review of a Bob Dylan show. I am
not objective. The thing about Dylan is you either love him or you don't.
There is little middle ground. Dylan has become a part of my life like
Thanksgiving dinner or Opening Day at Shea Stadium. I got hooked as a
teenager watching him perform with the Band many years ago. It is one
of the few constants in my life.
I was a little surprised Dylan and his Band booked the big Meadowlands arena
in the swamps of New Jersey for his fall Tour. On the bright side it was close
to my house. Anyway I am not one of those who prefer smaller venues. I l
ove the energy of a big New York crowd and remember the truly great
concerts at Madison Square Garden in 1974 and 2001.
I elicited my fourteen year old daughter and two of her friends for the show.
This was not difficult since the kids love the Raconteurs. We arrived at the
arena to find it about half full at best. The crowd was a little quiet. The
Raconteurs gave a solid performance with the exception of a foolish song
from the 1960's I had mercifully forgotten "Bang Bang". It isn't easy to
open for Dylan.
Dylan has never performed and can never perform an "Oldies Show". It does
seem that whenever he plays a song too long or too often it falls a little flat.
The least memorable points of the show for me were songs that have been
overplayed in recent years………"Cat's in the Well" "It's Allright Ma" "Summer
Days" and yes even "Like a Rolling Stone and All Along the Watchtower" The
kids ,of course, enjoyed the hits. The high points were the new songs from
"Modern Times" and a few great songs not performed as much lately, a
wistful "Positively Fourth Street" and an inspired "Tangled up in Blue".
I thought his performance of "Simple Twist of Fate" was magical. It is song I
loved hearing three decades ago but which takes on new character and
meaning with each listen as I grow older. Last night Dylan summoned all of his
powers on the performance. And whatever I said about "overplayed songs"
Dylan always comes through with a rousing performance of "Highway 61
Revisited" and yesterday was no exception. I have never tired of this one
chord song. I never will.
The girls all had a good time and came home with expensive tee shorts from
the "06" tour With some luck I hope to be back on Highway 61 with
grandchildren in a decade and they can someday say they saw the great
Bob Dylan near the turn of the century live and in person. It is a show
nobody of any American generation should miss.
I never said I was objective.
Review by Willie Gissen
My faith in the human race was restored last night. But first about the concert.
Mr. Dylan scheduled one of his rare appearances at larger venues last night,
playing at the Continental Airlines Arena in the New Jersey sports complex that
plays host to the New Jersey Nets, New Jersey Devils, and in the larger stadium,
New York Giants. It was a late arriving crowd, perhaps because of a brewing
storm outside with gale force winds and major flooding predicted. Fortunately,
unlike some other concerts, where true Dylan fans huddled in the rain, this one
I went to the concert with a new friend who last attended a Dylan concert 30
years ago. He was in for a major surprise. My friend had previously worked for
Albert Grossman, Dylan's avaricious former manager, and had run one of Mr.
Grossman's restaurants. He described to me how Grossman needed to control
everything and was solely in the business for the money. Apparently, Mr.
Grossman had controlled all of Janis Joplin's estate and profited greatly when
she passed away.
Anyway, after parking near Giants stadium and avoiding the $8 parking fee
(surprisingly cheap), we went through a long connecting tunnel to the Arena.
Dylan filled a good two-thirds of the stadium, but I was disappointed that most
of the upper tier was empty. Since Dylan's sold out five consecutive concerts at
smaller venues such as the Beacon Theater and Hammerstein Ballroom, I thought
he would sell out for this one-night only event (before the last-minute addition
of the Citi Center on Monday night).
Fortunately, there was only one warm-up band tonight. A hard-rock group --
unusual for a Dylan intro, typically country music or soft rock -- the Raconteurs
had a high-pitched sound that I thought was very similar to Aerosmith. They
had some unusual mystical sounds but were generally too loud and harsh for
Dylan came on the stage around 9:15 PM and proceeded to rattle off one of
the best series of song selections I've ever heard. He put out every ounce of
his being into each song, and his harmonica solos were crisp with easily
recognized melodies and improvisations. The concert went by in an ecstatic
blur, but some of key older songs I remember included Highway 61; It's
Alright, Ma (I'm only bleeding); A Simple Twist of Fate (!!!), and Tangled Up
in Blue. Dylan was constantly switching between his strident rocking songs
and the more sedate numbers, creating a perfect balance.
This was also the first concert I've seen since Dylan has started playing songs
from his new album, Modern Times. It's amazing that this album hit number
one on the charts the first week it was released, Dylan's first number one
album in 20 years. "When the Deal Goes Down," with as good a set of lyrics
as anything Dylan has produced, was my personal favorite. He also played
Nettie Moore, and I enjoyed the concert version much more than the album,
which I find a little atonal. Another song, "Spirit on the Water," was well
done, and I'm still hearing more in the lyrics as I continue to listen to each
of these new masterpieces. I believe listening to Dylan's songs is an
exploratory, interactive process. As we continue to learn more about life,
Dylan's observations and insights gain new meaning.
Now, the second part of my essay. I made a new friend at the concert, a
beautiful young woman, who was at her first Dylan concert. She was totally
uninhibited, full of enthusiasm and thoroughly enjoying herself. I've never
seen anyone who was so completely alive. But that wasn't all. We were
talking, and somehow the conversation came around to the fact that I used
a lot of credit cards and carried a limited amount of cash; in fact, I got into
trouble at the concession stand because they accepted cash only. I
complained to her that the bottled water was four dollars (believe it or not).
So, we continued to relate for a while, and then she excused herself to go to
the bathroom. She came back with an extra bottle of water she bought
especially for me. I was floored. It was such a beautiful act of pure goodness
that I couldn't believe it. Here are all these selfish people running around,
myself included, everyone with their own agenda, and this sweet giving
person actually listened to what I was saying and acted on it. It was one of
the best gifts I've ever had.
She told me she lived near the arena, but, alas, I'll probably never see her
again. Her boyfriend was staring at me menacingly, and I didn't have the
opportunity to get her phone number or address. So, in a gesture of
gratitude and friendship, I'm hoping she's reading this review (she did
mention that she followed Dylan's set lists) and will contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org. But even if I never hear from her again, I will
remember and cherish her gift of love. It restored my faith in mankind.
Review by Kyle Pucciarello
Dylan Provides "Shelter from the Storm"
"Come in she said I'll give ya, shelter from the storm."
On a night when heavy winds and rain made driving on the Turnpike
more of a hassle than usual, Dylan's invitation from his 1975 classic
"Shelter from the Storm" sounded all the more inviting. Bob Dylan,
performing at New Jersey's Continental Airlines Arena for the first
time in seven years, took the stage to rousing applause from the
near-capacity crowd. Saying nary a word the entire night, Dylan let the
music do the talking. "Positively 4th Street," first recorded for
Dylan's 1967 "Greatest Hits" album, was the first real surprise of
the night. The song, stripped to a jazzier incarnation, was highlighted
by Dylan's impeccable phrasing of lyrics. The words stood out from the
music as if hearing them for the first time. Another crowd pleaser was
"Simple Twist of Fate," Dylan's story of a star-crossed love gone
wrong. The bluesy epic, "Highway 61 Revisited," the most energetic
song of the evening was next. This was followed by a new song, the lovely
and melodic "Spirit on the Water." A powerful version of "Tangled
Up in Blue" drew the biggest cheers from the crowd. But new songs
such as "Rollin' and Tumblin' " and the Chuck Berry-inspired "Thunder
on the Mountain" were received just as well, fitting nicely in the set
next to Dylan classics. The first song of the evening, the obscure
"Cat's in the Well," was more than a little rocky. Dylan's voice
had trouble croaking out the fast paced lyrics. But the Dylan of today
sounds more like a New Orleans jazz musician, gruff and dirty but
versatile and brilliant. He now stands behind a keyboard instead of an
acoustic guitar, pounding away chords and attacking vocals with his
snarling voice. Dylan's band, dressed in 1950s style gray suits,
displayed great prowess in bringing the songs to life. Lead guitarist
Denny Freeman drove the songs with his enthused playing. George Recile,
Dylan's drummer, deftly kept the beat, improvising nicely on songs like
"Things Have Changed." The opening act was The Raconteurs, Jack
White's (of The White Stripes) new band. Blending alternative and
retro rock styles, The Raconteurs' set was energetic and musically
stimulating. The band played cuts off their acclaimed album "Broken
Boy Soldiers." The venue was perhaps too big for the type of show being
performed. These songs need attention, and while the crowd was no doubt
focused on Dylan's legendary lyrics, the show had more of a club feel.
Dylan is currently touring behind "Modern Times," his first number
one album since 1976. This made Dylan the oldest artist, at
65-years-old, to score a top-selling record on the charts. The American
leg of this tour ends November 20th in New York City. The tour is
expected to continue overseas within the coming months. During a
particularly impassioned performance of "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only
Bleeding)," Dylan sang "he not busy being born is busy dying."
While Dylan may be in the twilight of his career, he proved last
night that he certainly is far from the end.
Review by Anton Tibbe
It always seems to be an adventure getting to a Dylan show. Last summer
we nearly got flattened against the side of an invisible UPS truck parked
across the highway. On this November Thursday, vicious wind gusts & a
stinging near-horizontal rain would set the tone for the evening.
As we drove down the parking lot alleys and came up behind Giants Stadium,
a dumpster suddenly blew across our path. I hit the brakes and waited for
the gusts to subside, making sure that we weren’t going to get broadsided
by this contraption, before creeping by it. A little further on, a
dual-stall Port-O-San sat smackdab in the middle of the road, blown in
from God knows where. We wondered fleetingly whether there was anyone
inside as we swerved around it, but there were no Port-O-San stories on
News Of The Weird next day, so I guess there wasn’t.
We parked in the stadium lot near the mouth of the covered footbridge over
Route 120 and hiked above the three-abreast line of cars waiting to get
into the arena lots. Haha, they were going to miss The Raconteurs and we
weren’t. We pushed on along the bridge, down the ramp, up the steps to
the Continental Arena entrance, along the hall and down again.
Some of the heaviest Hammond organ I’ve heard since Jon Lord left Deep
Purple was coming off the stage as we made our way down to our center
court seats, just 6 rows off the floor, perfectly situated to see Mister
Dylan face on. The Raconteurs were already ripping it up. I hoped for
more of that Hammond sound but it was featured on just the one song.
Still, the band did not lack for great acid-drenched guitar textures.
They seem to have added a blond guitarist since their CD, which features 4
dark-haired guys on the cover; he complements Jack White’s riffs and sonic
sense very well. On one song, the blond guy and the multi-instrumentalist
fellow had dueling E-Bows going while Jack was picking away. Cool stuff.
They did an intense cover of Cher’s “Bang Bang” as Zep might have done it
in “No Quarter” style.
I quickly settled into a frame of mind where I felt like it was a night at
the Fillmore. Hearing this solid dose of deftly delivered acid rock, with
Dylan and his cowboy band up next, reminded me of those strange genre-free
days when you might get Albert King and Quicksilver Messenger Service, or
Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the Jefferson Airplane, on the same bill.
Most of the crowd appreciated what The Raconteurs were doing and gave
them a good ovation when they finished.
We strolled around the arena hallways during intermission. The place was
maybe 60% full, with only a smattering of people in the upper deck, so
everything seemed low key, a nice change from some shows I’ve done there,
even though I wasn’t happy to see Bob not filling a venue. Everyone
seemed in a good mood, even the bedraggled stragglers getting in late; I
think we were all glad to have a little shelter from the storm.
Back to our seats to wait for the Copland & that peculiar intro. The
lights went up and there was the band, all in gray suits, some with black
shirts & others in gray, Denny Freeman with a tie, all in hats except for
Donnie Herron; I guess his great hair qualifies as a hat. Dylan wore a
long black gambler’s coat with a powder blue scarf and royal blue
rhinestone-bedecked shirt, black slacks with a single gray stripe down the
sides, flat black cowboy hat with a few more rhinestones around the brim.
Toward the end of the show he would pull his coat sleeves back to make
sure we got a good look at the rhinestones on the shirt cuffs. He was
a-sparkle for sure.
I don’t know whether Mister Dylan took his cues for the night from the
fierce weather outside, or if it just seemed that way to my soaked
sensibilities, but the show quickly developed an intensity and an energy
that wasn’t as much evident at the more contemplative, laid-back
summertime ballpark show. They opened with “Cat’s In The Well,” same as
the Dutchess County show, a nice wry tune for the band to get warmed up.
They moved quickly into a biting rendition of “Señor (Tales Of Yankee
Power)” from Street Legal, Dylan snarling out every line. “There's a
wicked wind still blowin' on that upper deck” seemed to connect directly
with what was happening outside. “Senor, senor, let's disconnect these
cables, Overturn these tables. This place don't make sense to me no more.
Can you tell me what we're waiting for, senor?” went right into the
deepest part of your brain. I got a sense then that this was going to be
a special night.
After the obligatory “Rollin & Tumblin” (I’m still trying to figure out
why Dylan is doing this song, and maybe that’s the reason he does it), the
band went into another guess-the-tune intro. I thought that we were going
to get another repeat from Dutchess, of “You Ain’t Going Nowhere,” but it
didn’t sound quite right. I was not prepared at all to hear “You’ve got a
lotta nerve, to say you are my friend….” Damn! This was the song that
captured and defined my adolescence. The arrangement was peculiar, an
almost sweet-sounding chord progression against those bitter bitter
lyrics; it seemed to morph more towards the original as it went on, though
it never quite got there. Still, by “….you’d know what a drag it is to
see you,” it was like 42 years had evaporated and just for that one moment
we were all young again. It was unbelievable; I never thought I’d hear
that song performed four decades down the road.
Could the night get any better? Yes. A different guess-the-tune intro,
this one full of bluesy minor chords and dark intensity, and suddenly:
“Darkness at the break of noon, Shadows even the silver spoon, The
handmade blade, the child's balloon Eclipses both the sun and moon To
understand you know too soon There is no sense in trying.” Damn
A heartfelt rendition of “When The Deal Goes Down,” and then something I
didn’t recognize at all. After the show I’d learn that it was “Things
Have Changed” from 1999, available only on the Essential Bob Dylan
collection. Dylan enunciated every word clearly - “Lot of water under the
bridge, Lot of other stuff too, Don't get up gentlemen, I'm only passing
through” seemed again to reflect the storm outside.
Next up, a relatively faithful arrangement of “Simple Twist Of Fate.” The
crowd went nuts at the opening chords and seemed to hang on every line;
this was a night for rarities. A blistering Highway 61 charged us up,
Spirit On The Water let us catch our breath. Then the band seemed to
crank up the volume another notch, and suddenly we were “Tangled Up In
Blue.” This was unquestionably the sonic highlight of the night, the band
firing on all cylinders. Mister Dylan sporting a big grin with a twinkle
in his eye? I had binoculars, I saw it happen; it was obvious that he
knew they were nailing this song & he was just digging the hell out of it.
There was a bit of lyrical confusion in there – tangled up indeed – but
when you’re rocking that well, who cares?
If you’ve been following this tour you pretty much know where the show
goes from here, into a kind of gentle winding-down with more than a few
performance highlights, if no more song surprises: five last songs to be
savored and one more reference to that howling wind outside.
Somewhere during the night I watched Dylan stroll over to his drinks, in
big red plastic cups perched on top of a little equipment rack at the
right side of the stage. Next to the cups was the little gold statue,
illuminated by a tiny light, which I now know that Dylan received for
“Things Have Changed” from “Wonder Boys.” A heap of strung beads,
presumably from Mardi Gras, hung over the corner of the rack. Apparently
these items are on stage at every show on this tour. An Oscar and beads
from New Orleans: totems for these Modern Times.
At the final farewell, when they all line up at the front of the stage,
Dylan looked serious and a bit glum. Always Mister Enigmatic. Curiously,
the band departed stage left while he stalked off stone-faced in the
opposite direction. Most of the crowd then started to leave, but I kept
watching through the binoculars and saw the old artificer circle around in
back of the amps, where he caught up with drummer George Recile; walking
side by side, they each threw an arm over the other’s back and patted each
other on the shoulder for a moment, talking and laughing as if they were
about to head into a bar for a night of carousing. The solitary public
walk-off had been another bit of stagecraft, one last calculated image to
punctuate the night.
Outside the rain had dwindled for the moment to a soft sprinkle. It’s
always a moment of elevation, emerging from a show at the Meadowlands
arena and feeling the buzz dissipate into the brightly lit expanse of the
parking area while the seagulls hover and glide, brilliantly white against
the night sky, beautiful scavengers. The wind would rage and the rain
would spit again before we got back to our homes, but for a while there we
were all soaring.
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