Bob Dylan - Bob Links - Review - 06/13/99


George, Washington

June 13, 1999

Gorge Amphitheatre

[JM Swedburg], [Ward Serrill]

Review by JM Swedburg

The show on June 13th was excellent.  The weather was 85-90 and sunny. The 
Gorge Amphitheater is beautiful and definitely deserves its reward as "Best 
Outdoor Concert Venue".
  Paul Simon started the show with a slow "Bridge Over Troubled Water" which 
was well received by the crowd.  Most of the people in my section were there 
to see Simon, and were not disappointed.  I was very impressed with his 
show.  His band was great, with the three percussionists and the horn 
section, as well as guitars and keyboards. Simon played his black acoustic 
most of the show. "Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes" and "You Can Call Me 
Al" brought the crowd to their feet.  Then Dylan almost sneaked on stage 
wearing sunglasses, a very relaxed looking shirt and jeans with white shoes. 
  Almost looked like tennis shoes.  They started into "The Sound Of 
Silence".  The crowd laughed and cheered when the familiar 'gravel' voice 
came across the loudspeakers.  The two were great together, though they did 
watch each other a lot.  It seemed at times that Dylan would sing, and Simon 
would follow along.  All in all it sounded great.

In his set Dylan came out wearing a black suit and started with "Hallelujah, 
I'm Ready To Go".  The much smaller band than Simon was tight and sounded 
very nice.  "Mr. Tambourine Man" was changed a lot from the familiar 
version.  When "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again" was 
played, I did'n even recognize it until I heard him say "the post office has 
been stolen, and the mail boxes are locked".  The rendition sounded great.  
"Highway 61 Revisited" was a great closer and bought the crowd to their 
feet.  The encore started with "Love Sick" and "Like a Rolling Stone".  The 
crowd came alive and sang along on this one.  The crowd surprised me.  They 
were very laid back.  This may have been my perspective since at Dylan's 
show last year I was lucky enough to get free tickets in the front row. (I 
even got to park next to him in the VIP parking lot!)  That show Dylan 
seemed to be a little more into the crowd.  He moved around a lot more and 
interacted with the crowd.  This year he stayed pretty much in the center of 
the stage and did his 'leg waddle' the whole time.  With the new set up of 
his band he seemed to be concentrating on playing a little more.  The band 
did not seem like they were sure of where they were going at times.  The new 
guitar player played to Dylan's left and
gave Dylan most of the solos.  I don't think that Dylan was used to soloing 
so much.  On one song it sounded like he started a solo in the wrong key.  
He just smiled and then cranked away another familiar lead.  The solo that 
he did on "Highway 61 Revisited" was excellent, and he looked great as the 
crowd cheered him on.  Another great show by the greatest artist.  I look 
forward to going next year.
                             JM Swedburg


Review by Ward Serrill

It would be a hostile land without the Columbia River flowing through it. 
Night has come on. I sit in the back of my 79 Chevy "Van Morrison" and 
look out over a grizzled landscape of desert bluffs and canyons. From my 
campsite I look down on the Gorge Amphitheater where Bob Dylan will 
play the next day.  The lights across the grass parking lot below and in 
the distance look like candles on a big birthday cake. All around me 
frogs have taken up the night in an ear-filling symphony of power 
welcoming the coming of the great Frog-king, Bob.

I am here with my brother Louie, the third trip to the Gorge we have made 
this century to see Bob. The first was in 1987, which was the first concert 
venue at the Gorge and it was an event you only get to experience once. 
In those days, the "best outdoor venue" was a new thing, owned by a 
local winery. There was only one rule: You could only take in one bottle 
of wine per person. It was sweltering hot all day and people drank wine in 
line. If you ran out, you ran over to the winery for another bottle of 
Beaujolais. There were 15,000 people in a place that could hold 13,000 
comfortably and they had 15,000 bottles of wine. Tracy Chapman opened 
and soothed a mellow vibe over the wine-sipping club. Then night fell and 
Bob came out and put on an 80-minute rock and roll lesson that left 
people roaring like for the Pharaoh, and falling off of terraces and steps. 
It was wonderful, mad and out of control beautiful.

Ah, but it's the nineties now. And the Gorge is owned by Universal Studios. 
Louie and I figured the concert take was $750,000. The campground 
charged $25 per vehicle and we figured they raked in a cool 100 grand. 
Ticketmaster evil empire took $125,000 from our pockets in "convenience" 
fees. Everything is controlled. But that didn't stop Louie and me from 
sneaking in two bottles of wine in a method that is so good we will never 
divulge it. Just know that the girl on the search squad at the front gate took 
three long minutes dissecting every thing in and around me and didn't find 
my stash of Wild Pig red.

While in line-we were in pole position and going to be the first into the 
amphitheater when it opened at 3-we were entertained by some really bad 
but uninhibited rock 'n roll from a group called Jumping Johnny. Jumping 
Johnny was a middle aged balding 70's guitar guy, who with his two 
daughters, one on drums the other on bass, thrashed out Hendrix, Dylan 
and Janis tunes. Last year, at the little stage by the entrance, when Louie 
and I came to see Bob, Joni Mitchell and Van Morrisson we had been 
entertained by three guys one wearing bright yellow, another all red and 
the third green, playing drums, dijereedoo and guitar respectively calling 
themselves Mustard, Relish and Ketchup.

I ran to secure our position on the open terraces. At least five attendants 
in crowd management uniforms said, "Please don't run sir," as I streaked 
by. We ended up directly out from the stage and looking down on the 
reserved seat section and the stage set against the lovely Columbia River 
winding through the rocky sage and sand red canyon. It truly is one of the 
great places on earth to soak in a world class landscape and good tunes 
at once. Louie and I settled into three hours of sun baking and crowd 
watching. A cool breeze blew up the warm canyon walls from the river.

Paul Simon opened. At first I was stirred as the sounds of Bridge Over 
Troubled Water wafted over the landscape. It had a slight world music 
percussive feel to it. But before I knew it, before the second chorus in 
fact, I was bored. I should say at the outset, I'm not much of a Simon fan. 
His sound is too clean to me. But I was definitely out of step. This was 
clearly a Paul Simon crowd. Soft and nostalgic. As he sailed through 
Mrs. Robinson, Me and Julio, Slip Slidin'Away and all, I felt progressively 
like I was being taken on a tour bus through the past, but people in the 
crowd were all lovey-eyed and many were dancing. They clapped over 
their heads and from above on the terrace they looked like a bunch of 
Monarch butterflies mating. It just wasn't connecting with me. But it was 
Bob, not Paul Simon who came into my life in the eighth grade when I 
got stoned with Bruce Yeager down at the Cove in Normandy Park near 
Seattle and listened to It's Allright Ma, for the first time. 

I contented myself with watching the landscape grow soft and wine 
colored as the sun leaned toward the horizon. Simon ended his encore 
with Still Crazy After All These Years and I didn't believe a word of it. 
Nobody's crazy anymore. Not like that. People are psychotic and ready 
to snap, but not just fun and crazy anymore. At least I don't' see it. Too 
many Universal Studios and Ticktmasters and stock options around. 
Too many SUV's. Too much comfort. And every person in this place 
except three members of Paul Simon's band was white.

Don't let me mislead you. I was having a blast. Louie and I had only 
made it through one fourth of our precious wine supply. A hawk was 
soaring above the show and came down for a closer look. A seagull too 
came up from the river to check out the scene and flying as Louie said, 
"with no purpose, but just for the fun of it." 

Then Bob came on stage wearing aluminum colored silk outfit and 
tennis shoes and settled in with a duet with Paul on Sounds of Silence. 
It was like two old dance partners trying to be ever so respectful to the 
other and not step on toes. But it was sweet hearing Dylan's foggy 
froggy warm voice join in and rough up Simon's sweet falsetto a bit. 
And Dylan's rhythm guitar brought in a bass resonance that Simon's 
sound lacked. Though Bob was understated the power onstage had 
tripled. Then a sweet Moon of Kentucky, bluegrass ramble, followed 
by Cash's I Walk the Line. This was two old folkies from Greenwich 
Village at their best. They ended with a Knockin' on Heaven's Door 
that made the hawk come back for another fly over and put a smile to 
old dead Peckinpaw's face. To hear this song in these desert hills 
was a magical thing.

During the break Simon's extensive set gave way to Bob's minimalist 
setting for drums, two guitars and bass, nothing else. The sun shrank 
below the horizon and made a pinpoint of light that flashed and 
disappeared just as the house sound of ullian pipes ended. It was a 
lovely god-like orchestration of beauty and harmony. Does music 
make magic in moments? Does the world itself swing and dance 
sometimes in tune with it? Yes.

It's twilight over the Columbia. The time of ravens and old sorcerers, 
of Indian faces that appear in clouds over ancient bluffs. Dylan takes 
the stage in a black outfit and supported by his small cast of 
handsome characters. It's true in a lot of cases. Men get better 
looking with age. The new guitarist Charlie Sexton looks like he 
walked out of GQ. And Tony the bassman, a four year touring 
bobman, is a suave New Orleans dark good-looker. Guitarist Larry 
Cambell in long black hair and sweet face appears more confident,
knows his place now after a hundred or so concerts with Bob.

Bob opens his shows now with a handful of acoustic songs, which 
brings me great joy, because the acoustic songs are the heart of 
the show for me. These musicians are the best. Dylan always works 
with the best and the string play of these guys is a joy to behold. 
They open with a gospel tune Hallelujah, I'm Ready To Go, which 
leaves the crowd befuddled and me ecstatic. What one expects from 
Bob, you rarely get. Larry crooned a high lonesome Bill Monroe 
harmony on this tune.

After some polite applause, Bob begins the chords of a very slow and 
sweet Mr. Tambourine Man. People don't even recognize it until after a 
long intro he begins the lyrics. As I listened I realized the difference 
between Bob and Paul to me. Simon's old songs seemed like reprises 
of his old hits, like TV reruns, whereas, Dylan's old tunes, like 
Tambourine Man sound new. They are arranged and attenuated and 
crooned for this place and time. They come with a feeling made real 
now. At the ending riff, Bob picks up his harp and plays long and fine 
literally doing a little soft show dance. This crowd has no idea what it 
is getting or what is going to happen to them. They keep staring through 
binoculars and sitting immobile. After the excellent music play of strings 
and harp Bob steps forward and bows formally like a classical 

The next song brings up another reason I am in Bob's camp. No one I 
have ever seen carries such raw power onto a stage. Masters of War is 
among the finest things he does on this tour. It resonates with deep big 
ass chords that come from the center of the earth itself. It is rock turned 
molten and pushing its way to the surface. The lyrics have never felt more 
biting or relevant and are spit out onto the most warlike culture on the 
planet, the world's bully, an empire crumbling from within. Maybe that's 
what I don't connect with Simon much, I need an edge, a sometimes 
righteousness, an undertoned anger that rises from time to time. That's 
at the heart of rock 'n roll and Dylan at 58 can still do it.

The best part of these shows to me are the long intros, instrumental 
bridges and guitar play outros. It doesn't get much better. Other writers 
can talk about this lead or that being off key or whatever, but my ear is 
not that attenuated. It seems like these players are all on the same 
stagecoach to me. This song bowls people over. An acoustic song so 
powerful you'd think back on it and believe it was electrified. I'm not sure 
the crowd likes such an in your face song. Tickets are $125 for reserved 
seats. We want simple things. Make us feel good. Don't distract us. 
Give us nostalgia and tell us everything is okay.

Tangled Up in Blue is next and is followed by It's All Over Now Baby Blue, 
but sweet and soft. He sounds like an old folkie, sitting alone on his porch 
playing it for the crickets and frogs in the afternoon sun over the fields. 
This was a sad song and played that way, Larry sitting down for a stint 
on the pedal steel.

There is nothing like hearing music out of doors. Somehow, it weaves and 
dances with the wind, with the soaring birds, with the Columbia winding 
up the valley. As the band takes up All Along the Watchtower (again 
rearranged and slow, the crowd does not recognize it until the chorus) I 
look down the river and out on creation itself. No where as far as I can see 
is there any sign of man's interference. The river cuts through the land like 
a black snake. And it occurs to me that as a creative force Dylan is as 
original and powerful as the Columbia. It's not a river to be kept inside its 
defined banks for too long. Someday that damn is gonna break and them 
waters is gonna get out and wash the landscape clean. Dylan like this 
landscape continually remakes himself.

A blue light circles Bob and he looks like a marionette as he slows into 
Just Like a Woman. Then it's time to dance with the clown down 
mainstreet again as Bob's circus takes up Stuck inside of Mobile. I 
dance on the terrace and notice most of the terrace tribe is doing the 
same. I look over at Louie who has wine spilled on his shirt and a 
mirthful grin on his face. He is doing just fine.

As Bob turns toward Not Dark Yet I breathe in the deep cool air of night 
in the desert. This song is much more dirge like and stronger than I have 
heard it before. It seems to be the anthem for our culture heading into 
the millennium.

My sense of humanity is going down the drain.

By now the crowd is starting to come around as they get a sense that 
something different but maybe better than they expected is happening 
to them. It's time for Highway 61 Revisited. This song is revitalized with 
the new band. Charlie Sexton doesn't seem like any stranger here.

The crowd is stunned as Bob leaves the stage. The fire was just getting 
going. But we all know he's gonna come back and do a few more and 
break into his standard closing of Love Sick (wicked), Like a Rolling 
Stone (slow like a ballad-the electric guitar chords ride up the Columbia 
like a blue heron), Blowing in the Wind (Bob framed in an iris purple light 
and two dolphin blue spills on either side of him) and ending with a raver 
send-up of Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away (dance dance dance.) 

And then it's over. People still can't believe it. Yeah, it's short. One 
expects more for the money, but the fact is people would have stayed 
all night if Bob had kept playing. It seems short because we are 
witnessing such raw creation at play. Who can get enough of that? 
Bob has learned how to pace himself. How to stay out on the road 
nearly continuously making it, keeping it alive. 

Louie and me stay on the terrace while the place empties out. We 
polish off the last of our wine and yuck yuck laugh like a couple of 
clowns.  Finally they send a nice security guy down to escort us out. 

We walk out slow and reluctant to leave and we pause by the pond 
beneath a footbridge and listen to crickets and frogs play music to 
each other in the quiet of the night.


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