Bob Dylan - Bob Links - Review - 06/30/99


New York, New York

June 30, 1999

Madison Square Garden

[Hodah], [Robert Berretta], [Josh Steinberg], [Mark]

Review by Hodah

...... Just got back from seeing Bob at MSG with Clapton. 
I didn't plan on going till the last minute. I hopped in a cab and got to the garden around
8:30. Bought a ticket from some girl up front. $50. Never found my seat just went as close
as I could. (which was pretty close although not the floor)  missed most of Eric's first set
and Sheryl Crows set. Had to sit through Mary blige.......BORING. Then Eric came out and did
a mini acoustic set.....plugged in for part two..... I won't get into detail 'cause it's
late and I'm tired.....but..... Bob looked great and was great. There was a conference
before EACH song!!! He started of with DON'T THINK TWICE. The highlight for me was seeing
two slick men in black playing black Fender guitars.....both tapping there boots at the same
time. It was so cool. A slow blues version of TAKES A TRAIN........ David Sanborn on sax
really added an element.The duet of BORN IN TIME was not as organized as I wish it was but
it was great to finally see Bob dealing with someone ELSE forgetting the lyrics. The first
song that Bobs guitar work was quite clear on was LEOPARD SKIN..... boy, he sure seems to
like that song. It pops up all over the place. *conference* : NOT DARK YET....... beautiful
guitar interplay between the two of them. Bobs "noodeling" , and Eric played it very low key
no fancy licks.  "....yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeettttttttt......." The organ was subtle but nice
with the sax drifting in and out. Eric rubbed Bob's back after that one! Then : CROSSROADS !
Again sharing the same Microphone. The female singers now joined the band as well. Eric took
the first lead and Bob took the second. Their two distinct styles playing together so well.
All in all it was a fun show. Bob truely seemed to be in good (enough) spirits. The dance
steps were there, and he seemed to look around at the other band members as if he just
wanted to see who they were. There were two large video screens , he looked


Review by Robert Berretta


The band:  Andy Fairweather Low (guitar), Nathan East (bass), Katie
Kissoon (backing vocals), Tessa Niles (backing vocals), Steve Gadd
(drums) and Tim Carmon (keyboards)

The show started at 7:50 with a 3-minute or so video clip with Eric's
voice-over describing the Crossroads Center as "Driftin'" played in the
backround.  Nicely done and not overly preachy, although it was hard to
hear in the arena.  When the video ended Eric strolled out in his black
Armani, and just said something like, "There's been a lot of talk, a
lot of promotion, a lot of interviews about staying sober.  Now there's
going to be no more talk, we're just gonna play.  Thank you for
coming."  They then launched into

 Maybe an anti-climatic beginning after so much hype, but it may be his
most personal song, and as this concert was a personal mission, the
most appropriate choice.
 Good, strong version, although I missed the harp.
 A real surprise, great shuffle and guitar work, although I missed not
hearing a horn section at the end.
 Good guitar solo at the end, nice vocals.  Not much else to say about
this song.
 A little funkier than the album version or last year's live version.
Eric then brought out David Sanborn, who played for most of the rest of
the concert.
 Bad, like the album, only worse because of Sanborn's smooth-jazz

Eric then brought out Sheryl Crow, with super-short hair and a lopsided
white long dress of sorts.  Strange summer attire, I guess.  She played
five songs, most of which I didn't know, with a side musician who
played guitar on the first song while she played bass, and then bass on
the rest of the set while she played guitar.  Nathan East joined Tessa
and Katie on vocals and played tambourine.  The song titles appeared to
be "It's a Mistake," "It Makes You Happy," "Run Baby Run," "Leaving Las
Vegas" and a new semi-acoustic ballad about Chance (with Eric playing
lovely slide).  All in all I found her raspy, high voice a bit grating,
although I did like the last, new song quite a bit.  Then,

 A big surprise, and great version, with Sheryl Crow's backing vocals
blending well, and David Sanborn playing a decent solo against
Clapton's soaring, inspired playing.  A real highlight.

Clapton then brought out Mary J. Blige, who brought out two of her
singers and played with the full Clapton band.  She looked every inch
the hip-hop cowgirl, with white-fur lined jeans and a great hat. 
Really good voice, very good performer.  She tried to bring in the
crowd with some success, but there was a lot of catcalling.  This
clearly was not her crowd, and people were extremely rude.  Eric seemed
to love playing with her; he was doing a little shuffle behind her with
a big smile.  I was way up in section 404, and there were several
obnixious people booing and screaming for Dylan.  Since I am primarily
a Dylan fan I was embarrassed that these creeps would be into Bob. 
Mary J. did I think five songs, ending with "You Are Everything to Me."
 It was a much more soulful, R and B flavored music than the other
sets.  I thought it was a nice change-up and fun to see the band work
up a different kind of groove.  I hope she didn't feel the bad vibes
coming from some of the people who weren't sophisticated enough to at
least stay politely quiet instead of making fools of themselves.  Eric
played one good solo on one of her songs, but otherwise played the
sideman, which is a role he has always loved.  Then:

 Eric and the band seated, with Sanborn playing quietly.  Very good,
tight versions.
 A long, slow introduction, and a sound version with good soloing.  The
guest keyboardist (was this D'Angelo?) played two solos, one on an
electric keyboard which was a little too "crunchy" for the song, then a
better one on organ.
 Straightforward, fun version.  Eric had a big smile on his face while
he faced the drummer at the end.
 The more recent, fast version, with Katie Kasson's scat-singing, but
not as dragged out as the 24 Nights version.
 Finally, Eric returns to the full-blown, long electric version. 
Excellent and exciting to hear again.  He didn't end on his trademark
high-notes, but this wasn't the finale of the show.  Already it was a
fantastic concert, and I knew that Bob would come out next....

"Please welcome Bob Dylan!"

Bob looked charmingly ridiculous as always in his thrift-shop black
suit with white-lined pockets and western designs, a narrow tie, black
striped pants and gray/green lizard boots.  He looked great next to
dapper Eric.

A spunky electric version, well played and sung.  Eric did some fills
standing behind Bob, but through most of the set Bob played more lead
than Eric!  He seemed to want to play his best for Eric, and he did
play well - virtually no bum notes, and some real improvising, not just
his two-note trademark solos.

A fun version, not too vast, with classic Bob vocals and a subdued
Clapton solo in the middle.

The expected duet, with Eric singing softly trying not to overpower
Bob.  If anyone other than me cares, they did the lyrics from the Under
the Red Sky version, not the Oh Mercy-era lyrics Eric sings on Pilgrim.
 This may partly explain why Eric kept dropping out and forgetting the
lyrics, laughing all the way.

This may have been a request from Bob to the band, because he seemed to
be showing the chords or something before starting.  A slow version,
not the best I've heard, but with strong vocals.

The third time I've seen Bob do this, and he really nailed it this
time.  Possibly the best Dylan vocals I have heard live since '84, and
really heartfelt.  Clapton also played beautifully.  No solos from him,
but fills that worked wonderfully.  Bob, on the other hand, played the
guitar solo of his life.  Every word was clear, every note was perfect.
 One of the highlights of any concert I've seen.

Bob and Eric ramble back down to the Delta together.  Probably the two
most Robert Johnson-influenced artists still performing.  Was it a
religious experience?  Did it change the world?  No, but it was really
funny!  Bob squeezed out low-note harmonies, sharing the mike with Eric
on every word.  Clapton and Dylan exchanged guitar solos - very, very,
very cool.

Eric hugs Bob, everyone off stage.  Encore:

Just Eric and his band with David Sanborn.  Great, fast version, no
endless drum solo.  Segued into Eric playing a solo blues shuffle while
Bob and Sheryl came back on stage, into

Sheryl on accordion and vocals, Bob on guitar, Eric singing and playing
lead.  A very low key ending, not the big overblown finale I expected. 
It would have been great to hear a screaming Watchtower here, but after
a long, loud great evening this was a nice way to end it.  I was sorry
that Mary J. Blige did not come back out, and I hope it wasn't because
of the audience's rudeness during her set.

3 hours and 20 minutes, with Eric on stage through every song.  A great
night for his band, they adopted to every style really well.  I did
notice that on Bob's songs they were a bit tentative, to make sure they
played everything right.  If they did a few shows in a row it would be
really tight, but as it was it worked well.  This may have been the
case for the other guests, but since I did not know their music well I
couldn't judge it.  On Clapton's stuff they really rocked.

My only complaint was not with the concert, but with members of the
audience, at least those around me.  There were these beer-swilling
screamers who talked through the concert, and the obnoxious guy next to
me brought several harmonicas and blew along on several songs (and blew
dissonantly during Mary J. Blige's set, yelling racist comments while
screaming for Bob to take the stage).  I hated this guy so much I
almost didn't want Bob to show just to upset him.  At the end of the
concert, while he blew his harp along to Bright Lights (actually
encouraged by his evil girlfriend), someone threw paper at him and
tried to pick a fight.  It was hilarious.  Why do some people enjoy
being so rude?  The only thing I could think of is that he was an RIAA
agent hired to ruin people's bootlegs!

A great evening; I can't wait for the VH-1 broadcast.


Review by Josh Steinberg

7:55 PM - Short film about the Crossroads Rehab Centre in Antigua.

7:57 PM - Clapton comes on stage, explains briefly that since the Crossroads 
Rehab Centre won't turn away anyone for lack of finances, this show is a 
fundraiser for that cause.  He explained that the cameras were present for 
VH1, and then promised not to talk anymore.

7:58 PM - Eric Clapton's first set
- My Father's Eyes
- Hoochie Coochie Man
- (? - So Long? - "once had loved me"?)
- Pilgrim
- River Of Tears

8:30 PM - EC brings on David Sanborn to play sax.  He continues to play with 
EC for most of the evening, on and off.
- Going Down Slow

8:36 PM - Sheryl Crow's set; EC and his band back her up, with several 
members of her own band.
- My Favorite Mistake
- If It Makes You Happy
- Run, Baby, Run
- Leaving Las Vegas
- The Difficult Kind

9:05 PM - EC covers Hendrix, and Sheryl Crow decides to duet with him.
-Little Wing

9:13 PM - Sheryl Crow exits, and EC introduces Mary J. Blige.  She is playing 
to an uninterested audience, and does nothing to make them want to listen.  
EC continues to play guitar through her set, although her music only allows 
him one solo.  Mary J. Blige plays about five songs, and then attempts to 
announce that her final song is a cut off her new album.  However, all the 
audience hears is "This is my last song.." and starts to applaud.  She 
finishes the song and storms off stage.

9:41 PM - EC's second set.
- Tears In Heaven (acoustic)
- Change The World (acousic)
- Old Love
- Badge
- Wonderful Tonight
- Layla

10:25 PM - Bob Dylan's set; played with EC and his band.
- Don't Think Twice (It's Alright)
- It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
- Born In Time (duet with EC)
- Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
- Not Dark Yet
- Crossroads (duet with EC)

10:58 PM - OFF

11:00 PM - EC returns for an encore.
- Sunshine Of Your Love
- Bright Lights, Big City (all of the guests except Blige join EC)

11:12 PM - OFF

When I first heard that this was to be a "benefit concert with friends" I 
assumed that I would have to sit through a bunch of artists I didn't like, 
only for EC to pop up in the end for two songs.  Boy, was I wrong.

EC did a strong first set, performing six songs.  He opened up with a strong 
performance of "My Father's Eyes".  Most people I talk to hated his latest 
album, Pilgrim, but I enjoyed it, and was pleased to hear him play songs off 
of it.  He then did a couple blues numbers, which was also enjoyable.  Three 
tracks from Pilgrim followed: "Pilgrim", "River Of Tears", and "Going Down 
Slow".  The highlights of this set were "My Father's Eyes", "River Of Tears", 
and "Pilgrim", which were even more powerful than the album versions with EC 
playing graceful solos during each song.

EC introduced Sheryl Crow, and his band backed her up.  She did bring a 
guitar player of her own, though, and he settled in the back comfortably with 
EC.  I had questioned whether or not Crow would be able to hold her own with 
a backing like this, but she did quite well.  Through her strong vocal 
presence, she made it clear that this portion of the show was "Sheryl Crow 
with that guitar player guy in the background" and not "Eric Clapton with 
some talentless names".  After playing her new single "My Favorite Mistake", 
she lit the audience on fire with a powerful rendition of "If It Makes You 
Happy".  Her most powerful performance came in her next song, "Run, Baby, 
Run" which was the highlight of her set.  Her voice was on fire, the band was 
on fire, and it just worked so well.  After a couple more of her songs, EC 
returned to the front of the stage, and played an amazing cover of "Little 
Wing", singing and playing along with Crow.  She quickly thanked the 
audience, and left the stage.

Mary J. Blige was the next act, and it was the one false note of the evening. 
 This is a crowd of EC fans, and someone so unlike him in musical style was 
not to be welcomed.  Her blend of R&B, hip-hop, and rap was a turn off to the 
audience.  Blige lacked the grace that Crow had, and instead of trying to 
captivate the audience, she screamed out loud noises that made little musical 
sense.  In each song, she promised to "jazz it up" or "slow it down a bit", 
yet each song sounded exactly the same.  EC remained on stage through her 
performance, but his playing could rarely be heard.  A large portion of the 
audience got up for beer, bathroom breaks, t-shirts, anything that would get 
them out of their seats.  The audience reaction was understandable.  For a 
group of EC fans, her combination of synthesizers, keyboards, and drums was 
not to the taste of the group.  (Afterall, if most of them couldn't stomach 
Pilgrim, how can you expect them to take this?)  The mood during EC's and 
Crow's set was one of happiness, fun, and charity; Blige's message was far 
different from theirs, urging women to leave their men.  After what was 
probably five songs, she attempted to annouce that her final song would be a 
selection off her most recent album.  Unfortunately, what the crowd heard was 
"This will be my last song..." and started cheering.  She finished the song, 
and angrily rushed offstage.  Since all of the other artists had chosen to 
perform duets with EC, and Blige did not, that leaves this viewer to believe 
that she left prematurely, or at least earlier than planned.

Meanwhile, the stage crew was busy setting up chairs, and it was obvious that 
it was time for EC's acoustic set.  He first played an emotional version of 
"Tears In Heaven", giving into tears during the chorus.  Following that was 
an upbeat performance of "Change The World" on acoustic guitar, which brought 
a smile back to his face.  After those two songs, the chairs were carried 
offstage, and someone handed EC his electric guitar back.  A graceful 
performance of "Old Love" followed, allowing EC a beautiful solo, and giving 
one to the keyboard player as well.  The EC and George Harrison (who jokingly 
refer to themselves as "ex-husbands-in-law") collaboration "Badge" was next, 
and by the final refrain, everyone was out of their seats.  EC played a 
beautifully tender performance of "Wonderful Tonight", and his backup singer 
had an amazing vocal solo at the end.  EC then played a brief musical number 
that had the audience anticipating what it would lead into; everyone lept to 
their feet when it became "Layla".  The full version, with the instrumental 
ending, was played.

The final guest for the evening was Bob Dylan.  Dylan had performed a show 
with Paul Simon in Arizona a couple nights earlier, and was to perform one in 
Minnesota in a couple nights with Simon again, making his presence here out 
of the way.  Since Dylan had set up his tour with Simon before confirming his 
appearance with EC, that meant that he wanted to play.  Dylan is noted for 
being either really good, or really bad in concert, and tonight he was 
rocking.  Opening with "Don't Think Twice (It's Alright)", the song of his 
that EC covered during Dylan's 30th Anniversary Tribute Concert (dubbed 
"Bobfest" by Neil Young) in 1992.  Although Dylan played more famous numbers 
like "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" and "Not Dark Yet", the best moment was when 
he dueted with EC on "Born In Time", a song Dylan wrote for his 
widely-ignored Under The Red Sky album that EC covered on Pilgrim.  Dylan and 
EC closed the evening with a duet of "Crossroads", which had to be expected 
if the benefit was for the Crossroads Rehab Centre.

Several minutes later, Clapton returned to the stage for a loud and grinding 
rendition of "Sunshine Of Your Love", which had the entire audience singing 
along on their feet.  Afterwards, all of his guests, with the exception of 
Blige (confirming my theory that she left before planned) returned to the 
stage for the final encore.


Review by Mark

Clapton came out and said something about he'd done enough talking already
on all the talk shows (this was a benefit for his rehab facility) and now it
was time to play, and man, did he ever. He  was out of this world. I had
never really been much of a fan, but was sure won over. The show lasted
nearly 4 hours, and Clapton was out there the whole time--either burning
things up on lead, or laying back and modestly supporting Cheryl Crow or
Mary J. Blige. For several numbers the crowd spontaneously lept to its feet
at the end of songs, and joined in some touching sing-alongs for "Tears from
Heaven" and others. The final song before Bob came out was "Layla," which
was an absolute scorcher. (A version of Hendrix' "Little Wing" also tore the
place up). At that point the show had been going on for nearly three hours.
A tough point to bring Dylan in on.

"Don't Think Twice" was a bouncy, countrified version, far different from
Clapton's version at the anniversary concert. It was lively and the crowd
enjoyed it. "It Takes a Lot to Laugh" gave Clapton a chance to get some good
blues licks in, though the overall performance was bumpy. "Leopard Skin
Pillbox Hat" was fun and a little rough around the edges. "Not Dark Yet" was
gorgeous, just like the album version, beautifully done. "Crossroads"
brought the crowd to its feet, but with Bob and Eric singing together--the
voices just didn't mesh well and it never really got off the ground. I was
kinda wishing Bob would just step back and let Clapton take over. That was
the end of the set (with no intermission the whole show), and while I had
gone mostly to see Dylan, I was so blown away by Clapton's performance and
presence that Dylan's arrival was sort of anti-climactic.

After a short break, Clapton came out for a rousing "Sunshine of Your Love,"
then Bob and everyone else came out for "Bright Lights, Big City," which I
wasn't familiar with, but a good closer.

All in all, an outrageous show that left me with a newfound respect and awe
for Clapton. VH1 taped it and will air it July 17th--definitely worth
checking out.


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