Dylan & the Grateful Dead

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

11-17-09

48 Years Later

Dion led the oldies charge with Run Around Sue and the Wanderer. Dion was wearing a 1987 like Dylan-like get-up and two of his mates had the Cowboy Band wardrobe down. They were entertaining. At 8:46, Bob came out behind the organ for a romping Cats opener. Dylan selected fine wardrobe: grey top hat black trim, black leather suit, vest with silver buttons, red shirt and red stripes running down his black pants.

Back in New York City, forty-eight years after he was a hungry hobo with an acoustic, Dylan electrified the Untied Palace, Rev Ike’s fantastic concert venue/ church in Washington Heights. It was Christmas from the Heart as Dylan unraveled the two songs at the top of my list: Baby Blue and Hard Rain. During Baby blue, Dylan held his guitar perpendicular like he was blowing sax. Both classics were performed with clever, sparse arrangements, the focus was on Bob’s riveting vocal interpretations.

Strolling the stage with microphone in one hand and harp in other, Dylan did his Marlon Brando thing during Tweedle Dee & Tweeedle Dum. His singing posture and confidence is incredible. Chest puffed out and thumbs pointing and emphasizing his phrasing, his lead-singer phase is something that shouldn’t be missed. Donnie was on trumpet for Beyond Here Lies Nothing and banjo for John Brown. John Brown was weirder than I ever heard it before. Cold Irons Brown was defragmented and torn apart. I could get use to this powerful version which was put through the meat grinder. The focused, smiling band pounded it out. George Recile is the best drummer. It’s been seven years, did I spell his name right yet? Summer Days in the middle of the set is delectable. Po Boy was snappy on its heels

As I got off the C Train, I marched towards the Palace and listened to Ain’t Talkin. I yearned for it and Dylan delivered the haunting sermon. Thunder on the Mountain rattled the church. This was my third time seeing Sexton this tour – he keeps upping his game. I can’t say enough for Dylan’s vocals and showmanship as he strolled the stage and plays harp on the set ender: Ballad of a Thin Man. I don’t know what’s happening and that was my 101st Dylan show.

Monday, October 19, 2009

10-18-09 Las Vegas


10-18-09

I've been to the East and I've been to the West and I've been all around the world and I've seen Bob Dylan perform 100 times.
The Joint, at the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas was the sight of my 100th Dylan concert. My first Dylan concert was in Buffalo on July 4 1986 in Orchard Stadium. The Grateful Dead opened for Dylan and blew me away with a Cold Rain & Snow>Fire On the Mountain>Samson and Delilah. I wasn't a huge Dylan fan at the time. I remember he was wore a vest with no shirt and Tom Petty& the Heartbreakers was his band. I left the concert early, hitched a ride to the airport, and made my plane a minute before the 747 began to taxi on down the runway.

The Hard Rock was the perfect venue for my anniversary. Photos of legendary musicians surrounded the casino and classic rock filled the air, as well as that sun-tan lotion scent is pumped into swank casinos. It was a serene contrast to the usual clink-clanking and bell ringing of slot machines that must be endured in most gambling dens. The Hard Rock also attracts many beautiful women in snug-fitting designer dresses who have a predilection for flaunting their cleavage as they strut around in high heels. The Joint was a classy yet banal venue with a long bar inside. You could enjoy your favorite cocktail from the bar without missing a howl from Dylan. There was a dance floor in front of the stage with limited seating in the back and some VIP balconies.

It was decided that the band would wear beige jackets with their black pants. Dylan appeared in his usual black suit with grey trim and matching black cowboy hat. He opened on keyboards with a zesty Leopard-Skin Pillbox, possibly the best Pillbox I've ever seen. Bob's artistic mode was adventurous. He glided over to the center of the stage with his harp in hand and serenaded us with Man in Me. His vocals rumbled The Joint and his harp blasts pierced ears. Donnie Herron blew some nice trumpet riffs. I believe the last time I saw Man in Me was at the Orange County Fair in Middletown, N.Y. back in September of 1988. Bob picked some electric with the guitar neck held high on Don't Think Twice. Sexton and Dylan had a freewheeling musical exchange on the final solo. The energy barreled forward into a carefree romp through Beyond Here Lies Nothin'. Spirit on the Water slowed things down, then the night got weird, in a satisfying way.

I eased my way up front through the sparse crowd which may not have even numbered 1000. This poor turnout did little for the audience X-factor on the music, but it made everything seem extemely mysterious and surreal. Dylan went back to lead singer mode during a haunting Forgetful Heart which was even more stripped down and raw than the studio track. It was my first Forgetful Heart, and a performance that will forever be etched in my brain. Dylan stood his ground center stage leading His Band through Tweedle Dee as Stu and Charlie traded leads. A disorganized Beyond the Horizon followed. Dylan can't seem to make this one stick. A new arrangement of Cold Irons Bound was admirable as Bob sang and played harp center stage. His hand held mic looked like a tiny club as he stalked the stage like a caveman on the hunt.

Though I was thrilled to see it, Tryin' to Get To Heaven sounded a bit lost at first, but after Dylan's head jarring harp solo, the final two verses flowed manificently. This performance magnified everything that is great about live Dylan. After walking the tightrope, the band blasted off on a sure thing, Highway 61. This rendition had it all: soul, funk, blues, tempo changes, and deep knee bends from the maestro - Cowboy Band Rock and Roll. A rare and sensational Po Boy ensued. Dylan's cadence and vocal delivery was flawless. Thunder on the Mountain roared with it's usual majesty. I was awe-struck during Dylan's presentation of Ballad of a Thin Man as he strolled the cat walk and sang with as much power and commitment as I 've ever heard. The encores came off like they do every night. Dylan sprouted off some extra comments about Stu Kimball after introducing him, something about Stu playing baseball, but I was too liquored-up at the time to remember.

One hundred shows. Like so many before it was brilliant, mysterious and weird, leaving me hungry for more. Number 101 will be at the United Palace in NYC, unless I get the itch and head up to Boston the week before.






Sunday, October 18, 2009

10-17-09 Phoenix and photos of Sedona












Arriving three days prior to the Bob Dylan Show, I hastily split Phoenix in a shuttle van heading north with six strangers. Our ninety-five minute jaunt featured cactus and tumbleweed and tumbleweed and cactus. We blew by Carefree Highway, and then passed a town called Bumble Bee on our way over Mingus Mountain, elevation 4000 feet. Freefalling down the backside of Mingus, somewhere near Cottonwood, the Red Rocks of Sedona beckoned on the horizon. For two days, I basked in the breathtaking beauty of Sedona as the sun illuminated the Red Rocks and shadows danced on the mesas. With my soul and spirit soaring I returned to the Valley of the Relentless Sun where Phoenix was experiencing record breaking autumn heat – 100 degrees.

Dylan performed at the Phoenix Memorial Coliseum, situated in the gut of the Arizona State Fair. I didn’t observe any advertisements for the Dylan show on the fairgrounds, it was swallowed up by the carnival hoopla: Ferris Wheel, freaks, barkers, neon lights, wild rides, candy apples, cotton candy, snow cones, Indian fry bread, Polish sausages, Cajun corn dogs. The new culinary delights were deep fried scorpions and smoked lizard on a stick.

I waltzed in around 7:06 as Dylan and His Band were concluding a Cat’s in the Well opener. The sound was thundering and the thick howl of Dylan’s voice exploded into every crevice of the coliseum, but by the time I found my seat, two more tunes expired, Lay Lady Lay and Baby Tonight. Dylan appeared like a panther in black cowboy hat and his band looked sleek in shiny black leather jackets. It was fabulous to hear and see Charlie Sexton on lead guitar, again.

Donnie let his trumpet blow as I caught my first Beyond Here Lies Nothing. Love Sick was a thrill in the sixth hole, and Charlie’s crackling leads made If You Ever Go to Houston delectable. Dylan was prancing around and jiggling behind the organ (first three songs he was on the electric gee-tar). Dylan swaggered to the center of the stage, harp in hand, and delivered an animated lead-singer production of Workingman’s Blues. He waggled his finger at the crowd as he preached the chorus, demanding his boots and shoes. Thunder on the Mountain was wild and wooly, Sexton tore it up. Staring at Thunder Mountain in Sedona for two days, I looked forward to seeing Thunder, but also realized the show was about over. Dylan wrapped up his brief fairground outing with Ballad of a Thin Man and the same old encore trifecta. Concert over at 8:30, it was obvious to this observer that Dylan had to adhere to a time slot restriction. It was a shame because he had his mojo working.

With my old NYC friend Jim and his lovely wife Susan, and a drummer named Hutch, we sucked back multiple rounds of Hoegaarden at the Loose Leaf. We headed back to Jim’s Phoenix pad where his magnificent twenty-seven pound pussycat, Rick, gave me the creeps and an evil eye all night. Apparently, Rick has attacked two guests before leaving behind a bloody trail and one black eye. I was eyeing my 100th Dylan show in Vegas the following night, so I fed Rick treats until 2:00 PM and petted him with tender care. I’m pleased to report that I’m at The Mirage enjoying a Champagne Buffet Brunch at this very moment.






Saturday, July 25, 2009

LAKEWOOD 7-23-09



THE VILLAGE BEAST, BLUE CLAWS, HARD RAIN AND WO-HOP

Unable to sleep at 4 AM on July 23 2009, I decided to officially count all the Dylan shows I’ve seen. I discovered that later that night would be my 98th Dylan show.

I met my friend Stan, The Village Beast, at the Blarney Stone by Grand Central. We hopped into his Infinity, put on the Bluesville station and cracked open a couple of frosty ones. The rain kicked in as we headed west, cross town, and through the Lincoln Tunnel. This took a while, but everything about this day was timeless.
I loaded a Dylan show from Memphis 2006 into the CD player and the Village Beast sparked a bone. We were on the road again, slicing through the swamps and industrial wastelands of the Garden State. The precipitation escalated from a pesky drizzle to a hardcore pour. We were prepared for a monsoon and prayed for a “Hard Rain.”

By the time we reached Lakewood, the parking lots were filled and shuttle buses were offered from distant lots. This didn’t fit into our plans, so we improvised a parking lot behind the business complex across from the ball yard. Stan produced two yellow rain coats from his trunk. I grabbed the sleek looking Puma jacket, leaving Stan with a dirty mangy jacket, a suitable look for a Village Beast. In the near distance, we heard Mellencamp on stage, but we opted to stay in our makeshift lot and dance in the rain to “Slow Train” and other Dylan sermons.

Fifteen minutes before Dylan and His Band took the centerfield stage, we entered First Energy Ballpark, home of the Blue Claws. With the rain tailing off, the Cowboy Band strutted out in black leather suits with matching black cowboy hats. But Dylan was the one with all the beautiful clothes. He appeared center stage in a dazzling lavender suit with a white top hat featuring a rather large brim. He looked like The Joker, as played by Cesar Romero. Bob was crackling with fidgety energy, a tell tale sign that we were in for a whopping good time. The outfield was muddy, and you know how the Maestro loves to play in the slop.

Dylan belted out a rugged rendition of “Watching the River Flow,” immediately separating himself from preconceived expectations of those who never seen him before, although the crowd loved it. They adored “Girl From the North Country” even more - a delightful surprise. Dylan loped into a lengthy version of “Lonesome Day Blues.” My focus was distracted by a striking Jersey girl who was attracted to me. She began rubbing, hugging and kissing me as Dylan broke into “Chimes of Freedom.” I managed to enjoy both situations, but Chimes was the object of my desire.

Full attention was back on Dylan as he whipped up another raucous “Tweedle Dee” in the fifth spot. I cut a rug with the Village Beast on the right field grass, where the Blue Claws roam (local Minor League team). Then, Dylan summoned “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” Sweet destiny! The lavender bard howled out the mystical words against a funky arrangement - all old things became new again. Everything made sense. I couldn’t ask for more.

“Honest With Me” sizzled before we all sang a little bit of the Workingman Blues with Bob. A monster of a ballad, “Workingman Blues #2” mutates in majesty each time Dylan performs it. Luckily, it’s been my fate to catch this of late. In between the visceral and tender crooning of verses, Dylan breathed a fiery harp solo, and closed it out with another. The band smoked, but this was a one-man show. Bob would grind his organ for most of the solos down the stretch. Amazed by Dylan’s voice on Workingman’s Blues, Stan placed his arm on my shoulder and said, “Hey Howie, I didn’t realize we were seeing Pavarotti tonight.”

Just like I’d seen it go down in Allentown, Dylan closed the bash out swinging: “Highway 61 Revisited,” “ Ain’t Talkin’,” “Thunder on the Mountain.” Dylan boogie-woogied on the organ American Bandstand style. Restless and animated, Dylan offered up amusing gestures. Every now and then he swatted at his ear like he was trying to eradicate an elusive mosquito. After plunking the final chord of Thunder, Dylan turned his outstretched arms towards the skies, palms out, and looked out into the crowd. How good am I? The master of illusion made all our worries disappear. Satisfaction lingered in the air over Blue Claw field. The encores were solid. The band sounded as porous as ever during a lengthy Rolling Stone instrumental interlude.

We stayed in the moment as long as possible shuffling around in back of Stan’s car while digging on Dylan’s new CD. Joey D, a bulky Jersey type of guy, joined us for a brew and a jig. His befuddled date watched in horror. I turned it up a notch by popping in a Jerry Garcia Band disc from the Roseland Theatre circa 1983. We were electrified for another hour. The fourth part of the day was almost gone - the red cooler was emptied and Joey D and his terrified date split. I headed to Wo Hop with the Village Beast. After a ninety minute drive, Stan eased his black Infinity into a narrow spot by a stack of garbage bags on Mott Street. The car clock said 3 AM. At 3:06, we were scoffing down spare ribs, pork dumplings, steak har kew, and chicken ding with almonds.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

7-14-09: All Old Things Become New Again





DYLAN IN THE LAND OF COCA COLA
(Though he’s currently featured in a Pepsi commercial)

Reading David Foster Wallace’s Consider The Lobster as I sipped Australian white wine from a paper cup at a table for one, I was oblivious to the stressed commuters pouring into the into the Port Authority at 9:15. I glanced up at the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings. The senate was grilling her, she had a pained expression. Feeling extremely content and anticipating adventure, I headed for terminal 69,destination: Allentown - off to see Bob Dylan and his Cowboy Band. The white wine I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I grabbed one more mini bottle for dessert.

It was a gorgeous day and my Greyhound journey flowed smoothly until we were abut ten miles from Easton, Pennsylvania, home to former Heavyweight Champ, Larry Holmes. A shadowy character in a pork pie hat, dark clothing and sunglasses, grabbed his large duffel bag and moved to the back of the bus. Seated a couple of rows behind me, he rummaged through his bag of trickery and began talking to himself. I heard the sounds of compressed air slowly escaping from canisters and then I heard a sustained blast of aerosol spray. A vile smell filled the air, something like Red Bull meeting Aqua Velva in a kiln.

Strange got stranger. Around the time we reached Easton, two pretty girls, exchange students from Romania on their way to Harrisburg, struck up a friendly conversation with me, asking me 99 questions about America. I suggested that if they really wanted to dig America, they should join me, Willie, Mellencamp, and Dylan at Coca Cola Ballpark. Alas, they had never heard of baseball or Dylan. Fortuitously, Allentown was just minutes away, but I was stuck in a swamp of madness. I had two Romanian angels in front of me and a hallucinating hell cat behind me on the verge of passing out from inhaling mystery fumes. Ain’t that America?

I bought a ticket for the sold out concert at the box office for $73. A reliable source informed me that David Bromberg and his Angel Band were seen entering Coca Cola Park as spectators. Willie had just taken the stage as I joined the festivities. Willie did his thang, briskly unloading his greatest hits and paying homage to Hank Williams with a medley that included Jambalaya, Hey Good Lookin’ and Move It On Over. My favorite tune from the Willie set was Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.

Last Minor League Ballpark tour, I didn’t fully soak in how lucky I was to be on a baseball diamond for the Bob Dylan Show. Coca Cola Park was a glorious vision. The infield was barricaded, but I got as close as possible to home plate and wondered if I could still rip one down the line and clear the left field fence, 336 feey away, or if I’d launch one uo to the clouds, about 250 feet from the plate, a can of corn for the centerfielder who would be positioned where the stage was. I squatted in the visitor’s dugout by myself for ten minutes before I was evicted by a stunned yet pleasant security guard. We bonded over some Minor League chatter. I was pleased to learn that Shelly Duncan had a great first half for the Yankee’s triple affiliate in Scranton. Shelly at the All-Star break: 22 Dingers 68 RBIs.

Every nook and cranny of Coca Cola Park was crammed with advertising: AT&T, Dr. Pepper, Martin’s Potato Chips, Toyota, PNC Bank, Rothrock.com and Verizon competed for the working man’s bucks on the right field fence. I rested my beer in a News 69 cup holder and stretched out in the Empire Blues Shield on-deck circle. Looking away from the Stars and Stripes dangling in the centerfield breeze, a sign in left reminded about the other white meat: Pork Always A Grand Slam! Aint that America, something to see.

JC Mellencamp followed Willie in the line-up. The locals dug his groove, but JCM is too Plain Jane for my taste - a poor man’s Tom Petty. I enjoyed a chicken taco and a couple two, three more beers. Everybody in Coca Cola Park seemed to be in great spirits as the sun set over the Lehigh Valley.

At 9:15 PM the lights went out. Standing next to the barricade by the side of the stage, I saw security lead the Cowboy Band across the neatly manicured outfield grass to the stage. Shuffling behind them like a toy soldier was Bob Dylan - red striped black pants, black coat with silver buttons, red tie and black hat. I scurried closer to the left side of the stage. From my vantage point, I could only see Dylan. He looked like the Jack of Hearts standing there with his electric guitar strapped around his slender torso during Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat. A phenomenal version of Don’t Think Twice with three solid guitar solos followed. This was the best Dylan has sounded on guitar since the late ‘90s and the Maestro’s voice was a rumbling force to be reckoned with. The music thundered and a subtle echo added ambiance to Dylan’s voice, or was my mind just playing tricks on me?

The Cowboy Band blazed through Rolled and Tumbled kicking off a slew of successive songs featuring Dylan’s latest and greatest. Spirit on the Water worked in the clean-up spot and Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum ripped on its heels. By this time, I was prancing on the dirt in foul territory between home and first. Children and parents were dancing by their picnic blankets. Tweedle might be Dylan’s most underrated song and it was proceeded by the crème de la crème, Working Man’s Blues #2. Dylan voice was pesky and poignant - a tip of the hat to the industrious laborers of Allentown, a city that’s seen better days. Sensational Performance. ‘Nuff said.

After stranding us in the city that never sleeps with women who give us the creeps, Dylan warned us about travel to Houston. Dylan then led the charge down Highway 61, firing up His band and His crowd. Serving up “hog-eyed grease in a hog eyed town” Ain’t Talkin’ mystified. Masterpiece after Masterpiece, Dylan never had to retreat to his past as the most important musical figure of the 20th Century, because he’s the king in Modern Times. Even for a legend like Willie Nelson, opening for Bob’s gotta be a humbling experience.

The effusive praise continues. Thunder on the Mountain was crazed - each jam winding and wondrous, each delectable syllable crooned with meaningful inflection. Like a Rolling Stone was encore #1. Bob proclaimed he’s the king during a maximum impact Jolene - hotter than the studio track. Watchtower closed the night out in deafening fashion. The crowd went berserk, relishing the maestro’s mojo and begging for more, but Bob gave it all he had. I departed the same way I came, by foot, a two mile stroll down the lonesome Airport Road listening to Planet Waves on my CD walkman. I passed an endless graveyard with no tombstones. Each grave was marked with an ID plaque and a planted American flag.It appeared the dead were still clutching on to Old Glory. I retired to room 216 at the Red Roof Inn, but didn’t get much sleep. I had a restless fever burning in my brain.









Monday, June 8, 2009

CAT TALES VOLUME ONE: KAHUNAVILLE











6-08-04 Five Years Ago
KAHUNAVILLE

After rising to the rumbling rhapsody of delivery trucks, MTA buses and jackhammers, I scored a cup of java and went on-line to check the progress of Dylan’s tour. A few nights earlier, I’d seen Bob Dylan and His Band on Indian land, at the Mohegan Sun, but just like so many times before, I yearned for more. On this night Dylan was playing two and-a-half hours away in Wilmington. And in the thick of the moment, I booked a room at the Wilmington Days Inn and hailed a cab to the Port Authority.

As I Boarded the Greyhound bound for Delaware, a steady stream of warm air blew out the air-conditioning vents. This was unsettling because the temperature outside was already 90 degrees at noon. There was another Greyhound headed for the same destination an hour later. Willing to wait for that bus, I asked the driver if there was a problem with the AC. Ralph Kramden assured me the AC would kick in once we were moving, and I believed him. Hardy har har.








Snaking through the Lincoln Tunnel and heading down the Jersey Turnpike, hot air continued to circulate through the bus. The sun beat down upon us through windows that didn’t open. Some passengers had difficulty breathing, and large people perspired profusely. The air kept getting hotter and the stench worsened. You could have fried an egg in the aisle. As we passed Perth Amboy, the folly of this voyage taunted me. I was a damn fool. I turned down a free ticket for the Yankee game for that night to put myself through this torture.

Liberated from the grueling Greyhound incident, I sucked the Molson out of a couple of tall boys in my squatter’s suite at the Days Inn before heading down to the Kahuna Summerstage to land a GA ticket. I had never been to Wilmington before. My only association with this lovely city was as a place where I’d send monthly checks to pay off credit card bills. A cab dropped me off in a lot that had a sparkling Minor League ballpark by the riverfront, but to my surprise, Dylan was playing in the warehouse to my left which was called Kahunaville. The Kahunaville compound looked like a vacated Home Depot with Hawaiian Island-themed décor inside. It was a restaurant, bar and video arcade all rolled into one. One had to walk through this whacky establishment to get to the sliding doors which opened to paradise unforeseen – the Kahuna Summerstage.







Beyond the sliding doors I stepped on to a rectangular wooden deck that had the intimacy of a neighbor’s patio, yet looked long enough to serve as a makeshift runway for planes – a fantastic setting fit for a Jay Gatsby gala. The stage sat at the far end of the runway. Scantily-clad Kahuna girls wearing hula skirts and bikini tops were selling plastic bottles of Budweiser and test tubes shots of sugary booze-laden concoctions. Fading west, the sun had a peculiar day. For the first time in 112 years, Venus orbited between the sun and Earth. During the Venus Transit, one could see Venus cross the face of the sun. Based on historical precedent, this event was supposed to trigger a major breakthrough in human consciousness.



I strutted my way to the front of the stage, unfettered. Dylan would come prancing out any minute now. Suddenly, my decision to come to Delaware was a stroke of genius driven by destiny. Dylan took the stage with the swagger of a gun-slinging cowboy busting through the swinging doors of an old time Rocky Mountain tavern. Dressed in a slick black suit with red trimming, Dylan looked to be about 6’ 5” beneath his behemoth tan cowboy hat. His Band launched into a “Johnny B. Goode” like version of “To Be Alone with You.” Dylan’s voice was vigorous from the start: “I always thank the lawwwwd, when my working day is through; I get sweet rewaaaard/ to be alone with youuuu."

Face to face with the maestro, my right hand laid upon the stage. Observing the action on the right of the stage stood Wilmington resident and performer extraordinaire, David Bromberg. Dylan waltzed into “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” Oh the humanity! Plunking away at his keyboard, the venerated words grumbled from Dylan in short bursts in step to Garnier’s thumping bass. When he sang “The sky too is folding over you/ It’s all over now baby blue,” his voice switched to a higher register mimicking Larry Campbell’s serene steel pedal picking. The setting sun bid farewell, a slight breeze blew in from the Christina River. Dylan puffed out an extended lyrical harp solo.

Dylan and His Band romped into “Lonesome Day Blues.” I chuckled at the thought of my Greyhound fiasco as I double shuffled on the wooden deck. Dylan’s voice scowled and growled emphatically. His vocals were so over the top I was expecting to wake up and realize it was all I dream. When I went to bed the night before, the notion of being at this concert had never crossed my mind. In my dreams, Dylan would come off stage, shake my hand and invite me up to sing a song with the band. But in Kahunaville, the intensity of Dylan’s vocals continued to escalate, “Im forty miles from the millll, I’m dropping it into oooooooo-verrrr-drivvve ah.”

The rarely played “If Not For You” followed. Wilmington was home to Dylan’s first wife Sara. Cosmic forces surrounded us in Kahunaville. A crush of frat boys crowded up near the front. I retreated from the stage to dance a few jigs, drink booze, and frolic with the Kahuna girls.

The rest of the concert zipped by in fleeting glory. “It’s Alright Ma” was the finest rendition Dylan ever played with this band. Larry sizzled a short cittern solo before handing off to Stu Kimball for a quick guitar blast. Five decades after he conceived “It’s Alright Ma,” Dylan’s lyrics resonated anew. His enthusiasm and attentive phrasing was remarkable. As night magnificently unfolded, Dylan alternated aggressive rock and blues like “Highway 61” with slower waltzes like “Bye and Bye.” We booed and hissed at the Bush Administration during “Masters of War.”Under a moonlit sky, I watched cats swing dance to “Summer Days,” and bow to their leader during “Like a Rolling Stone.” As the crowd filed out, the wooden deck was still shaking from the thunderous “Watchtower finale.

Cool air flowed on the bus ride back to Manhattan the next morning. I decided to drop my vendetta against Greyhound; after all, Greyhound was born in Dylan’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota. I read about the Yankee game in USA Today. While I was wiggling away to “Watchtower,” Mariano Rivera was nailing down a 2-1 Yankee victory over the Colorado Rockies. There would be many more nights of Mariano working his voodoo on the mound of Yankee Stadium, but Dylan rocked Kahunaville one night, and one night only. There will be another Venus Transit in 2012. A 3-alarm fire burnt Kahunaville to the ground on April, 14 2008 - Dylan will play Kahunaville nevermore.








Saturday, May 30, 2009

TTL

TOGTHER TROUGH LIFE IN NEW YORK CITY


I ascended to the streets of Chinatown from the subway below listening to Together Through Life for the first time. On my way to work, I was wearing my traditional Dylan CD release attire: business suit, Jerry Garcia tie, headphones. I passed by folks wearing surgical masks – Pig Flu Pandemonium debuted in New York, although this mysterious virus didn’t faze me, I’ve been through worse on Dylan CD release days.

I moved to The City in September of 1997. On my second day as a copier salesman at Alpha Business Machines, Time Out Of Mind hit the shelves. I split work early and scored Dylan’s latest at Nobody Beats The Wiz in Herald Square. Strutting down Sixth Avenue clutching a CD walkman in my right hand, Dylan’s voice pounded through my head: “Walkin’ through streets that are dead/ Walkin’ with you in my head/ My feet are so tired, my brain is so wired/ and the clouds are weepin’.” Dylan was The Man, again, and so began my journey in New York.

Still selling office equipment to CFOs in the Garment District, I purchased Love & Theft at the same Wiz, on the morning of 9/11 after watching a hijacked plane fly into the second tower as I stood on the corner of 29th st. and Sixth Ave. In days that followed, Love & Theft was the only thing that made sense. I quit my day job.

No Direction Home, The Bootleg Series Volume 7, came out a day after Katrina, the day the levees gave way and Lake Pontchartrain poured into New Orleans. Nobody died from a natural disaster or terrorism on that September morn in 2008 when Tell Tale Signs, The Bootleg Series Volume 8, was released, but Wall Street suffered its worst week ever. In an ill-timed career move, I had just become a salesman again in the summer of 2008. My commissions decreased, but at least I could live on rice and beans and adore “The Girl from the Red River Shore.”

After a month of listening, I’m apathetic towards Together Through Life – it’s a bore compared to “The Girl from the Red River Shore.” Usually, after romancing a new Dylan album for a month, I become more excited by them every day. Even albums I didn’t fully appreciate at first, like Down in the Groove and Under the Red Sky, became essential listening. Not hearing them three times a day triggered separation anxiety. In the six months that followed the release of Modern Times in 2006, I listened to it start to finish at least 200 times – each listen more rewarding than the one before.

I’ll keep on digging Together Through Life, enjoying it for what it is, but wishing it were more. Lacking the unforgettable, none of these songs are candidates to break into Dylan’s top 100 greatest jingles of all-time. There are charming lines like, “I’m listening to Billy Jo Shaver/ I’m reading James Joyce/ Some people they tell me I got the blood of the land in my voice.” However, there’s not one song on here that lyrically stands up to the best of Modern Times: “Ain’t Talkin,” “Thunder on the Mountain,” “Workingman’s Blues,” “Nettie Moore.”

Here’s the song by song skinny:

1. Beyond Here Lies Nothing – A rumba, West Side Story meets Thunder on the Mountain – Dylan howls, “Oh how I love ya pretty baby.” Yes! But mysteriously, the rest of the song just crawls along in repetitive fashion – nothing exciting lyrically – Thunder on the Mountain ending. I want to like this song more than I do.

2. Life’s Hard – A haunting memoir with a slick musical arrangement. Dylan’s vocal performance is mesmerizing.

3. My Wife’s Hometown – Dylan’s voice is seething, bravo. Unfortunately, the arrangement has too much accordion and not enough vigor. Think of the power of his blue remakes from Modern Times.

4. If You Ever Been To Houston - Dylan’s voice drags, the accordion is too dominant and the riff is boring. There’s some good lines wasted in this Texas half step. I think I hear Robert Hunter’s influence on the lyrics.

5. Forgetful Heart – At last, we get that haunting “Love Sick” kind of thing going on. Together Through Life takes off.

6. Jolene – Informal ‘50s rock with Dylan’s voice more time-battered than before. Sweet and sour simplicity. The band clicks into a nice jam as the song fades out – a shame.

7. These Dreams of You – Love the melody – sangria for the soul – Romance in Durango-ish. Hildalgo’s accordion fits like a glove. Sparse lyrics that kick back like spicy salsa: “All old things become knew again/ But that moment might have come and gone…shadows dance upon the wall/ Shadows that seem to know it all/ Am I too blind to see? Is my heart playing tricks on me?”

8. Shake Mama – Wow! Phenomenal power. I envision Dylan: black cowboy hat, truculent smirk, wide stance behind the organ. His down-singing vocal inflections are captured in all their booming, earth rattling glory. Another rocker that fades out too soon in my opinion. Together Through Life resembles an hour of Theme Time Radio – a university of cultural perversity.

9. I Feel A Change Coming On – One of the most upbeat Dylan tunes, puts a smile on my face.

10. It’s All Good – A cross between “TV Talkin’ Blues” and “You Wanna Ramble.” An entertaining a romp, but it seems like a path Dylan has gone down before, it comes off a touch mechanical.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Together Through Life

It's day two, I'm extremely pleased with the new album. Shake Shake Mama!

Monday, April 13, 2009

4-12-09 AMSTERDAM





HAPPY EASTER 4-12-09








Football hooligans partied on outside of the Bijlmer Sports Complex as mild mannered Bobsters filed into the Heineken Music Hall for Dylan’s final act in Amsterdam. “Gotta Serve Somebody” electrified pronto, though it was a truncated version like the openers from the other nights. “Don’t Think Twice” was well received, Dylan was swaying and plucking his organ gospel style. The Cowboy Band emerged from hibernation during a romping “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine.” “Million Miles” was a surprise and a performance that exceeded expectation. Dylan laid down swampy chords, recreating that bluesy late night feel of Time Out Of Mind. This band’s is at its best on this kind of number – one that hits a nerve and evokes a hazy feeling. “Stuck Inside of Mobile” was the right follow-up. Dylan seemed to be enjoying himself for the first time during this Dutch run.

The reworked Sugar Baby was an ugly baby, as was Beyond the Horizon. If this Horizon can be pulled off by Dylan, he’s still a million miles away. In between the ugly babies, Dylan goosed his Dutch fans with “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum,”stepping to the microphone to do his lead singer thing while side-swiping his harp. Quality entertainment. I need to go off on a bit of a rant here, I have never seen audiences as disinterested and talking amongst themselves like the ones here in Amsterdam. I tried to avoid their yappng, but they were yapping all over the place - like kids during recess. I had to vent, because this went on for three shows and was especially disturbing during the slower songs.

Getting past the horizon, amends was made with a focused Desolation Row. Bob really locked into this one. A huge performance, but I was struck again by the lack of courage or conviction from the axe men. Moving forth with a crashing but meaningful blow, the band blasted Tough Mama again. Dylan improvised most of the words as the band prematurely evacuated, ending too quickly. By himself, with a little organ plinking, Bob sang the final “Crestfallen” verse.

The band redeemed themselves with a perverse ”Highway 61”. The Cowboy Band had some wild call and response exchanges that had Tony Garnier crying – truly unique improve - this is a show you’re gonna wanna track down. “Ain’t Talking” was beyond reproach - an Easter Sunday treat. “Thunder on the Mountain” was out of control – instead of pussy footing around, the guitarists went out on a limb and interacted with Dylan. LARS was powerful, and the three song encore just was. Amsterdam is such a phenomenal city, but the chatty cretins who came to these shows didn’t know what they were missing. Even Dylan seemed dismayed, after acknowledging the audience in typical band line-up fashion, he half heartedly pointed at them, spun away and quickly disappeared.


4-11-09 AMSTERDAM













AMSTERDAM 4-11-09






Round two at Heineken Music Hall was ragged early on. A short sloppy Maggie’s Farm was followed by a Mr. Tambourine which was enjoyable, but would have been better if the lyrics weren’t butchered. Man in the Long Black Coat caught me off guard, especially the swampy shuffling arrangement that ended with a sublime fadeout. The Cowboy Band donned black suits with shiny black leather jackets for the occasion. Dylan looked like the leader of a ragtime band with his white top hat, matching suit and black striped tie. It was a larger, more enthusiastic audience than the night before, though both shows were sold out. On both nights extra tickets were available at the box office, I was the chief beneficiary of the pre show tickets on both nights.

Dylan and his band wreaked havoc with a savage “When the Levee Breaks.” Levee is more explosive each time they play it – a battering ram of a jam. The performance continued with some an impressive trifecta: “When the Deal Goes Down” – “Things Have Changed” – “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.” The crowd roared its approval for Hattie. The surprise of the night was a supercharged macho jaunt through “Tough Mama.” Dylan adlibbed “Tough Mama, put your arms around me wide like a circle around the sun…Tough Mama, must be time to get on the road again.” “Working Man Blues” was so great the night before, Dylan did it again, wouldn’t mind seeing it once tonight. “I can live on rice and beans.”

Glorious sun rained down on Amsterdam during the afternoon hours, every citizen poured out into the streets packing cafes and picking tulips and just walking around. After several pints and an intensive coffee shop session, I stood outside a church and listened to the clanging of the bells at 3PM. I think I could live in this city for a few months. Anyway, the reason I’ve gone off on this little rant is that the daily pleasure I experienced began to take its toll on me. I could barely stand for the remainder of the concert – my ability to review the rest of the show was severely hampered. After dutifully remaining for the show’s entirety, I took the Metro back to Hotel Linda, hiked up the stairs and engaged in some rejuvenating sleep. Looking forward to the funky finale tonight. Happy Easter.

4-10-09 Amsterdam

Amsterdam
Love Sick 4-10-09




Barely avoiding the pounding hail, I filed into the Heineken Music Hall. It’s a fine venue with a scuffed up dance floor and plenty of room to flop around. Long bars surrounded the perimeter – each attendee had his or her own bartender. There were even some Human Heinekens - a pair of young men selling brew with mini-kegs strapped to their backs. Anything goes in Amsterdam, times are tough, this is the place where the weird go to get stranger. Well almost anything goes, a no smoking sign was flashed upon the wall.


“When I Paint My Masterpiece” was gold in the second spot. Bob’s down-singing thing is back - his vocal inflections grumbling into a powerful rumble. Looking spiffy, the maestro was dressed in black with matching green shirt and tie. I thought of Garcia and Danko during “Masterpiece.” I don’t wish I was back in the land of Coca-cola just yet, but I might after 72 hours more of debauchery. The European flavor continued with a fine “Boots of Spanish Leather.” The Bob Dylan Show’s changing black backdrop was tasteful.


“Rolled and Tumbled” sounded a little out of whack and “Po Boy” barely recovered, though I was excited to see “Po Boy” for the first since it was debuted on 4-30-05. “Working Man Blues” shined, Dylan vocals were on for this recession special. Bob continued to flaunt his recent masterpieces with a stomping “High Water.” Donnie strummed some banjo as Tony and George thundered and rattled the arena all night. The axe men were competent and supportive, but they didn’t sparkle on anything. “Love Sick” was a gift – the Red Light District Special, the beat was pounded with gritty precision – catapulting into another bone rattling ride down “Highway 61.” The mystical roll of fate continued with “Nettie Moore.”


My friends, that portion of the concert was delicious. However, there seemed to be a lot of talking in the crowd. “Summer Days” was hot and “Like a Rolling Stone” was mundane. The crowd was lame, mustering meager enthusiasm to bring Bob back for the encore. I actually enjoyed “Spirit on the Water” in its new spot as second encore. Jet lagged and emotionally exhausted, I headed straight back to Hotel Linda, where I will be hunkered-down for this three night run. There’s three steep flights of stairs leading to my room, a highway to hell. If anyone wants to visit, you have to sign a medical waiver before you start hiking up the stairs, and you may cough up a spleen before you get there. My reward once I get there is a 6x8 foot room with a cot size bed, dirty red carpet and enough dust for a Woody Guthrie ballad. I did get some much needed sleep, though. It’s a new morning and Bob’s just begun leaving his greasy trail.