B0B DYLAN AND PATTI SMITH ON
TOUR, DECEMBER 1995
Date: Wed, 20 Mar 1996 12:47:25 GMT
From: Mitch Gart (mg@ASP.CAMB.INMET.COM) Subject: December tour review (long)
There's an excellent piece (new info!) in the new Fi Magazine (no relation to Fiona), April 1996 issue on the December 1995 tour of Patti & Bob. The issue costs $5.95, and is mainly for audiophiles, but if you can't get it, here's, ahem, "excerpts" (all typos are scanner/OCR induced):
---------------------------------------------- B0B DYLAN AND PATTI SMITH ON
TOUR, DECEMBER 1995
by Paul Williams
"All you guys together is great too!" Thus spoke Patti Smith to her audience in a col- lege gym on December 1, 1995, in Danbury, Connecticut. She was responding to an au- dience member who shouted out how great
it was to see her and Television founder Tom Verlaine and Patti Smith Group veter- ans Lenny Kaye and Jay Dee Daugherty on
stage together. The shouter was presumably also anticipating seeing Patti Smith and Bob Dylan together later on at this, their first appearallce on the same stage ever in the course of their two legendary rock-and- roll biographies to date. "Mine have been like Verlaine's and Rimbaud's," Dylan said of his relationships in a 1974 song. lt's not hard to imagine a 21st century minstrel say- ing his or her relationships have been like Bob Dylan's and Patti Smith's. Ah, history. Before our eyes and ears.
It Was the Paradise Lost Tour, so de-
described on a poster sold at the T-shirt table at these ten Bob Dylan and Patti Smith
shows in New England, New York, and
Pennsylvania in mid-December. It was my
good fortune to be at the first five collcerts. They were wonderful, both sets, both artists and all their accompanists, and starting at the fourth show, the second night in
Boston, the two poets did appear on stage together for one song, Dylan's haunting
1985 ballad "Dark Eyes" (from the Empire Burlesque album), which he has never sung before in concert except for a 20-second false start at one show in early 1986. The name of the "Paradise Lost" tour is presum- alnly a humorous response (perhaps from
someone in the Smith camp, or could it
have heen Bob's prankish suggestion?) to Dylan's liner notes for his 1994 album World Gone Wrong, where he rejects the
"Neverending Tour" moniker and makes up
funny names for many different (and arbi- trary) six-month segments of his virtually nonstop itinerary over the last ten years. In any case, making up tour names is not en- tirely new to Bob; he named his fiendishly inventive fall tour of Europe with Tom
Petty & band in 1987 "Temples in Flames." Don't you wish you had a poster from that tour to hang in your living room! Sure wish I had one. But anyway I was there last
month when the loss of paradise was cele- brated as aptly as we're likely to experience in this wonderful corner of musical and pop cultural history.
Wow. Dylan, as he has so often been
during these recent years of tireless touring was inspired and full of surprises, full of in- spiring musicopoetic performances, many
breathtaking memorable high points during each of his sets, songs that even a very ex- perienced fan could sometimes feel were the very best version of this particular song he (or she) had ever heard and seen Dylan de- liver. (And the good news for centuries of audiophiles yet to come is that these shows like every Bob Dylan and Grateful Dead
performance since almost the start of time were documented by fans in the crowd with illicit--and very good--tape recorders. Not obtainable at present unless you're in with the illicit crowd, but perhaps to be sold to happy music lovers someday by the artist himsel for his heirs. Whatever. As long as that Danbury performance of "Never
Gonna Be the Same Again" and the Boston
performance of "Lenny Bruce" can be heard over and over again by gratified listeners imagining and indeed experiencing the
Dylan was superb, in great voice and full of keen desire to share life through music, through ensemble performance, and
through this form of poetry called song. He also amazed even his most loyal fans by
varying his offerings as energetically as the Grateful Dead in their best days: in the first four concerts, he sang 39 different songs.
Patti also was very good, at a moment
that was important to her not only because she was finally co-billed with one of her true music heroes, but also because these were her first band shows (as opposed to solo, spoken-word-plus-song shows) after her as- tonishing 15-year absence as a live per- former, a break even longer than and as mo- mentous as Dylan's seven-year sabbatical '67-'73 (both poets were raising children during their breaks from touring). She was nervous at first (as she acknowledged to the audience the second night), but also in ter- rific voice from the beginning and glorious- ly supported by a band more in the tradition of the early Stones than the later Stones themselves. New songs and old songs, and every one a delicious listening and watching experience. I'll tell you more. But first I want to note that in an evening (five
evenings for me) of quite a few thrilling high points for Smith lovers and Dylan
lovers, the single moment that most sum- marized the entire experience, and provided pleasure equal to the other highest points from both artists, was Patti Smith and
band's performance of "The Wicked
Messenger" ("with a mind that multiplied the smallest MATTER!") from Dylan's 1967 album John Wesley Harding. What a great, unstoppable, irresistible arrangement. She reinvented the song as if she were the mas- ter himself, and in a way absolutely suited to her unique voice and temperament and
packet of themes and messages. Oh my.
You must hear this. And you will, because before the Paradise Lost Tour started, Patti and friends had already recorded this "ver- sion" for her new album that is expected sometime in spring 1996.
Before I discuss a few more specifics of the performances, I want to share with you a story I know I'll tell my grandchildren: hanging out backstage in Boston (my home- town) way up the metal stairs with Patti Smith and Tom Verlaine and my old sci-
ence fiction fan friend Lenny Kaye and oth- er musicians from both bands, and other
true fans, notable among them Michael
Stipe of R.E.M. (I walked into Patti's band's dressing room and he asked if he could take my picture) (he traveled to the first five shows on Patti's tour bus, Resident Honored Fan) and ubiquitous poet Allen Ginsberg, who thannked me for reviewing his (very ex- cellent) hox set last year and told me about Paul McCartney volunteering to be his
back-up musician at a recent benefit ensem- ble poetry reading at Royal Albert Hall in London. Allen won't exactly have grand-
children, but he is already telling them sto- ries, hecause we are they, as we are also the respectful progeny of Patti and Bob. Such a night!
Patti's theme for the tour, don't ask me why, was feet. A high point of her set every night (and especially spectacular Thursday night, when it opened the tour) was her
1979 song "Dancing Barefoot," which she
punctuated with the great stage stunt (and she made it feel like a ritual, invocation) of taking off her shoes. The Dylan song she chose to throw her very heart into, "Wicked Messenger," climaxes with the cry, "the
soles of my feet I swear they're burning!" And the new songs she shared with us (and in five nights I came to know and love all the new ones, instant old friends) included "Walking Blind" and "Mortal Shoes." The
theme seemed to extend even into the won- derful choice of 1976's "Ghost Dance" ("we shall live again...") and 1988's "The Jackson Song" (do yourself a big favor and find a copy of her 1988 album with her late hus- band Fred Smith, Dream of Life) for her first son: "Little blue wings as those feet fly.) Great singing, never mind whatcha read in Rolling Stone. She has become one of our finest (most expressive) vocalists. And a nice choice to salute Jerry Garcia with a Buddy Holly song the Dead always did as a dance number, "Not Fade Away," conclud-
ing her theater piece each night by dancing fiercely to this and/or her own "Rock N Roll Nigger," and, on Saturday night particular- ly, rapping spontaneous poetry in the style of her masterpiece "Land" loudly over "Not Fade Away's" Bo Diddley beat. No, Jerry
won't fade away. Not as long as we vote
with our feet.
Walk up to the concert hall, and dance
to the music. That's how the 20th century cult called "Deadheads" practiced their ar- cane rituals. And the same is true for those who love and who have made time in their lives for any kind of jazz or rock or blues or r&b in clubs or theaters or arenas. Live mu- sic. Live performed art on stage in front of a live audience. I go on about this because, to me, the Paradise Lost Tour was an almost deliberate celebration of the art of perfor- mance. Smith recommitting herself after
her long absence, in proximity to one of the primary role models who inspired her to
Date: Thu, 21 Mar 1996 01:30:45 -0500
Reply-To: The Bob Dylan Discussion List Sender: The Bob Dylan Discussion List From: Automatic digest processor Subject: HWY61-L Digest - 20 Mar 1996 to 21 Mar 1996 - Special issue To: Recipients of HWY61-L digests
pursue this calling. And Bob Dylan adding ten shows onto the end of what had already been a long year for a champion road war- rior comparable (as Dylan himself has sug- gested) only to a B.B. King, or James Brown in better years, a performer committed to working as many nights as possible. In fact, these ten shows brought Dylan's 1995 total to 117 concerts, actually his biggest year ever (not bad at age 54), beating his previ- ous best: 114 in 1978. Jerry Garcia was and is, I think, the patron saint of the dedicated live-rock performer, so it is appropriate that he was acknowledged not only by Patti but also by Bob, who sang a song by Garcia and Robert Hunter, "Alabama Getaway," with
tremendous gusto as his first encore every night. Not mentioning Jerry's name. Just throwing himself passionately into evoking his musical spirit, with every bit as much feeling as Garcia gave to the many Dylan songs he sang. There were moments, even, when you could see that Dylan feels he's now got a band like Jerry had. Soulful and tight and rockin'. I did appreciate Jim
DeRogatis in Rolling Stone, even though he and I disagree on the overall quality of Patti's Monday performance, praising
Dylan's band and noting that "it's possible that the artist who fills the cultural void left by the Dead's disbanding may well be the one who inspired them in the first place." Dylan celebrates the joy of performing most nights, but he played these shows as if play- ing on a bill with Patti Smith was as special for him as it was for her. Just what one might have prayed for: both artists speaking in tongues, like 1965, 1975. But in manners very much true to their experience and
artistic sensibilities in 1995.
"A lot of girls have come along since
Patti started," Bob told the audience during their first moment onstage together, in
Boston, "but Patti's still the best, you know." And he kissed her. And followed "Dark
Eyes" with "Jokerman," one of his many
theme songs. It was a playful, dramatic, deeply satisfying set of performances, each night different and each set at each show as high quality as the others (with the usual variables, such as where you happened to be sitting that night). I originally planned to go to four shows, and I emphasize that I did- n't go primarily for the event, as exciting as the event of this co-bill was; I flew across the country to hear the music, both of these artists are among the very few that I will travel any feasible distance to see any time I have the opportunity to catch a promising series of shows. What a musical opportuni- ty this was. Two for one...And then the
fifth show was added when Michael Jackson collapsed at a rehearsal and had to cancel his HBO special and, secondarily, his nights at the Beacon Theater in New York. The
Beacon asked Bob and Patti to add a date now that Monday had become available
(and since their Thursday show had already sold out).
It seems strange to write about a live
music experience in a magazine about the joys of listening to music recordings, al- though one of the things I most relate to in the audiophile community is the shared in- terest in preserving and recreating the expe- rience and artistry of live performances through good recording and good listening. Future generations will thank us for the preservation of vital art that we support and encourage now. So it would also seem
strange not to acknowledge that while be- ing at the five shows was the thrill of a Life- time, I am now having a different kind of thrill with the arrival (friends trading with friends, often with the help of Internet com- munication) of first-rate tapes of that fifth show, New York City, December 11. Future generations will write that much of the
greatest surviving work of the 20th century rock artists like Dylan and the Rolling
Stones and Patti Smith, the Who, R.E.M., the Grateful Dead, is in the form of record- ings (professional or otherwise) of their live concerts. A great legacy. So let me wrap up telling you about these shows I attended by sharing just a small piece of the ecstatic mu- sical experience I'm still having listening to these first tapes. (More will likely come along, and if you're looking for a copy, don't write to me; post your needs to the appro- priate Internet newsgroup, And if you wan- na know what tape to search for, you almost can't go wrong in my opinion, but the tenth show, Dec. 17 in Philadelphia, which I did- n't see, is already a favorite of Dylan fans on the Internet. One woman on the Net de-
scribes talking to a member of Dylan's sound crew at the end of that concert, a guy who says he's been at every show since Dylan started touring with Tom Petty, which is ten years ago. "I told him it was the best show I've seen in six years. His response was, 'Best show ever. Even Watchtower was
GREAT!'" (The fans and maybe the crew
get a little weary of "All Along the
Watchtower," a crowd-pleaser that Dylan
and band have performed at virtually every show for years in a row. And it still does have nights when it transcends itself, even if you're not hearing it for the first time.)
So let's look at Dylan's Dec. ll set, al- though Patti's is also worthy of repeated at- tention, starting (only this night) with a fiery unaccompanied reading of her own
Corso/Ginsberg/Ferlinghetti extravaganza, "Piss Factory," a working girl teenage angst poem that was also her first single, on an in- die label (quite rare). Dylan's first New York set -- "I might seem a little sluggish tonight," he joked, "couldn't sleep last night, I was so excited about playing in New York." -- showcased a very relaxed and con- fident (and not at all sluggish) singer and band. Working from an extraordinary song- book, which tonight yielded electric or
acoustic string band versions of "Mr.
Tambourine Man" (gorgeous this night, as at most performances of this new 1995
arrangement), "Rainy Day Women," "Girl
from the North Country" and
"Watchtower" by way of greatest hits (he does want 'em to go away happy if possible), and a generous selection of less likely and highly desirable choices: "Tears of Rage," "Drifter's Escape," "Mama, You Been on My Mind," "Senor," "Most Likely You Go Your Way," "Silvio," "Masters of War," "Highway 61 Revisited," and the aforementioned
"JokerMan," "Dark Eyes," and "Alabama
Getaway." A splendid cross-section of an important artist's life work. But more than that, a very immediate cross-section of his mind and his feelings tonight, as though each song is coming into existence for the first and final time before your eyes and ears.
"Girl from the North Country," for ex-
ample, as I rewind the tape and listen to it again and again with tears in my eyes, is an absolutely exquisite evocation of this 54- year-old man's intensely poignant feelings of loss and tenderness when he lets himself think about loves and scenes from his past. Particularly keen this night in New York. If you listen to all of the officially released live recordings of Bob Dylan, you'll have to go to the solo acoustic performances from 1966 on Biogragh to find this particular degree of heartbreaking sweetness and vulnerability in the singer's voice...and you won't find the unique sound of his acoustic string band (guitars, string bass, mandolin) anywhere, because it hasn't been adequately docu-
mented on an official release. All Dylan has to do is hand this 12/11/95 tape to his
record company and get it on the street, to change forever the public and critical as- sessment of his ongoing revolutionary ac- complishment as a singer and bandleader
and working artist in the medium of live musical performance. The innovative,
jazzy, small combo performance of this song is so richly textured and moving that the re- lease of this show as an album, preferably alongside an album of the still-unreleased extraordinary Supper Club shvws from New York City 1993, would I think serve to es- tablish once and for all Dylan's preemi- nence arnong all American rock or folk per- formers of his era, not just back in the '60s but equally now in the 1990s.
I can barely begin to describe to you the treasures to be found on this Dylan tape. His self-confidence and expressiveness in front of his current band, and the results he and they achieve song after song after song, argue that this combo, John Jackson on gui- tar, Tony Garnier on bass, Winston Watson on drums, Bucky Baxter on mandolin and
lap steel, and Dylan on voice, guitar and harmonica, is the equal of any band Dylan has ever worked with, even the Band itself. Listen for example to "Tears of Rage." This is a performance of almost unthinkable
power and beauty, an epic re-creation (new words, new interpretation) that is every bit as timely and devastating as if he had writ- ten a brand new song in order to share with us his assessment of the state of the uni- verse, end of 1995 and trembling on the
edge of the next era. What artistry. The Paradise Lost Tour was more than a mar-
velous event. It was also the occasion of the recording, by amateurs if not professionals, of works by these great artists that will like- ly survive them and keep pleasing listeners for centuries to come.
What it takes to be present at a great
moment is to have the impulse to go down to the show, and then to follow one's intu- ition. I can't help but remember a day at the end of June in 1975 when I had the im- pulse to finally go see this Patti Smith my friends had been telling me about. At the Other End on Bleecker Street, I found my- self sitting in a booth next to Bob Dylan's, another music fan who apparently had had the same impulse. Patti and her group were great that night, and Bob went backstage to congratulate her. It was their first meeting. For some reason I found myself there. And twenty years later I found myself again a fly on the wall backstage, this time Patti had just come upstairs in Boston after her first conversation with Bob on the Paradise Lost Tour, and Michael Stipe was lovingly braid- ing her hair, helping her get ready for the show. Why was he there? Because Patti
Smith, as he and other members of R.E.M., as well as their contemporaries Bono and The Edge of U2, have often said, was as im- portant to his inspiration and career choice as Dylan was to Patti's. And so the wheel turns. And music lovers become music cre- ators, and paradise is found again. l'm
gonna tell my grandchildren. And better
than that, I'll play 'em the tapes.