Bob Dylan 960419, 20, 21 in Portland, ME, and 22, 23 in Orono, ME
Well, if it's true what is said about giving something up for everything you gain, I've a monumental loss headed in my direction after witnessing these five shows in Maine. I like to think I'll take the consequences with a triumphant smile, knowing that no matter what, I'll still come out far ahead. It was more than well worth the risk...
The Portland shows were phenomenal. The State Theater is nestled between a barber shop and a bank in the heart of the historic arts district and it is a work of art. Built in 1929, it flaunts the art deco style so popular then and is gorgeous. The folks who run it, Kelly and Steve, were so accommodating to everyone. They are people on whose faces a smile is ever-present; their eyes lighting up whenever they speak of this old theater which Bob was helping to save from financial trouble by performing these benefit concerts. Other rock stars were asked to help, but it was only Bob who responded. Maybe this somehow explains the stature of the shows there. We were treated each night with a much varied set list and were surprised at every turn.
On Friday, Bob came out sporting a new more closely cropped 'do (which looked like he might actually be able to drag a comb through it) and looking magnificent in the bronze lame trousers, white belt and white shirt with opaque sleeves and silver piping. He appeared to have gained a much needed 5 pounds and proceeded to wow us with songs not expected and unparalleled versions of songs that have been covered frequently. One of his new songs to the list, This Wheel's On Fire, was one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed. With his unused Fender hanging like an albatross around his neck, he would hold the microphone way down in front of himself and lean over into it, bent at the waist. Then, peering upward from under furrowed brow, eyes shining like moonbeams, he delivered the lyrics with poignancy. I had given up hope of ever hearing Visions of Johanna live, so my heart leapt into my throat at the first strains. Verse after verse built until all were forced to surrender to the climax. From that moment on through the night the proceedings took on an ethereal, church like feel which encompassed the crowd in a way that is hard to describe. I'm not ashamed to say I felt as if I were in a place of worship. John Brown was most definitive and later he pulled out Seven Days (always a favorite of mine) and rocked the house like there was no tomorrow. His ever-growing talent at lead guitar was showcased at each outing of this song and also Silvio and Alabama Getaway. As long as he continues to enjoy these vehicles to this extent I will never tire of them.
The highlight for me on Saturday was (believe it or don't) Tambourine Man. As he charged through the lilting words, each time "play a song for me" sounded increasingly demanding and "I'll come following you" became a dire threat. Unbelievable. An Australian ambassador of some sort was seated ahead of me in the front row that night. He was an extra large human being with matching enthusiasm that was positively infectious. He broke into tears on this night's stupendous rendering of Time's Changin' and I was forced to attempt consolation with a hug. The harp work here was another fine example of his no holds barred playing style and I sat fully expecting the instrument to explode from the force at any moment. Thankfully it held up.
In Orono, he was suffering from a head cold which may have caused him to be less jovial than the previous nights in Portland. Monday's show was great, but largely uneventful, except for the fact that Deadheads rushed the stage during the first few seconds. Security allowed it, and soon all who cared to go were down there. It was a foot lower than the front row and the stage was tall, so no one was bothered by it.
On Tuesday, after watching Aimee Mann, I went for the last comfort break and when I returned I was shocked to see that the rush had happened during the break! This was a first as far as I'm concerned and by the grace of God, (sorry for the sacrilege) just the spot I wanted was still open. To be treated to Desolation Row twice in five days was too good to be true. It's obviously becoming a semi-regular. Love Minus Zero was the highlight in my opinion. Sticking out his lower lip in a decided pout, we were drawn into the song like moths to a light. It seemed to go on indefinitely, but when it did end we were all the better for the experience.
As I said, I may have to pay for having so much pleasure, but I will certainly *die happily ever after*...
Just thought I'd mention it...