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Bob Dylan 960516 in Pine Knob, MI

Date:    Fri, 17 May 1996 04:35:29 -0400
From:    Mark L Troyer (troyerma@PILOT.MSU.EDU)
Subject: Pine Knob, Michigan May 16

"Went to see the Gypsy. . ."

Again, it's up at but
this evening's setlist was:

I Want You
Positively 4th Street
Watching the River Flow

Tangled up in Blue
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
Friend of the Devil

Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
Wheel's On Fire
Highway 61

Alabama Getaway
Girl from the North Country
Rainy Day Women

As it turned out, my class was anxious to watch the Detroit Red Wings
hockey playoff game, so they agreed to take no breaks for the three
hour session.  I was thorough all the material I had prepared by 8:15,
so I let 'em go.  But one student had some questions, and given that
I'm contractually obligated through 9 pm I couldn't very well turn him

So by 8:40 or so I'm speeding up I-75, seems to take forever to get to the
exit for Pine Knob even though it's just 17 miles.  I'm hoping to arrive
for the last two songs of the second electric set.

I exit, and discover I don't know how to get to the theater!  I follow
the signs for "Pine Knob Golf Course" which is a terrible move because
I wind through back roads for a seeming eternity before finally
emerging by a parking lot.  I drive right in, grab some cotton balls (I
didn't have time to buy earplugs) and am hoping they'll let me in for
free since it's so late in the concert.

I recognize "I Want You" floating over the parking lot as I hurry toward
the theater.  "Hmmmm," I think, "strange to hear it in the second electric
set!"  I walk to the gate, and ask what time Dylan went on.  The answer
comes back "about 9" and I have lucked out!  There is still a row F,
center section ticket remaining (glad I hit the cash machine this pm!),
and I am in!  Thank you, second opening act!

The smell of beer is strong.  There are empty seats around me.  (Aimee Mann
fans?  People out for beer???)  I am close enough to see Dylan's facial
expressions.  Nice.  He's wearing silver pants with a white belt, some
satin (couldn't be leather?) black shirt-jacket and a purple shirt
underneath.  The looped chain again.  Can't see footwear, but it musta been
pretty wild to go with those shiny silver pants.  J.J. is once again
Eric Clapton, and Bucky Baxter could easily pass for Adam Clayton in a
long red jacket and pants with some sort of flowers on them?  Tony is the
man with the hat, and Winston's wearing a t-shirt.  J.J. seemed to be
having a lot of fun tonight.

Watchtower is, well, Watchtower and I settle in for number four.  I am
happy to hear the chords for 4th Street.  It's a satisfactory performance,
Dylan hints at breaking through (especially toward the end) but it's
fairly standard.  A few extended jams playing off of J.J..

Watching the River Flow is not Watered Down Love but it's done pretty well
nonetheless.  Dylan becomes more animated into this one, at a couple of
points putting his pick in his mouth as he played guitar.  No, no Jimi moves,
he was either playing with his fingers or another pick :-)  I've had a
suspicion that he's been singing "people *disappearing* everywhere you
look" instead of "*disagreeing*" ever since I heard this song last summer
in D.C., and it really sounded that way tonight.  Anyone else heard this?
Also, he sings the second time around: ". . .disappearing everywhere you
look, makes you wanna stop and read a book, why only yesterday I saw
someone WHO WAS TOO SAD TO CRY"  (emphasis mine)  O.K., first of all
rhyming "book" with cry is even more, um, creative than "kelp" with "help,"
but has anyone ever heard "too sad to cry" sung before?  (I know, probably
like every version from 1991 or something, there's nothing new under the
sun. . . .)

I was excitedly anticipating Silvio.  It's good, but not as good as I
remembered it from London.  Could be the performance, or could just be
me hearing it without the novelty of hearing a new arrangement for the
first time.  Harmony seems a bit more absent, and Dylan turns "take the
clear blue sky and turn it off again" into "mm mmmmmm mmmmm mmmm mmmmm
again."  He finishes the verse fine, but then completely skips "I can tell
ya fancy. . . " which is really my favorite one.  Oh, well.  Dylan starts
making these weird faces at people in the crowd as he's singing.  He
must've been doing this in London but I was too far back to see.  It's
truly bizarre, I laugh out loud once when he catches someone with this
sudden. . . lear or something.  The Deadhead-dominated (I mean *really*
dominated) crowd is into this song a lot.  Oh, maybe I should mention
I'm still wearing my shirt and tie from class, I haven't had time to
change.  Needless to say, I don't blend :-D

I notice on one of the choruses Dylan with the same wry smile and sing-songy
catch in his voice from the Unplugged version of "Knockin'."  Which makes
me wonder how Dylan really feels about us, this crowd.  "Hey, give 'em
what they want," perhaps?  I'm a little unsure about this new
gregariousness.  Hmmmmm.  He's playing it up, suddenly he's moving around
the stage, shooting those looks at the crowd. . . .

I am thinking "Tangled" and get my wish.  Everyone is standing for the
most part.  We don't get the "Italian poet" verse.  Dylan taking guitar
hero poses on his acoustic jams!  Unreal.  He's still doing that
disconcerting mugging for the crowd thing.  Harmonica solo builds more
rapidly, then has more of a lower level, sustained intensity instead
of climbing to a sharp peak.  Again, mandolin is not audible to me.
(Sure I had cotton in my ears, but everything else was still plenty loud

Baby Blue.  It's my first live Baby Blue, and I am well satisfied.  My mind
starts racing for another song with "Blue" in it.  Will Dylan go for
the "blue" hat trick on his acoustic set?  Bob Dylan's Blues?  Call Letter
Blues (ha!).  Hm, the Red Wings are playing the St. Louis Blues tonight.

Nope, it's "Friend of the Devil."  He does it well, with J.J. and Bucky
chiming in on the choruses and one of them sounds a lot like Jerry Garcia
to my untrained (and cotton-ed) ear.  I like it fine, but the crowd is
generally more than liking it.  There's not really room in front of the
stage, but the crowd gradually fills in all the space in the aisles during
this song.  As it ends the ovation is tremendous, the lights do down, and
Dylan is walking around the stage facing the audience, his arms
outstretched, with his palms extended and turned toward us.  Huh?  This
continues for quite a few moments.  Is this some religious tradition for
mourning a dead friend or something?  He wasn't waving, just raising his
arms and palms to us.

Memphis Blues Again is another live first for me, and it's done nicely.
Dylan really playing to the crowd.  This time Ruthie and not Mona tells
him to stay away from the train line, and we don't get any senator's son,
honky-tonk lagoon, or T-preacher verses.  So it's abreviated, but it still
works.  There's one "oh mama. . ." where the phrasing is just perfect.
Hopefully, someday you'll all get to hear for yourselves.

"Wheel's" is great, but again not quite as good as I remembered from
London.  Harmony singing, as with Silvio, a bit more sporadic.  But the
harmonica is working for Dylan here, and he's still making faces at us
(smiles. . . or maybe grimaces?  looked like smiles).  At one point, I
see him reach into the crowd, nod, reach out further, and bring back:
a Detroit Red Wings Jacket!  The crowd cheers, he places it over one of the
monitors, turns back to the stage, and salutes to acknowledge the gift.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7  Nope, Highway 61.  Ah, well.  It's rocking,
it's loud, the band jams.  A decent grove, not much more.  Again, Mr.
Dylan hams it up, gaping at one fan and then another.  I think he
repeated the "roving gambler" verse, at least he sang "the roving gambler
he was very bored. . . ." stepped back as if he'd made a mistake, waited a
while, then seemed to decide the damage was done and stepped back up
for the rest of the verse.   Maybe he wanted to close with another verse?
Then the levee breaks, one pretty dancing girl, then ten, then whoosh.  He's
smiling broadly as he's engulfed, but I dunno if I'm into it.  Security
whisks the band away, but the "guests" take a long, long, long time to
leave the stage. They hug each other, wave to the crowd, whoop. . .

I begin to wonder if the circle will be broken and the cuesheeted encores
dispensed with.  Of course not.  The yellow-jacketed security forces
haul everyone down, we clap some more, and someone tells Dylan it's safe
to return.

West LA, oh please please please I wish in vain.  It's Alabama, and even
though I don't know the lyrics that well (it's my fifth time hearing it
live in as many shows in a row, though) I recognize that Dylan is pretty
much running them through a blender and then spitting them out whichever
way.  For instance, the "table for two" is for "Alabama and me."  Free
form rhymes, would you call it?  Whatever.  More rocking out and mugging,
and the yellowjackets are beating intruders away from the stage this time.
By now, the Deadheads ahead of me are dancing on top of their chairs and
it's very hard to see the stage.

They leave briefly, and return with acoustic instruments.  Perversely,
I'm now hoping for "It Ain't Me" oh so much and from the opening chords
I think I may have my wish.  But it's "North Country."  It's another
beautiful rendition.  Then, as Dylan starts to sing the last verse, a
young woman is lifted up to the stage whose physical characteristics
seem to match those which the young Bob Dylan was said to favor.  She
is, I seem to remember, holding a rose and smiling.  Dylan turns, starts
singing to *her* with a gleem in his eye and a smile on his face, and
he's completely off-mike!  He turns back on ". . .mine"  Meanwhile,
another woman dances on stage and the yellowjackets strain to contain
things as Dylan goes for the harp.  At this point, some guy wanders on
stage, offers Dylan his harmonica, and when it's refused goes up to the
mike and saws away.  I am extremely unimpressed, though the people around
me seem to be getting a kick out of it. I remember thinking at first,
hmmm, one of his crew is bringing out his harp?  At any rate,
Dylan danced and built up his own harp riff as the yellowjackets restored
order. It's a great solo.  At the end, Dylan claps at the front of the
audience, presumably applauding his visitors (and the guest harmonica solo?
Maybe Dylan thought the guy had promise. Maybe that's every kid's dream:
somehow I'll get on stage and play and I'll be asked to join the band.
Mmmmmmmmmmmm Menthos.)

Suffice it so say that I was praying for anything but Rainy Day for a
third encore but it poured.  Again, the "truck" gives Dylan some
lyrical difficulties.  A few hand-picked pretty dancing girls come on
stage, and one kisses Dylan on the check.  They all dance around him.
The yellowjackets furiously try to hold the line on the rest of the
built-up throng.  At the end, I see through the sea of bodies standing
on top of their seats that Dylan puts on the Red Wings jacket.  This
gets a huge response from the Detroit-area crowd.  He is hugged by a
couple of pretty dancing girls, and then departs.  Oh yeah, the
houselights were up on Rainy Day so Dylan could watch the dancing in
the audience.

Overall, I wasn't quite as pleased with tonight as with London on
Sunday night, but that may be just as much me as Dylan.  It was great
to see him having fun, I just hope that he really is having fun and
that it's not just another mask.  No, the smiles were genuine, they
had to be.  Probably.  It was just a touch too much "Come Hear Uncle
Bob's Band" for my taste.  I prefer a dash more bite and
venom.  Mostly, what I heard as I walked back to the parking lots were
people shouting "everybody must get stoned!  Woooo hoooo!" But who am
I to judge?  If Dylan wants to temporarily assume the "Uncle Bob" mantle
why should he not?

I resolve to be happy.  I didn't think I'd get to see this show, it
was pure bonus, it was a good show, tomorrow night perhaps I'll be in
a more dead-icated frame of mind.

It's time for bed, soon the sun will come rising over this little
Michigan town.  I'll be in Cleveland tomorrow with my non-Dylan
listening (so far) friend and an extra ticket.  See some of you after
the show?

Goodnight, my friends, may the Lord have mercy on us all,

Postscript:  I listened to the remainder of the Red Wings game in my
car driving back home.  The Wings won 1-0 on a goal in a sudden
death double overtime.  There must have been some magic in that Red
Wings coat he found. . .

Tour Dates Calendar Expecting Rain