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 http://www.execpc.com/~billp61/dates.html but this evening's setlist was: Pillbox I Want You Watchtower Positively 4th Street Watching the River Flow Silvio 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 down. 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 enough!) 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, Mark 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. . .