Date: Tue, 17 Oct 1995 02:00:33 GMT From: Joseph Cliburn (jcliburn@FLINTCREEK.WIN.NET) Subject: Biloxi Blues (long, I guess) This is NOT the Biloxi setlist. You should have figured that out by the file size, but if you're looking for the setlist you're in the wrong locale. This is an extended concert review, which I feel amicably obligated to post... Those not given to rambling, reeling, rolling rhetoric should quit reading here... I have seen Bob Dylan in concert only 3 times: 23 Oct 1974 in Memphis TN, 29 Apr 1976 in Mobile, and last night (14 Oct) in Biloxi MS. The fact that I hadn't seen Dylan live in 20 years has been a source of amusement to many of my friends & associates. But it's all over now, baby blue. Of course, there are many who will say that I didn't miss much in the interim, but that's neither here nor there. What I witnessed last night was well worth the wait. I don't intend to miss another tour & if work permitted, I'd be off tour-chasing for 2 or 3 days. I failed to contact several rmd'rs reputed to be in town despite diligent effort & long distance fees :-( However, Richard Batey
met me in Biloxi & we settled on the all- you-can-eat at the Isle of Capri. Now, my travellin' companion & personal bodyguard, Mark, can consume some chow & I have dined with the infamous fatron, but Richard amazed me. His casino buffet attack strategy would make the late Ben Ryan proud. Richard caught the tour in Jacksonville during the hurricane evacuation. I'm sure he'll post his thoughts when his server comes back online... I gathered from his post-concert comments that he thought J'ville was a stronger performance than Biloxi, but you couldn't prove it by me. The Biloxi concert was one of the most incredible instances of audience interaction that I have ever witnessed. Richard was a few rows back & couldn't see what was transpiring down front. So without further ado, here are my impressions. I sat in Row 1, Section FL2 (Center), Seat 8, slightly to Dylan's right between Dylan & J.J. The opening act was a cajun/zydeco band from New Orleans. A nice bouncy sound while folks drifted into the hall. There were reportedly only about 2500 tickets sold (the hall as setup seats 6000). Dylan contributed about $10,000 of the gate to the Hurricane Opal Relief Fund. It's sad that there wasn't a bigger crowd & hence more money raised, but at the same time, Dylan handled this crowd like the old pro that he is & the crowd size was just about right for what that old pro had in mind... Zydeco can only keep my interest so long though (I don't speak French) & thankfully, the houselights came on the the crew began changing the stage. I'd have much preferred the bluegrass openers that graced the Florida shows, but it appears that Dylan is using local talent with an ear for traditional styles. One "prop" that I've never heard mentioned in anyone's concert commentary is the incense. As the road crew came out to clear equipment & move up Winston Watson's drum kit, they placed white bowls containing a couple dozen sticks of incense each on top of the speakers on both sides of the stage & a couple more behind the drums & steel guitar. I was told my a fellow sitting nearby that it was an expensive & hard-to-find variety. This was one of the few concerts that I left smelling better than when I arrived! But I am curious why this has not been mentioned. Is it a recent addition to Dylan's stage "presence"? Or am I so out-of-touch that it's so familiar to everyone else that it doesn't merit mention? I thought it was a neat touch anyway. And then the crowd began to stamp their feet & the house lights got dim... Dylan in a shiny red French cuff shirt with large square cuff links, black undershirt, embroidered black vest, & the infamous tuxedo pants with small silver conchos, black boots. J.J. in a black pinstripe suit with black hat; Tony G wore a brown suit with black hat & Bucky had a strange long red coat & his cap. Winston Watson in white shirt & vest. (i.e., the band was dressed as it usually is...) The show began with Drifter's Escape, which now appears to have supplanted Down in the Flood as the lead-off song in the set. Dylan's approach to Drifter's Escape isn't what I imagined, but it's a good-rockin' opener. It's still new to the number one slot & like Crash on the Levee, I think it will mature over the next few weeks into a kick-ass little tune. If Not for You and Watchtower followed -- similar to many '95 tapes I've heard, nothing remarkable except the tightness & consistency that come from lots of hours playing together. It was during Watchtower that I noticed a peculiar stage move: on certain solos, Dylan steps to his right to stand beside J.J. & then the two of them take off on a tight twin-lead runs that sound distinctly Allmanesque, posing like the ghost of Duane & Dickey. Around this point, my friend Mark leaned over & said he'd wished he'd been at the Tampa concert. Adding Dickey Betts to that mix must indeed have been a guitar fest! Which brings me around to a point. Fred Schulte, writing in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel about the "Edge" rehearsal show, mentioned that Dylan "seemed hell-bent on remaking himself as an electric guitar hero. At times he succeeded ... at other times his guitar licks tended to be raucous, repetitive, and unsure." There were a few repetitive/unsure moments in Biloxi, but on the whole, the performance was amazing. In several instances, Dylan improvised himself into a corner & I wondered how he'd pull himself out of it, but every time, he came up with a turnaround. Next thing I'd know, he & J.J. would be cooking back off on a run filled with those tight 3rds & 5ths that drive Southern audiences crazy. So by the end of Watchtower, I'm still sitting in the front row, figuring that the show won't be much different from the others recently. And then they started playing Positively 4th Street. The song ended with Dylan getting a healthy "amen" from the audience to virtually every line. A brooding bluesy rendition of It Takes a Lot to Laugh followed. Here again, some nice guitar work by Dylan & a prolonged closing harp solo made for a memorable piece. There appeared to be a healthy contingent of deadheads present & Silvio got an excellent response as the closer to the 1st electric set. The first acoustic number, Tangled Up in Blue, created a nice emotional melt- down for the audience & since our sound was mostly monitor mix, the sing along refrain was clearly audible. And then the treat of the evening: Gates of Eden. Dylan was concentrating on this song, a lyrically complex one that doesn't show often enough in his setlist. I'm down in the front row singing along & totally engrossed when I glance over to see J.J. smiling at me. He proceeded to lip-synch a verse for me, followed by a thumbs up & a wink. This sort of connection between the band & folks in the audience was continual, and as we soon discovered, extremely powerful. Toward the end of Gates of Eden, an attractive young woman wearing a white dress appeared down front near us & lifted her dress to the stage, revealing an interesting selection of undergarments. J.J. was naturally impressed. So was everyone else nearby ;-) Through all of this (J.J. about to fall out laughing & trying to alert Tony & Bucky) Dylan churned out those crazy lyrics without much more than a lifted eyebrow in Jackson's direction. One has to wonder what goes through his mind... Don't Think Twice was the familiar version that's graced Dylan's acoustic sets frequently. It was well-done, featured some nice twin acoustic lead runs, ended with a harp solo. Another big audience singalong. On the "What is Dylan's physical condition" front, I noticed him doing some serious neck stretches when he changed guitars. Otherwise, he looked like a guy who's spent most of his life on the road, but was much fitter than I expected. A bit tired, maybe, but definitely into the show & the crowd. By now a fair number of folks, mostly young (younger than me, which isn't difficult) were congregating on the floor down front. It was a matter of stand at the rail & boogie or go home from then on! Jokerman opened the 2nd electric set. More chances for twin electric lead runs. More singalong choruses & lots of dancing down front. In The Garden was rendered forcefully & danceably. The stage press was full-on & then (when he healed the blind & the crippled) a young man who had been in a second-row wheelchair was passed to the front & supported by a group of cute girls about his age. What a lucky guy :-) Obviously 5 Believers rocked. The crowd was into a full-tilt frenzy down front & I believe that had Dylan refused his usual generous encore set, he'd have been culpable for inciting a riot. Did I ever hear anyone say that Bob Dylan ignores his audience? Hell, Bob Dylan was *controlling* this little crowd of lathered rock'n'roll freaks on a Saturday night on the Mississippi beach! He knows just where to touch you, honey, & how you like to be kissed. Whoa! During the 1st encore (the Grateful Dead's West L.A. Fadeaway), a couple of young women gained the stage. Neither was an especially good dancer & they ended up comically between J.J. & Dylan trying to light a cigarette with a lighter someone tossed up to them. Two guys got on stage & walked across to touch Dylan. In both cases, they were summarily hustled away. The girls, though, kept dancing. They left after the song. The second (acoustic) encore, The Times They They Are A-Changin' ended with another tremendous harp solo. A second mike for J.J. was added before the final encore (Rainy Day Women #12 & 35). More than Dylan, J.J. led the crowd in the inevitable refrain with Dylan whipping out the verses. The chant-singing of "everybody must get stoned" was deafening. At the beginning of the song the aforementioned woman-in-white reappeared at the apron of the stage & pitched her panties up to J.J. The heroic sideman immediately jumped forward & hoisted the girl to the stage. She was a much better dancer than the others & was intent on demonstrating to all present that those were her drawers on the stage floor. She remained onstage throughout the number & was joined by a couple of blonde hippie-type females who slinked around Tony. Throughout this chaos, Dylan delivered his lines & played without a glitch. There was a great moment when Dylan turned to see what was going on with J.J. & the woman-in-white flashed him. What a grin! Here I have another "is this so common & am I so backward" question: Dylan & his band took a bow after each encore. I noticed a certain stiff marionette-like move that each made. I might attribute it to Dylan's legendary back problems (and he does twist his bows to the right) but everyone took a little machine-man bow. After the 2nd encore, Dylan made a few robot-like gestures (hands extended like those photos on the tile roof in GBS V1-3 book) as he walked offstage. Is this his usual bow? The final bow was a series of puppet jerks, almost stylized, after which our man from Minnesota headed straight for the equally stylized woman-in-white. The review in the newspaper described her as "shapely" (an understatement) & said that he gave her a "full-body press hug." (an overstatement -- J.J. was close by & drooling ;-) And then the lights went on & the crowd that had moments earlier been whipped into an enormous communal mass of ectoplasm began to disperse into the night & fog. The black bus with matching motorcycle trailer pulled into the same blackness, still on the road headed for another town. I'm glad you can still do it, Bob. You're real good at it. Thanks for playing the show. Take care of yourself. Sooo, after 20 years, I finally went to see Bob Dylan live. I was impressed, but I knew I was going to be. A lot of folks who were present were prepared for the worst & they were totally blown away. I received much more than I expected for my entertainment dollar :-) It was a rock'n'roll show. A damned fine rock'n'roll show. If Bob Dylan is scheduled to play a concert near you, you owe it to yourself to go. Don't think about it. Do it. You'll be glad you did.