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Bob Dylan 960512 in London, Ontario

Date:    Wed, 15 May 1996 01:54:07 -0400
From:    Mark L Troyer (troyerma@PILOT.MSU.EDU)
Subject: 5/12 London, Ont Review (LONG)

Hi ev rybody,

Here, as promised, is my longer review of Sunday night s
London, Ontario concert.  A great show.

I met Mark and Sue at the Ceeps downtown London before
the show. Mark was the Dylan fan and his wife was coming
along more out of, well, Mark was the Dylan fan :-)  We
were speculating about songs with  Mother  themes in
them given that it was Mother s Day.  Mark suggested
 It s Alright, Ma.   I mentioned  Mama You Been On My
Mind  and more facetiously,  Wedding Song  or  Sara.
This would be my eighth Dylan show, their first.

Mark and Sue graciously offered to drive me to the hall
and then drop me back off after the show so I could
leave my car parked at the pub.  We arrived a few
minutes before eight and wandered inside.

I was mentally preparing for Aimee Mann, wondering what
she d sound like, when I remembered that I d neglected
to pick up earplugs.  I d had my left ear too near the
speakers at a Joan Osborne concert the previous week,
and didn t want to risk further damage.  So I ducked
into the men s room and grabbed some tissue paper for my
left ear.  I tried to make it as inconspicuous as
possible, but it s my hearing after all (and I certainly
wasn t going to miss this concert)!

Found my seat in the  mezzanine,  which was 2/3 of the
way back in the small hall but right in the center.  A
decent seat, though Mark and Sue got great ones.  I said
hello to my neighbors (the woman next to me had last
seen Dylan in London, England in 1981!) and settled in
for some introductory Aimee Mann.

The house lights went down, and the voice said,  Ladies
and Gentlemen, please welcome. . .  and before I knew it
there was Dylan, microphone in hand,  Ah see you got yer
brand new leopard skin pillbox haaaaat   Shock.  I was
not ready!  Where was Aimee Mann?

Dylan leaves off the last  brand new leopard skin. . .
from the first two verses I think.  I know he dropped it
at least once.  No guitar, lounge lizard mode.  Sawing
away at the harmonica a lot, in-between verses.  This
was my wish for the opener, I was happy once I finally
got my bearings and really convinced myself that this
man was no Mann.  A bit of a lyrics slip on the last
verse: she thinks that the doctor really loves her for
her money too.

 Long Black Coat  is next.  I am ecstatic about this.
It is a nice version.  No harmonica, guitar back on for
the duration.  Dylan throwing in lots of  embroidery
words ( ya know,   all,  etc) which aren t on the  Oh,
Mercy  recording.  Yes, it will be a good night, even
with that damn tissue sticking out of my left ear.

O.K., I m not too proud of this next part, but I drove
three hours there and figure I was entitled to a bit of
fun.  As the applause is dying down, I shout
 Watchtower!  Play Watchtower!   And I get my wish, of
course.  Good version, but I must confess I never tire
of hearing this one live.  Dylan s really having fun
with the phrasing, almost doubling up here and then
stretching the words there.  Toward the end, the stage
lights change as the volume dramatically drops and the
band go into  spacey Grateful Dead noodling mode.
Crescendo to the standard big rallentando finish.  The
crowd eats it up.

Fourth is  Simple Twist,  my third time to hear this one
live.  A decent rendition, though it didn t move me here
quite as much as the one I heard him do last summer at
RFK Stadium.  Almost loses the handle on the first verse
but finally comes up with a quick  shelookedathim and
shefeltaspark  just in time.  On the  hunts her down
verse, he sings  Hunts her down through the city blocks,
mmmm m mmmmmm mmmmmm parrot that talks, even down by the
waterfront docks. . . .  (!)  ( Mmmmmm mmmm mmmm  is
filler for Dylan searching to remember words, don t
recall what he actually sang). So I m not sure if he
threw in the parrot because he was looking for other
lyrics and couldn t find them or if that s what he meant
to sing.  But evidently he hasn t yet ditched the bird.

 Phantom Engineer  (aka  Takes a Train ) comes smoking
down the tracks next.  Great slow blues, Dylan having
fun.  Even throws a gratuitous  pretty mama  into the
first verse.  So he *does* acknowledge the day!

I call for Silvio and again get my wish.  2 for 2 on my
requests.  My neighbor is starting to wonder what magic
powers I have :-)  The new arrangement is incredible; I
like it a lot.  I ve now heard this sung live five
times, but I wouldn t have traded hearing this version
for any alternate listed on the cuesheet: it s that good
(yes, even over  Seven Days  and  Ring Them Bells !).
As you ve read, the new arrangement drops to drums and
bass on the chorus with J.J. and Bucky on harmony.  I
really like the idea of (sparingly!) mixing in some
harmony vocal: Dylan uses the instrument of his voice
brilliantly but there are just things he can t
physically do with it and adding a dash of backup allows
him another lever to pull.  And I can report that there
was no  new verse  Sunday night, just the  Honest as the
next jade rolling that stone. . .  from the original
which had been previously dropped from live versions.
Again,  Dead mode  announced by change in lights and
volume (I think this happened on  Phantom Engineer  too
but don t recall for certain).

Crowd really loved Silvio, rightfully so.  I m wishing
hard for  Tangled  as the acoustics are strapped on, but
instead recognize the chords for  Tamborine.   A while
before crowd recognition, but of course once they do
pandemonium ensues.  Curious, someone in a review of a
show on this tour used  shouting  in conjunction with
 Tamborine  and I had been puzzled when I read it.
Shouting?  Certainly what I experienced last October in
Rockford could never be classified as shouting, a
lyrical, gentle, flowing, masterfully-phrased hymn which
began  Hey Mr. Tamborine Man. . .  and proceeded to
reduce me to tears!  And yet, this tour s version is,
while not shouted, much more harshly and gruffly belted
out.  Sung almost defiantly.  Hmmmmm.  After all the
verses have been dispatched, the poet turns, walks back,
takes off his axe, picks up the harmonica, slowly turns
back, strides around blowing air through it off mike
while reeling the audience in, then begins.

First, it s the doodlings of a beginner, one note
backnforth, band rising behind him, then a little figure
not much more adventurous, but then it builds, and soon
Dylan is wailing away, staggering about the stage and
making joyful noise.  It ends to thunderous applause.

(By the way, IMO Bucky s mandolin is mixed *way* too
low.  Can barely hear it!)

I am overjoyed to hear the chords for  Desolation Row
next.  Dylan lights into the first verse, everything s
cruising along until  *Cept* for the blind commiss ner.
. .   Substituting  cept for  for  here comes  almost
runs us aground as Dylan flails through samples of five
other verses.  It s a slip on the highwire with a heart-
attack machine strapped across the shoulders of Cain and
Abel who s eyes are fixed on the artist carrying them
all in his head while working without a net.  Visions of
12/10/95 Boston when I witnessed a similar mishap on  My
Back Pages  flash through my head and I cringe.  This is
the first verse, what s he gonna do?  But never fear,
the intrepid magician finds his way back to  riot
squad,  stumbles once more, but manages to end up with
 look out tonight on Desolation Row.   Whew!  He does
the  Einstein  verse, but still no Ezra Pound or T. S.
Elliot.  The calypso, almost reggae (!) grove they get
going on the acoustic instruments (well Bucky on steel
something or other on this one) is infectious.

The stationary pseudo psychedelic  thing  is projected
onto the curtain, and I prepare for  Friend of the
Devil.   I m really curious to hear this one.  But
instead, we get an excellent  To Ramona.   No harmonica.

Back to electric axes, and what to my wondering ears
should appear but  Everything is Broken!   Yes, yes,
yes, yessssssss!  Love that baseline.  Of course, I m
convinced that Dylan s mostly faking the lyrics; them
broken plows turn up at least three times.  (Though I d
be happy for anyone to provide me with evidence to the
contrary, nudge nudge wink wink know wot I mean?)
Doesn t matter, it s great!  The Deadhead contingent
comes to a boil, a few go down front and are crouched
down by the stage not unlike the first few kernels of
popcorn, a few more kernels pop, and suddenly WHOOSH a
mass of humanity surges forward with excited kernels
jumping into the aisles ( food was flying everywhere )
and wave upon wave crashes against the stage.  Just like
the first show I saw, the August 1994 Ohio State Fair,
where it all snapped apart during  God Knows.  From my
vantage point, I gotta admit, it was kinda a rush to
see.  Dylan seemed to be into it, taking a guitar-hero
pose and playing to the frothing throng.

Now what?  It s a slow one, and I fear momentum may slip
away.  Shouldn t have worried.  This Wheel s on Fire,
Dylan with electric guitar tucked under his arm,
prancing around the stage, letting off harmonica bursts
between verses, boys in the band backing on choruses, I
was really hoping for this one.  I can t describe it any
better, sorry, but it was amazing.  The Deadheads seem
into it too.

The band intro is very succinct, no jokes or nuthin.
It s the first we ve heard outta Dylan since a heartfelt
 Thank you ev rybody  after Broken, and he, um,
economizes.  I m hoping for  Seven Days,  of course, but
instead get my fifth Maggie s farm.  But it s rocking
out, and I count my blessings.  Here s another  Mother
sighting, though the sentiments don t really favor May
12 :-D  Almost loses the lyric for pa, but recovers on
 kicks  and spits the rest out masterfully.  J.J.
harmonizing on the last line of the chorus.  I really
dig the harmony.  Hey, why not let J.J. do one while Bob
takes a break a la Greg Sutton on the 1984 tour as long
as it just lengthens the show by one song?

And the stage antics again.  First is a youngish (?)
woman who chats for a bit, Dylan does respond and seems
friendly, still playing away.  Then is a very young boy
(10? 12?), who talks for a while.  He finally leaves to
go back off the front of the stage and as he is handed
down Dylan turns and reaches down like he was giving him
something -- a harmonica?  Gotta say it, Dylan looked
pretty avuncular in his dealings with this youngun.

Maggie s rocks to its conclusion.  They leave.  Crowd
cries for more.  I, naturally, am yelling for  Alabama
Getaway,  hoping against hope that Dylan hears me and
does  West LA Fadeaway  instead :-)  No luck, I get my
request.  My neighbor is incredulous.  During an
instrumental break, he asks  did you call this????   I
come clean.  The band cooks, the Deaduns love it to
death, it is not bad at all.  Almost off stage, I notice
an almost-Elvis looking guy with a Western tie, boots,
and suit playing guitar. I wonder if it s an official
guest or just someone who as part of the general
confusion was seizing his chance to be a real live
 Menthos  commercial.  The  nephew  is lifted to the
front again and dances a bit before departing.  Then two
dancing girls ascend the stage, and once again the tank
gradually fills and our armorless hero is swallowed up
(how bout a  Jonah  song on the next album?) but still
somehow playing on.  The end, he s fished out of the
belly, and J.J. distributes picks and Winston drumsticks
like French nobility handing out largesse.   It s Good
to be King  indeed.

My neighbor thinks it s really the end, but I inform him
that the same thing s been happening at previous shows
and direct his gaze to the soundboard where I could
barely make out what looked like a  North Country  on a
white sheet there.  And that s what we got.
Heartbreakingly gorgeous.  He makes you believe that he
still does pray, all these thirty-some years later.
Then, and I still can t believe this, the acoustic band
again picks up a Caribbean beat and Dylan is gliding
back and forth with his harp in hand and the other one
pointing with the cord, playing on and on both the harp
and the crowd.  Dancin  Dylan.  I don t know whether to
laugh aloud or weep openly.  It is weirdly beautiful.

He leaves, and the crowd starts to file out.  But I
assure my neighbor that, since they permitted the stage
overtaking, we re almost certain to get  Rainy Day.
C mon, J J must have lotza picks!  I applaud and cheer
for the encore, calling out  Rainy Day!  for good
measure.  And they come back out, the house lights are
turned up, and sure  nough I m 4 for 4.

Two versus and jam, and Dylan even gets tangled up in
the truck that will hit ya.  Ha ha.  The guest is
onstage, so he must be official.  But never introduced.
For the first time that night, I can provide no
intelligence report to my neighbor.  His neighbor later
guessed Paul Young, maybe he meant Paul James.  Dylan s
antics now have me laughing for joy.  What a clown,
posing, hopping around, playing off the guest who even
starts some bizarre 50 s hop across the stage which
you d recognize if you saw but I can t describe it.  A
nice jam, yes.  Dylan hugs his guest, the pointing at
the crowd thing again, and so long.  Speakers play some
old R and B I think can t remember as the stage is

I meet Mark and Sue out at the car.  We go back into the
ceeps as I down a soda for the road and we process the
show.  I eagerly devour the reports from these folks who
were in much better visual range, and we chatter
excitedly (well I chattered, s pose Mark *was* a little
more dignified than I. :-) )  They think the guest
looked a lot like a young Dylan, which is why we guessed
Jakob (the hug looked pretty fatherly).  Whoever told
Bill P. that it was Paul James, are you sure?  Although
Paul James makes more sense, I guess Toronto couldn t be
too far away.  Then back in me car, I traverse Ontario
and Michigan, drag myself into the computer room to
report the setlist (find it s a superfluous effort) and
go to my apartment and crash.

I d rank it in the upper middle of the eight shows I ve
seen, but such comparisons are worse than pointless, no?
It was wonderful and I m thankful, I guess that s all I
should finally say.  Dylan was on and gave a nice show
for the folks.  Long may he run.

Mark Troyer

Postscript:  I ve been writing this tonight after coming
back from teaching my first class in a Detroit suburb.
I even let them out a bit early, but got tied up on my
 shortcut  through Detroit and I wasn t at the I-96 exit
for Ann Arbor until 9:46 pm.  I told myself if I was
there by 9:45 I d turn south and try to slip in for
Rainy Day.  One minute.  I kept heading west.  On my
syllabus for the class, I have  an economic
interpretation of  Bringing It All Back Home   listed as
a supplementary topic  time permitting.   I used me
missing the show as an example of  opportunity cost.


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