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Bob Dylan 970502 in Memphis, Tennessee

Subject: Huntsville view
From: DuncanHume (
Date: 4 May 1997 20:16:38 GMT

May 2nd 1997. Von Braun Civic Centre Plaza, windswept 45 degrees. Bob
rolls on stage about 8.30 dressed  like Colonel Sanders,  and I swear he
did look great. I'm not sure however if the Colonel ever wore the red
tipped white leather boots. Seems Bob is keeping the Stetson in a hat box
that is too narrow as the rim points skyward at an alarming angle on both
sides of his not insubstantial ears (ever noticed how big Bob's ears are
?). Maybe he just had to sqeeze through a tight spot back stage and bent
his hat. Guess well never know.

My first view of Larry. GQ Magazine looks. Long Black coat. Fancy red
guitar. So we're off to Sweet Marie. Larry stumming, serious. Bob's vocal
sounds muddy. Maybe I'm too close. Should I move back ? No then I can't
see those looks, you know the ones. Killer looks like nobody else can
give. Suddenly Sweet Marie ends, no long rambling experiments. Bang.
Finished. I Want You. Nice Gentle delivery, Bob's vocal clearer. Larry
strums. Shyly.  Bob moves easly across the carpet, his carpet. Nobody else
gets a bit. 6' x 4'. Indian tassles. Like Rolling Thunder carpet but
shorter. Cut backs I guess.

Surley a Larry solo in Watchtower. Bucky picks up an acoustic, drives in
the intro. Yep here it comes. Nice. No JJ sweat and grins, no, serious
concentrating effort to get something. Larry eyes Bob. Bob looks out above
us at something in his memory. Finished. The wild cat didn't howl it just
mewoed at the door to be let in.

You Ain't Going, simple song, rolling along. Nice to strum to. Ask Larry.
Sounded great, really. Shuffle shuffle river flow. Larry is warming up.
Must be the heaters put on the stage before the show to try and warm the
place up a bit. Pointless exercise but a nice try (like guys who turn on
their leaf blowers in a 30 mile an hour wind). Larry's solo's sounded
great, very nice finger work (can i say that ?). But please Larry relax,
it's OK, you sound great, now look like you are enjoying it, see Bob
looked at you. You missed it. Silvio, same as before but misses Winston.
Again hard sudden ending. 

Roving Gambler. My train spotting tendancies put the tick in the seen it
now box. Much nicer than any of the bootleg version I have been told about
:>) . Hope everyone who reads this babble gets to hear it. It really is
precious. Ramona and Larry strums, all the chords in the correct order,
shly. Gentle and pleading, Bob delivers the goods as only he can. Tangled
Up In Blue, stoccato, delivered like a pizza, quick but really not very
satisfying. Tommy with the retuned Fender plugs Bob in, the crowd growls,
slow handclapping, Judas ! Er sorry about that. Just drifted back 31
years. Maggies Farm. Someone please tell Larry he is supposed to sing with
Bob on the extended Nooooo Moooore. Bob looks at larry. Larry misses the
look and strums on. Oh goody Wheels on Fire. Wow, sounds like Big Pink.
Bucky, Larry, David and Bob all singing. Rolling Down the road, Lo and
Behold. I tick the Wheels on Fire box and love it. Pill Box and as all
evening Bucky slides out the melody (I guess there is one for Pill Box ?)
with his taken for granted skill.  The end. Well, no not really, but you
know if they didn't leave they couldn't come back. They stand stage left
in a huddle. Larry sucks down a ciggy. Why do they do that ? Why don't
they wait 'til after before lighting up. Seems such a waste. Two drags and
ok out we go again.

Rolling Stone (I prefer Rolling Stone to LARS don't you ?) rumbles and
rolls but never reaches the height's it should. Where are Bobs wiggles ?
Last show of this leg, tired maybe, cold. Still, nice to hear the worlds
greatest single again. Strum strum strum, Bobs thinks for a bit. OK.
Forever Young. Wish I had written that. I know. I couldn't. A little 9
year old boy sits on the barrier right at the front under Bobs (not
inconsiderable) nose. This one's for you son. Hope he remembers that
moment. Probably won't. He'll be back home by now plugged in to the tv
watching somebody shoot someone. Too bad really. Nice memory for me
though. Larry strums and sounds nice.

Rainy Day, Bob mugs it. A grin a wiggle, another grin. You know the form.
Thank you and good night. Tony Bucky David Larry Bob. Off to Ireland and
the UK to feed the frenzy. They won't go hungry. Time for me to get a away
from Alabama.

Subject: Memphis Show From: Tom ( Date: 5 May 1997 09:56:57 GMT Overall, the Memphis show was tedious. "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" was tuneful and "Don't Think Twice" had some nice moments, but there were far too many dull, endless "jams." I don't think I've ever heard longer versions of "Watchtower" or "Silvio." Dylan seemed to be remembering lyrics well and was trying out some interesting phrasing, but I kept wishing songs would end long before they did -- there were times when they had already gone on too long even before the final verse was sung. As for the surroundings -- a park right next to the Mississippi River. A short but severe lightning-storm passed over and sent hundreds of people running for cover. The storm delayed Dylan's performance, which was already scheduled to begin quite late in the evening. [Regarding another post -- I also thought that Larry Campbell was playing a fair amount of "lead" guitar. I was not that close to the stage, but the leads seemed evenly divided to me. One of the songs even featured a guitar "duel" (which reminded me of Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt on "Saint in the City").]
Subject: Memphis From: Keith Lane Wigington ( Date: Mon, 05 May 1997 13:34:32 -0400 Festival shows are always fun and well...festive. The Beal St. Festival this year was one of the best I have witnessed. There seemed to be a very positve vibe about and everyone was eager to hear Bob play after the driving rain storm that took place between Kenny Wayne Shepard and Dylan's performance. Everything was played really tight and crisp. No wasted notes-the band was playing with urgency and focus. The setlist looks plain, but the performance of each of these songs was amazing. "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here.." was nice and had a faster tempo that previous tours. "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" finally realized it's full potential in this festival environment. The acoustic set was absolutely powerful and impressive throughout. "FOTD" was noticably better than just the night before-Larry seemed to open up the solo a little and the song benefited greatly from this. "Tangled" was not just another blind stab and a known crowd pleaser, but focused and deliberate and resonated with beauty. Even I was jumping for joy over the "Don't Think Twice" that was featured some of the best guitar work anyone has seen from Bob. The rest of the show was very powerful as well. The gem of the night was a perfect-PERFECT-version of "Forever Young". With the knowledge that the Wallflowers were later to play the festival this song had added meaning, timeliness, and resonance. It was as good a performance of sa single song I've ever seen. Truly one for the highlight reel of the minds eye. Great show, great crowd, great weather, great festival. All that and I got to go to Graceland as well. Life is good. Peace to you all. Keith
Subject: notes from memphis... From: Christine Consolvo ( Date: Mon, 05 May 1997 23:55:32 GMT Well, I arrived in Memphis to catch Bob's performance at the Beale Street Festival with mixed emotions. With visions of the melee that occurred when I last made such a trip in '94, I had to continually reassure myself that this time would be better... The weather, at first, seemed to be cooperating. The city was cloud-covered all day, but no more than a few sprinkles of rain left the sky. The cue began at the main gate at about 3:00 pm for the gates to be opened at five. When they did open, we rushed for the Tom Lee Stage to get the prime positions. As it turned out we needn't have been in any hurry since almost *everyone* else was much more interested in patronizing the beer vendors. The roster of acts on this stage was Cowboy Mouth, Better Than Ezra, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, then Bob. Cowboy was actually not too bad and played a short 45 minute set. It was Better Than Ezra that really got the crowd moving...moshing & crowd-surfing. I guess I'll never really understand the lure of mixing music with danger. One guy was hoisted right over the barricade onto his head! He just got up (with a little help) and walked away smiling, but he'd be extremely lucky if he didn't suffer a concussion. I think this set was about an hour long, but it seemed much longer. I had met a very enthusiastic 16 year old fan before the line formed who was there with his parents and younger sister. As I saw this whole pushing, shoving, boots-in-your-face scene unfold, I was kind of seeing it vicariously through their eyes (the parents). Mom actually did get a boot kick in the face when someone was hoisted toward us unexpectedly. But they were steadfast...son Matt was there to see Dylan and see Dylan he would! It never did get really, really ugly and was a picnic when compared with what went down in '94 when Beck performed before Dylan. Kenny Wayne's set went smoothly and after they vacated the stage we stood waiting for the feature attraction that the time had *finally* arrived for........ That's about the time when an announcement was made about severe thunderstorms heading into the area and it was not long before a hellacious wind kicked up and the hard rain began. It came with almost no warning...just a sudden deluge. We had brought along a large plastic drop cloth and raincoats, umbrellas, etc, but everyone was soaked before any of these could be set in place. The equipment crew went to moving the amps and instruments into groups and covering them with large pieces of plastic and tape. It just didn't appear to be a storm that would dissipate any time soon. My heart sank.... After all we'd been through in the last seven hours we feared it would be for naught. The rain water started accumulating on the plastic and steel covering the stage and the entire canopy, including the lighting system, began to sway dangerously in the fierce wind. The crew was able to drain off the water, but I had by then almost resigned myself to the fact that there would be no Bob performance tonight. The security personnel behind the barricade had been so pleasant and helpful all evening and one of them kept us continually informed as to the status of the storm. Finally he told us that it was going to clear (long before it became apparent) and I tried to make myself believe him. He was correct and the rain stopped (not the wind, though) about 20 minutes after it began. When the equipment was relieved of it's plastic coverings a huge roar came from the crowd. It was a moment of true elation... Bob hit the stage resplendent in his light grey suit with white shirt and black string tie. Topped with the white cowboy hat he came out immediately exuding an air of joviality. (Only later did it occur to me that this could have been due to the comical scene he was confronted with. We all looked like drowned rats!) Throughout this fine show we were rewarded for our perseverance... He was *on* tonight and there was no denying it. Being my first show of the year, I felt like I probably looked so happy it was almost scary! I grinned from ear to ear from start to finish. My mouth actually began to hurt after a time, but I couldn't wipe it off. I was thrilled to be here and rejoicing that the show came off at all. Fast forward to "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere". This song is on my (admittedly long) list of all-time favorites and it was everything it has been described as in reviews AND MORE. The way he intoned "noWHERE" while shaking his head each time was worth the price of admission. It made me laugh every time. What fun! It was during the acoustic portion of the show that he really began to showboat. He is now working so hard on his lead playing and it shows (other than in the sound) in his lips. Sometimes he will move them with the notes as you see other musicians (especially drummers) do. Other times he would bite his bottom lip in his concentration, or his lips would disappear entirely. He's working hard and it shows... During the long ending to Tangled he started into some Chaplinesque moves. It's amazing how such a small movement of his head or look in his eyes can convey that he's playing for US and enjoying it! It really gets a reaction from the crowd, too! He would bend over from the waist, then crouch down while also twisted back around toward the drum set...guitar pointed downward. Then, ever so slowly, he would "unwind" from this position with his mouth gaping open and a look in his eye that said simply "look at me!" Goo goo eyes most aptly describes it and it was done in a most flirtatious manner. He also has a move while leading that is almost like a moonwalk while standing still. From one foot to the other he shifts in a kind of clogging motion..all the while eyeballing the crowd. Hard to describe... I could never possibly get enough of "Forever Young" in concert. This classic song is another one on that long list. By the time he got to it in Memphis his voice was sounding rather worn...raspy/growling. This simply served to add the perfect texture to these emotional and plaintive lyrics. When the line "stand upright and be stroooong" was sung, he took a deep breath, squared his shoulders and threw his head back with his eyes closed... Suddenly I realized, Bob Dylan lives this song each and every day of his life and how fortunate we are to be able to share in his glory. Just thought I'd mention it... Christine
Subject: Memphis...late and long but hopefully worth it! From: Bill Carruthers ( Date: Wed, 07 May 1997 10:11:20 GMT Dear Bob-aholics, I know that this review of the Memphis festival is incredibly late, and that there have already been numerous postings, but for what it is worth, here is another totally biased report. First the fasion report....After having read DanB's review, I feel the need to plagarise (sorry Dan) "Bob was dressed like Lester Flatt: that is, he wore a beige (this night it was Blue) , custom-tailored old-fashioned country stage suite, with piping (Black) up the legs and very high-buttoned. His ribbon tie harmonized nicely with his gleaming white Stetson, shaped into the high "bat wings" favored by Flatt and other late-50's c&w performers (such as Little Jimmy Dickens), rather than the flatter and more classic form associated with Bill Monroe, whom Dylan otherwise resembled very closely. NOTE: to those very interested souls out there who have not yet seen the pic on Pagels website, check it out.... Now onto the more personal review.... Like many have already said, Memphis was under a Tornado Watch and severe Thunderstorms for most of the nigth, thankfully the rain came and cleared before Bob took the stage. Once Bob did take the stage I had mixed emotions. This was a night that I have been waiting for since the last time that I saw him (in Little Rock '95). I had made the trip to Memphis from Waco, Texas, and I couldn't wait to hear and see the NEW Bob which everyone had been writing about. Unfortunately for me (and several other dedicated Dylan fans) there were a lot of kids - I use this word loosely since I am no doubt considered one of them (25) - that were there just because they...well. I have no idea why they were there because it most definitely was not to see and hear Bob because they were more concerned with gettin drunk out of their minds and smoking as much pot as possible. God knows I can't point fingers too harshly here, but....I guess that I have a lot more respect for Bob's music than that. Even though I shouldn't have let it bother me. it did, and because of this I couldn't enjoy the first couple of songs. Thankfully the drugs took their effect on the kids and they moved on and got more mellow. There! Now that I have gotten that off of my chest, onto the music and performance. Bob opened with Sweet Marie, and then Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You. As I said above, these songs are distant memories for me, due to the unpleasant atmosphere. Then came "All Along the Watchtower". I never thought that I would say this but. THANK GOD for All Along the Watchtower! It just seems like this songs gets Dylan and company in the swing of things. The band warmed up to it as did the crowd. This was truely the beginning of a great show for me, and I think that others will agree, at about the middle of this song things really began to click! Then came You Ain't Goin' Nowhere. This was the highlight of the show for me. The crazy thing about this is this song is not even close to being one of my favorite Dylan songs. But that night beside the great Miss River and after the rain, it just seemed perfect. I doubt that Dylan has ever played or sung it this well before and I find it hard to believe that he will ever surpass this performance. It was a truly magical moment for me. Then came the ever-present Silvio. This song as usual was a song that just doesn't seem to be the caliber of the other songs in Dylan's emaculate collection, but for some reason when you hear it and -more importantly- see it, Silvio works! It is never disappointing, it just flat out rocks, reminding everyone of the earlier mood that Watchtower casted. It is a great addrenaline boost. After Silvio came a much needed breather ... the acoustic set. Only with Bob, the accoustic set is more often than not more breath-taking than the electric set. Bob's accoustic set for this show consisted of Friend Of The Devil , Tangled Up In Blue and Don't Think Twice, It's All Right. Friend of the Devil was the second highlight of the show for me (imagine that...a cover tune!) What made this song so powerful to me was the fiddle/acoustic guitar duet. I was very biased toward JJ and was one of the few(?) that was sad to see him go, but this is a song that is so much stronger and passionate with Larry Campbell in the group. His fiddle with Bob's guitar made this sound absolutely beautiful. I do not remember ever hearing something this sweet before, I am sure that there have been moments in the past but I must have missed them, thank god, I didn't miss this one! Tangled Up In Blue was the second in the accoustic set, and Bob and Co. did a nice job on this also. They did not rush it like they have in the past, but because it was such a crowd favorite, the noise drowned out the vocals and it was more difficult to hear. Don't Think Twice finished off the acoustic set and it is one of my favorites. There was nothing that made this performance of the song any more special than the countless other performances, but there still is a lot to be said about seeing your favorite performed in person. I enjoyed it tremendously. Then Bob plugged in again and ripped an extrememly hard performance of Seeing The Real You At Last. This song was totally different than the official version on the cd, (like almost everything else he performs live) and although this was also a very tight group performance with exceptional lead work by Bob, I still lean towards the official version. Then came This Wheel's On Fire. This was another beautiful moment in the concert. I would not rank it in the top four favorites of mine from the show, but it was very nice and once again, Bob did a very nice job on lead guitar and vocals. Bob finished his set with one of my least favorite of his songs, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat. If anyone has the copy of the "Prince's Trust Concert" that was aired on HBO, then you know the performance and attitude that Bob is playing this song with today. It is a rocking song - one of his hardest rocking songs in the setlist- and well, I guess that I perfer his slower more country tunes.... Then came the enores. I was surprise to see Dylan come out with an acoustic. I thought that it would go the standard electric-acoustic-electric pattern, but instead Bob came out with an acoustic and performed highlight number three for me.....Forever Young. This was another magical moment in the show. Bob's voice was full of feeling and you could tell that he was enjoying singing this song to the predominantly young crowd (whether any of them were sober enough to get the message is another question..ummm). Nonetheless, it was absolutely beautiful. Bob finished the show with the usual Rainy Day Women. The only thing that I could think while this song started was (well there were two things) One, boy, does he miss WW on the drums for this song, and TWO, whatever happened to encore number three?! hahaha - Sometimes being overly informed is not a good thing I guess! NOW......If you have read this far, then I guess that you are in for the long haul...don't worry it is almost over! :) In wrapping things up, I must confess that I went into the show with incredibly high expectations. Had it been anyone BUT Bob, there is no way that they would have come through. And due to the young, partially irreverent crowd, I did not enjoy the show as much as I would have liked, but now that I sit back and think about the show, and listen to my tape of the show - crude as it is - I can't help but think of what a special night it really was. I have never seen or heard of Bob smiling as much as he did and playing to the crowd. He seemed to really enjoy the festive moods and threatning weather. Several times he tipped his 10 gallon hat and toyed with the audience. It was really rewarding to see him having fun up there. And the young crowd was not all bad, I will remember for a long time, seeing two kids - about my age - obvioulsy not big Dylan fans, but still enjoying each other and the music. The way that they slow danced to Forever Young, made me wonder if somehow, maybe that is what Bob meant when he wrote it, and to me, that is what going to the concerts are all about. Sorry for posting this review so late, and to those brave souls which have over-looked my no-doubt many spelling errors and long post, I hope that you enjoyed it. Until Next Time, Bill Carruthers a.k.a. ThinMan^
Subject: Sadie sees DYLAN at JAZZ FEST '97 (LONG memphis report) From: Sadiejane ( Date: Fri, 09 May 1997 12:57:35 -0700 All the usual disclaimers apply. If long, digressive descriptions ain't your cup of tea then stop reading now. To quote Rick Brezeale who prefaced his most excellent Evansville Report by saying, "Not trying to start any arguments, just share some impressions." New Orleans. May 1, 1997 With a concerned look in his eye, and a doubtful smile on his lips, my elder brother said, "If I didn't know you so well, I'd think you were crazy." He had me worried for a moment, worried that his worry was somehow justifiable, until he and his wife started ridiculing me whenever possible to their friends that day at the Jazz Fest grounds. "Can you believe it she comes all the way to New Orleans and then wants to drive to Memphis to see Dylan AGAIN!!!!" This is when I knew for sure that I'd be taking that 6 hour drive north (6 hours if you drive fast that is) to see ol' bob. I was going to have my crazy fun and no one was going to stop me. At 6:15 a.m. the next morning I was heading out of town in sleepy rush hour traffic. I passed the airport and crossed Lake Pontchartrain and then headed north, like a bullet through a shotgun shack, clear all the way to Memphis. Nice drive, as drives go.... My first order of business was to do the Sun Studios tour on Union Avenue. I knew I wouldn't have time for much (next time it'll be the Civil Rights Museum) because this was a GA show and I'd have to do some waiting in line. I was pleased to see Peter Guralnick's books prominently displayed in the gift shop. They didn't just have "The Last Train To Memphis" (the one about Elvis' rise) but also had "Feel Like Going Home (Portraits in Blues and Rock and Roll)" and "Lost Highway". And I have to say that the tour guide's account of Elvis' first Sun Sessions sounded like a chapter out of Guralnick's book on the subject. He is perhaps one of the greatest writers of American popular culture and I was very pleased to see that this northern boy (from my home state no less) is recognized as such in foreign (and hostile?) territory. Sun Studios is in business again, many artists are choosing to record there if only for the great associations that it lends (Elvis being only one of many - there's Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Howlin' Wolf just to name a few others) and for $50.00 you can spend an hour putting a song down on tape to take away and show to your friends. I spent 17.00 on a T-shirt and four, bold yellow Sun Studio picks. The last time I had had one such pick (sent to me from my aforementioned older brother) I gave it to Bob at a show. I figured 4 should last me a while. After the tour, I went to a local record store/ticketmaster outlet and bought my concert ticket. By then it was 2:00. I headed to Beale street for a to-go sandwich and rain poncho. It had just started to drizzle. Never been to Memphis before. It is a natty, run-down little town, which appears to have escaped unscathed from the real-estate boom of the 80's. All the buildings are down-at-heel originals, aging gracefully. My 65 Dart would have fit right in. Still, the trolley runs up and down main street and there is a new Italian gourmet sandwich shop (only open for lunch) and a few of the big beautiful buildings are under renovation. When you walk across to Beale street you enter the Disney zone. BB King's, Blues ribs, BBQ blues, genuine Memphis Blues Shoes, you nameitwegotitblues souvenirs. To say nothing of the guy selling crack pipes on the corner and the women, swilling beer out of a long tall glass, with bruised legs and a chaffed red face and unwashed hair. Sandwich in hand I sauntered down to the river and the concert grounds. That's when I saw one of the nicest things a person alone in a strange town could see: Christine Consolvo. She was sitting pretty on a ledge and was already on a first name basis with the others there: Mom, Dad, and the kids. "What time is it now, Dad?" she called out to Dad. "3:05" he answered her most politely. Only Christine could turn this kind of generic familiarity into something hip and funny and friendly. As soon as the real line started to form at the gate about 1/2 a block away, we all scurried down "You follow me" she called out to Mom and Dad. They had clearly been briefed: her latest protegees. The boy (Matt we later learned was his name) was the cause of their waiting out in the cold, damp weather that day. He was only about 17 and he was already a BIG Dylan fan. His sister must have been about 15 or 16 and was as pretty and fresh-faced as they come. I was touched that they had made this trip (5 hours from Mississippi) to bring Matt to see his first Dylan show - they made the trip as a family. Whatever "family values" is - these folks got it. When the gates finally opened at 5:20 I had my instructions: Stay the right, go as far as the pickup truck, sharp right, front of the stage, aim for house left of the center. Matt and I ran side by side till we got past the pickup. There was the stage. No one ahead of us. No one behind us. Just a bunch of roadies setting up shop. We both wonder if we got there too early? I start walking out onto the floor boards that were put down on the ground (nice to keep our feets dry) in front of the barrier. No need to run. Most of the folks behind us are heading for the stand where you buy the scrip you need to trade for drinks and food. Once we get settled I go for a pee and to put on a long sleeved shirt (it's getting cold and the wind is blowing fierce) and see Jim and Keith and their friends. Jim had been at the rail with me in Hartford. Jim does good rail and so I invited him down to join me and my friends but he opts instead for a stroll through the park and a beer. I know I won't see those guys again till after the show. Because the crowd in front of the stage is finally beginning to thicken. 45 minutes later, Christine, Sandy, Bev, Mom, Dad, Sis, and Matt and I are listening to Cowboy Mouth (a band from New Orleans) who are doing their best to get the audience into their show with only moderate success. The front man, on drums, is talented but tiresome. The kind of performer that constantly measures himself against the crowd's response, prompting us all throughout to respond in the way that makes him feel successful. "yell this way, scream now, raise up your arms, show me how you love me" etc. Then the action really gets going. Better Than Ezra (another band from New Orleans). A group of young, pretty boys with love beads and colorful polyester clothes walk out and start shaking down the house with their "alternative rock". When the body-surfing and moshing started I turn my back on them, in favor of keeping a keen eye out for careening bodies. Mom's eyes turned big as saucers as she instructs Matt to "look out for your sister". Dad, a well-built tall man, with short neat hair, baseball cap and izod shirt does his best to keep the kids off his family without causing them (the careening kids) any bodily harm. I notice how gentle he is with the kids as they bounced over and above us. I felt lucky to have people like Dad behind me. I fared just fine, but a young woman behind me, who was with her boyfriend, both about 16 or 17 years of age, got beat up in the head. She couldn't have been 5 foot tall - a tiny thing. And she got hurt and scared and started to cry. Those of us at the rail were all there for Dylan, who was playing last, at 10:45. That one hour of Better Than Ezra seemed like from here to eternity. We all kept checking our watches, smiling nervously and then shaking our heads. I knew it would all quiet down when Kenny Wayne's set started. Yet another guy from Louisiana. I handed out ear plugs to the front row and told them it would all be OK from here-on out. I was (almost) right. Kenny Wayne proceeded to play the same blues scale over and over with some string bending, extended vibrato and fast finger work. Very impressive and very boring. This young man never surprises. Never plays anything unexpected. Not one goddamn eyebrow lifting note. Which is really just fine for me. Because the crowd settled right down behind us. No more crowd surfing nor moshing nor throwing of the sneakers up in the air. I found myself being distracted during KWS, by activity behind the stage. There was no back drop, so you could look right back, behind the performance, to see the dressing room trailers and buses parked there. I had already seen band members enter but now was being entertained by the crew as they went in and out of their bus, to the dressing rooms and back. As it got darker it got harder to see. Suddenly a bank of people at the rail to my left and right are pulling out binoculars. None of us is watching the stage! KWS musta thought we were all curiously drawn to his shoelaces or something. Finally toward the end of his set we see a dark van with shaded glass pull up. And suddenly Bob's security man appears at the side of the stage. Larry, Tony and Bucky all make it up stage side to talk to folks and watch KWS's encores. But we don't see Bob until he he walks up the stairs to the stage to make his entrance later that night. The rain started a few minutes after Kenny Wayne finished. We all wrestling with our bags and purses, yanking at the ponchos and folding umbrellas and the crew were all wrestling (mightily) with the equipment on stage. Buckets and buckets of rain pelted us like bullets. I didn't mind the cold and the wet, it was the wind and the swinging, swaying scaffolding and the thunder and lightening that was making me nervous. I did a quick foot check: rubber souled sandals. Good. Then roof of the set, scaffolding with a tarp stretched across, started to sway dangerously and I could see it start to lower, weighed down by the water that was collecting on the tarp. By this time they were striking the stage of everything in sight. I heard a shriek to my left and looked up to see a monitor careening across the stage, blown by the hurricane winds. All the guys stopped mid hustle to watch it make it's way towards the drum kit where it stopped. Suddenly the stage came to life again - hustle hustle. Covering stuff with tarps, trying to keep it dry and get it out from under the swaying roof. Two fearless roadies were climbing up the sides of the proscenium. They were working on the straps that were holding it in place, trying to lower the upstage corners so that the rain would roll off. Another guy with a long pole which was wrapped up at one end with a towel, was pushing up at the tarp ceiling from beneath - and you could see the water cascading down the back of the stage. Cheers from the audience. I thought that this was it. We all started talking about rain dates that none of us could possibly make. Then almost as suddenly as it had started, the rain stopped. The sky cleared. And the show went on...and only about 20 minutes behind schedule. Thanks to crew. I've never seen a cleared stage get set up so fast! When the cue-sheets went down my heart skipped a beat. The only thing that was missing was the incense - the first time I've been to a show without it. When Bob walked out, the crowd roared. "Well your railroad gate, you know I just can't jump it Sometimes it gets so hard, you see I'm just sitting here beating on my trumpet Will all these promises you left for me But where are you tonight, sweet Marie?" He was smiling right from the start, with a twinkle in his eye. He turned the song into a great big tease. Yeah, we've been waiting on our feet all day to see him. And we're all wet and hungry and bruised and tired and we all have to pee. So who cares. "Well I waited for you when I was half sick Yes I waited for you when you hated me Weeeeelllllllllll, I waited for you inside of the frozen traffic....." He had been waiting too. It was after midnight. And Bob was clearly ready to get on with this show. Larry let Bob have free range during the opener - not much duetting and a bit rough during the transition to the bridge. It was a choppy, punky performance with some chunky 3 and 4 note solos. But the stage was real high, so you could see right under Bob's hat - you could see the whites of his eyes and the flash of his teeth as he broke into a big ol' grin at the end. Bob continued in same vein with the number two spot: "I should have left this town this morning But it was more than I could do. Oh, your love comes on so strong And I've waited awwwwwwwwwll day long (audience cheers) For tonight when I'll be staying here with you..." All throughout he was scanning the crowd, and it appeared that he could barely suppress his smile at the sight of us. Watchtower featured the first bit of real soloing from Larry. You Ain't Going Nowhere - the usual audience sing along - lots of smiling between Tony, Larry and Bucky. Friend of the Devil had the most beautiful duets between Bob's guitar and the fiddle. I think that Larry has a great ear for answering Bob's phrasing, with more phrases that complement. They get a real conversation going - that actually has some harmonic exploration in it too. Larry is clearly not afraid of dissonance either - and there ain't nothing more satisfying to me than a minor second suspension resolving. oooooweeeeee! Bob turned to Bucky for some duetting there too. And suddenly Bucky was playing the pedal like he was Bob playing guitar - imitating one of those two note solos, beat for beat. Tangled was tight and fast with even more singing along in the house. This arrangement is a bit too fast for my taste - it has become a pastiche of images rather than a narrative. Something I noticed for the first time about Bob's acoustic setup. Perhaps it's been there all along this tour and I just never noticed. When the monitors were at his feet he and JJ always played their acoustics with the sound holes covered. Now, with the monitors farther away, there is less problem with feedback and so the covers are gone. He's got what looks like a dual system of amplification. I assume he's got an undersaddle in there somewhere but also has a soundhole pickup in there too. I can't say that there is any improvement in the sound from last year though. Maybe I'm just ready for the Martin again. I think they tend to sound better amplified than Gibsons. They have a finer, more transparent sound - Gibsons lose some of their round, fat warmth when amplified. Lately I've taken to not plugging mine in at all but just standing up in front of a mic (which can be drag really but what are ya going to do?). Wheels on fire was very slow and smoky - lots of pedal steel with the boys singing back up. Leopard was the number that was Larry's showcase. Bob played rhythm and smiled real big. He seems really happy with his new sideman. Forever Young was fantastic for it's full throated singing. All night Bob had been singing great, really projecting and letting the textures in his voice extend thru the melodies. You could hear him crack a few times, but he never let that stop him once. And none of us minded. I looked over at Matt and his mom next to me (Dad had taken little sis to the car earlier). Mom looked awful beat (I have a feeling she's not usually up that late) but her eyes were transfixed on Bob. Matt all night had been in a state of great excitment: after every song pointing up at Bob and shouting out "YEAH, BOB!!!!!" "We LOVE YOU BOB!!!!!" All us veterans down front made sure that he got a cuesheet to take home as a momento. This wasn't the show of the decade or anything. But it was a damn good show. Bob was playing to the house all night, smiling down at us often. It was great to see him really working too - the way that he lets his whole body strain during his solos, to speak as much through the guitar with his shoulders and knees and toes, as his voice speaks and his hands speak on the strings. At the end of the show, after the cuesheets were handed out, and they crew gone, everyone started talking about their itinerary for the next day in Huntsville. Someone asked me how I was getting there and I responded that I was not going on to the east, but heading back down to New Orleans. They responded with concerned looks, and doubtful smiles. But I was going back to New Orleans to have more crazy fun. I slept for only 2 1/2 hours that night and then sped back south. I made it to the Fest just in time for Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Leroy Jones and Herbie Hancock. Herbie was sublime. They let the crowd pack into the Jazz tent (one of 9 simultaneously operating venues at the race track-turned concert ground) so that there was no aisle left, no ground neither. And then they made them all sit down (to keep from blocking the view of those seated), including the ladies in white shorts who protested most vociferously. I had lucked out and scored a front row seat during the previous show, but I wouldn't have minded sitting in the mud for Herbie if I'd had to. I made as much room as I could for the 20 odd people sitting on the ground in front of me. We all got nice and friendly. That's Jazz Fest for you. It's the kind of place where you can't help but get real friendly. No matter what. If any of you ever get a chance to see the Herbie Hancock Quartet - GO!!!! I swear to you that when I got back north, the word was already out on Herbie's show. He had had THE show of the Fest this year. At least....that's what they were saying in New York City... I wonder what it was like for the Dylan fans that showed up in New Orleans for Dylan at Jazz Fest a few years back (93?). The Fest is such a happening unto itself, with it's own very intense culture of "Festers" - the concert goers with the schedules laminated and on strings around their necks, fanny packs, comfortable shoes, and Jazz Fest '86 T-shirts (no real fester ever wears the current shirt - they save it for the next year) and the most elaborate gizmos for carrying water imaginable. I would guess though that the Dylan fans got there a few hours before the fair grounds opened and then camped out at The Ray Ban stage all day until Bob played at the end of the day. Did they stand in front of the patrons who showed up with folding chairs? Did they mix and mingle with the locals? Did they stay another day to see more great music? Did they have the mango freeze? Or the Crawfish Monica? For those of you who are interested, this is what I caught in the 3 days I Fested (with stars for the shows that were most memorable): Albita *Eddie Bo Delfeayo Marsalis *The Mighty Chariots Charmaine Neville *Snooks Eaglin Terence Blanchard McCoy Tyner and Michael Brecker The Hackberry Ramblers Walter Cook and the Creole Wild West Mardi Gras Indians *Sherman Washington and the Famous Zion Harmonizers *Herbie Hancock Quartet *Clarence Gatemouth Brown and his BIG band Leroy Jones not necessarily in that order. Delia ain't dead, she just can't be satisfied....