Bob Dylan 970817 in Wantagh, New York
Subject: Jones Beach Setlist and Review - 8/17 From: "John D. Baldwin" (email@example.com) Date: Mon, 18 Aug 1997 03:28:31 +0000 1. Absolutely Sweet Marie 2. Senor 3. Tough Mama 4. Just Like a Woman 5. Silvio 6. Mr. Tambourine Man (@) 7. Tangled (@) 8. Cocaine (@) 9. Watching the River Flow 10. Blind Willie McTell (YES!) 11. Hwy 61 encores: 12. LARS 13. Forever Young 14. RDW When I abandoned the security of New York City for the mean streets of Wantaugh, Long Island, I did not ask myself, a la John Brown: "God, what am I doin' here?" I knew what I was doing there: I had already seen three great Dylan performances (at Roseland, at the Beacon and at Wayne) and I wanted to tempt fate just one more time and go for four. Of course, I had long ago given up the illusion that he would introduce his new songs at the concert (which is what I had most hoped for when I bought the ticket months ago). But the introduction of Blind Willie McTell in Montreal gave me hope of a different kind: would I actually get to hear one of my "Top Five" Dylan songs live? Absolutely Sweet Marie is a perfect show opener, much more appropriate than Crash on the Levee, which frankly, I never really liked. It set a joyous mood that Dylan upheld throughout the entire performance. On the other hand, it was not an incandescent performance, and neither were the next two songs, Senor and Tough Mama -- and now I think I know why. Many RMDers have remarked upon the same thing I've noticed: that in many concerts, the first two or three songs often seem somewhat tentative. (I have also noticed this on tapes of shows I did not attend; the exception is Roseland, 10/19/94, which I *did* attend, and in which *every* song was outstanding.) Now I have come to believe that Dylan and the band *deliberately* hold back, saving their energy and commitment for the later numbers, to end the show more impressively than they start. Thus, Just Like a Woman was the first real highlight of the evening. With beautiful playing by Bucky and a strong Dylan vocal, the audience really began to come to life. Silvio was excellent and fun: lean and sharp, not bloated grunge, as the song had on occasion turned into. But the first *transcendent* moments occured during the acoustic set. Tambourine Man was wonderful, strong and impassioned. When he sang the line: "I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to," I suddenly thought of the death-haunted lines of Frost: "The woods are lovely, dark and deep/But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep..." Bob is not ready for "sleep" (death) yet, he wants to continue following his muse while he has some time left. A lot of people seem to get tired of hearing Tangled; I never do. The meshing of the various strings on this song was perfect. I couldn't single out what in particular about this version made it different from others I've heard. I would need to hear the tape to be able to describe it in detail. I simply know that this version had its own unique personality and should not be passed up. Cocaine was next: *totally* different from the 1962 Gaslight version. What really made the song for me was the singing of the band members on the chorus (the voices blended quite nicely). An odd thing about the performance was the apparent lack of playfulness; Dylan seemed to take the plight of the strung-out hero of the song very seriously. It was almost -- dare I say it -- an anti-drug song! Watching the River Flow was *fabulous*, even more hard-driving than the Wayne version. An odd thing, though: twice during the song he seemed to slow up as if about to go into the coda, then pulled back. (Did anybody else notice this or am I imagining things?) Then Blind Willie. Easily the show's highlight. I did not go nuts when I knew he was going to do it, as I would have done if I had not been following the summer tour on RMD, but I felt a wonderful sense of anticipation. I was not disappointed. There was, as others have noted, a definite "eastern" flavor to this arrangement. It was intense, precise, almost indescribably powerful. I would like to think that the audience was quietly contemplating the beauty of the music, but I suspect that most of them simply didn't appreciate the significance of this great song. Suffice it to say, this live version was far superior to the Infidels "band" outtake that Heylin is so fond of. Was it superior to the acoustic version on the Bootleg Series? No, but it can easily bear comparison to that amazing performance. Then Highway 61: a pleasant, standard version. On the first encore, Kemper really hit his drum hard to introduce Like a Rolling Stone: the most satisfying opening shot to the song I think I've ever heard. Otherwise, this was a good, not great, version of the song IMHO. Forever Young: somehow, I knew Bob was going to do "Jakob's song." Lovely vocal by Bob; his single-string acoustic picking was also splendid. Biggest surprise of the evening: a delightful Rainy Day Women (and I *hate* this song). Very "deep bluesy" playing by Bob and Larry. A joy! So my record with Dylan concerts is four for four -- and counting. God bless Bucky Baxter! If there were any doubts about Larry's ability to assert himself within the band context, they were dispelled tonight. He fitted right in. Tony was Tony: impeccable. Kemper is underrated. It almost seems to me an insult to Bob to call his shows "rock concerts" (though of course he can still rock like the devil!). Most rock is what Van Morrison has eloquently called "a copy of a copy of a copy." Bob's shows are beyond all category (as Duke Ellington might have said). The sound of this band is *incredibly* sweet, but almost never cloying. The level of musicianship is simply outstanding. Of course, Bob's a terrible showboat, but that can't be helped. ; - ) Opening acts: BR5-49 was an ideal act to open the show, though I felt sorry for them, because most of the audience was not seated when they were playing, and most of the rest were not paying attention. But any band that sings a song in praise of Bettie Page is all right in my book. I really like Ani. She has a definite flair for words, even off-color ones. (She even made "f*** you" seem charming.) Yes, she's narcissistic, but in a good way. Seems to me those who criticize Ani should recall how self-absorbed our hero was in his turbulent youth. I think Ani will go very far. Believe it or not, I have to get up for work in the morning. But I'm not sleepy (well, maybe a little) and there is no place (except bed) I'm going to. One more thing I'd like to say. A nasty journalistic lie that's often promulgated, and needs to be dispelled, is that Bob's concerts are "Geritol conventions." There were a *lot* of young people at this concert. In the World of Bob, there is no generation gap. John D. Baldwin
Subject: Jones Beach From: ed (firstname.lastname@example.org) Date: Mon, 18 Aug 1997 10:57:55 -0400 1) I agree with the feeling that the first few songs are often like warm up songs for Bob. A. Sweet Marie, Senor, and Tough Mama. Dylan seems to need to start slowly and to take his time with it. 2) If you are anyway unfamilar with a song, then you will have trouble understanding the lyrics to the song. Sometimes it sounds like he is mumbling up there and lots of luck to the poor audience to understand what he is saying. I know the diehard apoligists will disagree on this, but check out the audience when this happens. And it does happen. 3) I appreciate the chance to hear songs like Just Like a Woman, Tangled up in Blue, Mr Tamborine Man. They are the songs that grabbed everyone's attention. The songs that are poetry put to music. And he played them well. He likes to diverge from the standard version of the songs a bit, especially with solos and instrumentals. I think he does this to give his voice a rest as much as anything. Just give me a chance sing along with you Bob. You and I sing those beautiful songs together. I remember some years ago that Dylan avoided his more famous songs for new material. People would leave feeling shortchaged that he did not sing his hits. I think of Dylan as one of the greatest artists of this century. In fact I have no doubt that one hundred years from now that he will be considered one of the greatest talents in American music. Possibly, being a greatest hits machine becomes very repetitive and boring for him. He could get up there and replay everything just like the record, but he innovates instead. It is only the artist in him that is constantly looking for new ways to grow. 4) I always found the acoustic sections of his shows the highlight of the evening. Once again this mainly because this is the time when I can understand him most clearly. Often the band drowns out his voice... Here he stands alone. This night the band stayed with him for the night. My case in point was the song Cocaine, this was the simple and beautiful Dylan performance that could conquer the world everytime if he wanted. 5) So many times I found the Dylan concert to consist of moments. I often felt that he puts a great effort (something special) into one or two songs he might play that night and the rest of the songs are given a standard run through. Once again Dylan apoligists will anger at this. His concerts are often composed of highlights. A moment that sparks a memory. Sometimes he sounds and looks so old and burnt out up there and then he transforms himself into the kid who sang "Like a Rolling Stone" live for the first time. Brave and true to himself. 6) Yes, Blind Willie McTell was a another standout. The man has so much material. The song is wonderful. He is Blind Willie McTell. 7) This time around had some special significance. The thought that he was sick earlier this year and the way that so many of his contemporaries are dying off makes this concert even more important for the Dylan fan. He finished off the night with "Rolling Stone, Forever Young and RDW". Forever Young takes on all sorts of meaning when you watch this man on stage on a hot steamy night in 1997. ED
Subject: Jones Beach -- Another Review From: Zoner13 (email@example.com) Date: 18 Aug 1997 18:26:11 GMT What a difference two days makes! The small irritations from Friday night (less than perfect sound) were erased last night with a really great performance. Dylan and the crowd seemed locked from start to finish. (Somebody e-mailed me to say the sound was fine on Friday from his spot, so it's possible some people didn't hear as good a show as I did last night, from only so-so seats.) But anyway, here's what I saw: Dylan and the band played their "stadium sound" -- loud as all hell, and then back to the "supper club sound", where Dylan's voice, almost a whisper, seems louder than ever. I think on the loud songs -- "Tough Mama," "River Flow," "Silvio," -- Dylan can "hide" behind the instruments if he wants to. The band plays so loud, and the crowd likes it so much, he can just shout any which way, and nobody's gonna complain. But on the soft numbers, like "Cocaine" (What a song!!!) -- Dylan's got nowhere to go, and he just barely whispers the lines, and it sounds like the loudest thing in the world. "Cocaine...all around my braaaaiin." That SOUND!!! Or in Tambourine Man (and I'm still not sick of this), the same voice, clearly annunciating every word, but not shouting, and the band (a GREAT band), gently hacking away behind him. There's some really good stuff here. I haven't even mentioned Blind Willie McTell yet. But in between the quieter songs is the usual rock stuff -- "Silvio" is still a great riff, even though it's been around a little too long. "Rolling Stone" REALLY rocked last night. I enjoyed Friday's quite a bit, but last night was really kicking. (Last night's Rolling Stone goes to show Dylan's voice can still be as effective and decipherable as he wants it to be. I could hear every word. Whereas, just a few songs earlier, on another loud one -- Watching the River Flow -- I thought it was pretty muddled. Same with Tough Mama, which I think may have had a few "improv" lines in there, or dummy lines, as Paul Williams calls em.) But Blind Willie McTell and Cocaine were the show's highlights for me. It's really great the way Dylan plays these "greatest hits" to the crowd, stuff to get everybody pumped up, like "Tambourine" and "Tangled," and then an unknown (to non RMDers) right in their face -- "Cocaiiiine....all around my braaain." It really says something, something Dylan must be thinking about these days. (More near-death thoughts? Even though, let's hope, the song isn't to be taken too literally about his life.) And then something like Blind Willie McTell -- which "average" fans aren't too familiar with, but the die-hards go nuts for. During this song, I was (mezmerized) looking around, to see who the die-hards were. I spotted a few, giving each other the nod of recognition. Then I saw the blinking lights around one guy's waist, so I knew there'd be proof of this stuff down the road. Thank God for tapers, and thank God for Bobby D. Take care, Zoner p.s. Thank you Andra for the ride!!! I owe you one!
Subject: Re: Jones Beach -- Another Review From: PHyatt1962 (firstname.lastname@example.org) Date: 18 Aug 1997 18:58:35 GMT Zoner, A very accurate review! I couldn't have said it better! Cocaine Blues was very warm, and Dylan truly sang, versus the over-modulated sound of some of the others.... True, the crowd loved the loud, but boy, Cocaine Blues and Blind Willie McTell showed Dylan as the SINGER he truly is... I'll never forget this show! Pete
Subject: Blind Willie McTell 8-17 From: PHyatt1962 (email@example.com) Date: 18 Aug 1997 16:32:08 GMT How many out there that saw last nite's show would agree that his performance of this song was incredible? In my section, after the applause of recognition, the audience became so silent...Dylan's singing was very powerful and he seemed, at one point, to actually sing a little softer, like one knowing that everyone can hear him because he has got everyone's attention...almost the opposite of the opening song, which seemed dis-jointed and over-modulated.... Blind Willie McTell was worth the price of a ticket all by itself! PH
MOTU's Review of The 17-August-97 Bob Dylan Show at Jones Beach-Long Island, NY
Once again, the master of musical disguise proved that staying power is sometimes defined with the creative delivery of the unexpected and not with the typical. Unlike many acts that use their concert tours as a commercial to promote their new albums, Dylan's performance last night left most attendees of last night's show still unaware of Dylan's new album scheduled for release next month. Dylan also threw a curve to his fans by showing up with a band that had a new drummer and lead-guitarist. Although, Bob Dylan has never been known to stand-still, the continuity of his recent performances have been partially credited to the fact that he has been using the same back-up band now for several years. The polished styles of this "forever-touring" band even picked up some Grateful Dead fans along the way as Dylan began to adopt some of Garcia's versions of Dylan's own tunes during his 1995 tour with the Dead. Last night's performance tended a little more toward Neil Young Volume levels, although Grateful Dead Fans were not disappointed as Bob Dylan included songs such as Tough Mama, Senior, Silvio (the only song Dylan co-wrote with R.Hunter) and Tangled Up in Blue. Dylan performed with energy as he took the stage, dressed in his usual bizarre fashion. In this case, something that resembled jogging pants along with a dress jacket and cowboy hat!
The unexpected highlights were two songs that really only true Dylan fans would recognize from his Bootlegs and not from commercial releases. The first was Cocaine, which only is available from an early sixties bootleg, and the second was Blind Willie McTell, which most fans recognize from the live Boot-Leg version.
Bob Dylan opened with Absolutely Sweet Marie into Senior. Other songs, not mentioned above, were Just Like A Woman, Tambourine Man, Watch The River Flow, Silvio, Highway 61 Revisited, Like a Rolling Stone, and Forever Young. During Dylan's performance, I had to remind myself that only two months ago this Music Industry Icon was in the hospital with a fatal heart condition. The absence of his harmonica was really the only reminder of his weak condition. In general, the king is not dead so long live the king!