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Bob Dylan 990206 in Nashville, Tennessee

Subject: Ballad of a Thin Man
From: Sweet Melinda (
Date: Sun, 07 Feb 1999 06:14:33 GMT

The concert in Nashville tonight was absolutely awesome. I was left completely speechless.

Bob made a comment during the show that I hope will lay all these arguments
about Ballad of a Thin Man to rest once and for all. I am going to attempt to
quote here, but I didn't write it down so it may not be exactly verbatim.

"There have been a lot of requests for that Ballad Of A Thin Man song. But
we're not going to play it. Not going to play it. Many people ask me what's
that song about--it's about critics. People who don't pay to get in a place
and then have the audacity to write something about it."

There you go, folks. From the man himself.

Sweet Melinda
The peasants call her the goddess of gloom

Subject: Review for February 6 From: Joe COx ( Date: Sun, 7 Feb 1999 01:10:03 -0600 Yes, it's all true. Bob is truly better than ever. And also more communicative than in my memory. Here are my impressions, fresh from tonight's show in Nashville. Brian Setzer played a nice set to lead into the act. He played a lot of his usual swing stuff, and added in a nice mix of old favorites (like "Since I Don't Have You", "Sleepwalk", and the closer, "Tequila"). Brian is very high energy and he really gets the crowd into it. He played a mean guitar and his band was great as well. A friend who attended the show with me had his girlfriend along. Since it was her first time seeing Bob, she noted all the young kids and speculated that most of the crowd (shoehorned onto the floor) would leave after the BSO finished their set. Wrong! Bob came on a few minutes after nine. He opened with "Gotta Serve Somebody" and right away it was apparent that something extra was there tonight. He was smiling, Honest to God smiling, throught the song. His guitar playing was strong and he was dancing around more than I'd ever seen before. The crowd appreciated the strong opener and let him know and Bob responded with a casual "Thank you." He led into a sizzling "Million Miles" next. Even with this slower song, he was rocking out and having a good time. The crowd would roar after each verse. Bob noticed this and threw out the full "Thanks, everybody" upon conclusion. Next up was "Stuck Inside of Mobile" complete with the same peculiar phrasing and tight guitar work we've come to expect. It was during this song that I noticed Larry Campbell and Bob starting to grin at each other. Bob slowed it down with "Make You Feel My Love" in the four spot. It was the first time I'd heard it and I was quite impressed. Bob was very clear in his annunciation tonight, especially early, and he really did a good job here. After this one, Bob stepped to the mike and commented "Here's a song by my favorite cowboy singer." This got everyone's attention as we leaned forward in anticipation of a Jimmy Rodgers or Hank Williams tune, instead we got a quick blast of "Silvio". Let me go on record as saying that I do not enjoy "Silvio". But this was an exception. Larry was really on tonight and he showed it here. A fantastic version of this one, with the nice joke to boot. "Stone Walls and Steel Bars" led off the acoustic set. Another song I really don't like. But another sterling performance. Tight harmonies from Campbell and Baxter and a clear performance from Bob made this one pretty solid. He followed with a long intro which left me wondering, until he started singing what turned out to be "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue". I would guess this was the weakest song of the night, but even it was beautiful and nearly perfect. Bob struggled a little with the early verses, but fixed it up nicely. He followed with "Friend of the Devil" which drew a heavy response from the Deadheads. It's not a song that I'm very familiar with, but more fine harmonies with Campbell and Baxter and a fine performance by Bob, who was in full dance mode by now. He broke out the semi-duckwalk and approached the Elvis-like swinging legs move once or twice. He also pointed the guitar to the ground or the crowd. And SMILED constantly! He finished up the acoustic set with a fabulous "Tangled Up in Blue". I think they've changed the key that they play it in; as it seemed to have a little more bite than I had remembered. Bob really enjoyed this one, so much that he threw in an extra instrumental verse at the end just because he and Larry had such great guitar chemistry on this night. Larry was smiling and having a good time and this was rubbing back off on Bob, who was already happy. Next came the song I really dreaded, Hank Williams' "Honky Tonk Blues". Bob didn't really try the yodeling high notes that Hank hit. Well, I should say he tried, but he just couldn't hit them. He almost cracked up the first time through it! Still, the guitars were tight and an otherwise flawless vocal performance made this enjoyable. He followed this up with a very unmemorable "Can't Wait." Very powerful and very similar to the album version. Next came the most remarkable thing I've ever seen and heard! Bob rambled up to the mike, threw out a perfunctory thank you to Brian Setzer and introduced the band. That aside, he began his monologue of the evening (quoted almost verbatim here; it's the best that I could scribble it down as) "We had a request for that 'Ballad of a Thin Man' song. <2 second pause> But we're not going to play it. I know, I know. People always want to know what that song's about. It's about people who don't buy tickets to get in places, critics who don't buy tickets to get in places, but have the audacity to write things." And with all that off his chest, Bob launched into a rollicking "Highway 61." The guitars were perfect here; as he lined himself up right beside Larry and the two of them danced and played and laughed and generally kicked ass. Bob left to great applause and came back to an arena full of glowing cigarette lighters. He kicked into a very moody, eery "Love Sick". It wasn't an album clone; it souned very spooky. That one aside, he kicked into overdrive on "Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat". Again, Larry Campbell was incredible, for about the 800th time tonight. Larry was just brilliant. And Bob enjoyed this brilliance and the two really bonded for the whole show. Bob took a long instrumental break and came back to sing two verses before he ended this one. Next came another song I dreaded. "Blowin' in the Wind." I'd never heard a version of this song I liked. Ever. Now I have. It's kind of up-tempo a little with sweet harmony vocals added by Larry and Bucky on the chorus. Tony plays an acoustic guitar on this one; giving us a three guitar lineup. Really, though, this was spine tingling stuff. Appropriately, Bob closed up with "Not Fade Away." He brought Tony over with he and Larry and the three of them danced and jammed and caroused together and closed out the show. Consider this show a message. Bob Dylan will most assuredly NOT FADE AWAY. He was as sharp as he's sounded to my ears in years. He really seems to be enjoying his craft these days. See him while you can. His comments on "Ballad of a Thin Man" alone were worth the $25. Incidentally, consider this a grovel. If anybody gets a copy of the tape from this show, please contact me. It's simply a must have for me. And as Bob himself would comment, "Thanks everybody". Joe
Subject: Re: Review for February 6 From: ~jakesangel~ ( Date: Mon, 08 Feb 1999 03:39:48 GMT I echo every word of those sentiments! This was my first Bob show as I'm a new fan and I could not have been more impressed with anyone than I was last night. I was lucky enough to be in the second row (very smushed) and right under Bob so to speak. I couldn't hear the exact remarks about the critics and the "Thin Man" song so thank you for elaborating on that! This will definetly NOT be the last Bob show I attend! ~Kim~
Subject: Memphis/Nashville weekend From: paul williams ( Date: 7 Feb 1999 11:56:10 -0800 What a weekend! Friday night's show at the New Daisy Theater on Beale Street was the hottest ticket I ever remember in all my years of going to shows. A friend of mine sold one for $200, ticket "brokers" were asking $250, and I've heard unverified reports of them going for as much as $500. Seeing Bob in a venue the size of the Daisy was a rare opportunity, and there were many people who were disappointed. Those of us who were fortunate enough to get in were anything but, though, as Bob and his band played a sparkling set that rocked from beginning to end. We got in early, and were able to get right up against the waist-high stage, just in front of Bucky. Bob was in a GREAT mood. I've never seen him smile as much as he did on this night. It probably didn't hurt things any that there were a number of extremely attractive young ladies down front. Bob seemed to take a liking to one or two of them, and was mugging for them all night long. It was pretty funny. At one point early in the set, the bodyguard came out to the center of the stage, reached out into the audience, and grabbed this one girl, a very well-endowed friend of mine who was about two rows deep, and pulled her up to the stage, front and center. I guess Bob had pointed her out. I talked to her after the show, and she was pretty blown away. It was crowded down front, but not uncomfortably so. They even took advantage of the wonderful weather we've been having to open up the doors at the side of the stage to let a nice cool breeze give us some fresh air. I'll spare you all the in-depth analysis of each song (check Pagel for the set list), but I will say that highlights included "Blue Eyed Jane", "Takes A Lot To Laugh", and "Everything Is Broken" (when was the last time he played THAT?). He played some really great, sleazy guitar on "Million Miles," too. It made me wonder what might have happened if it had come to pass if Frank Zappa had wound up producing INFIDELS. We also got harmonica on "Tangled Up In Blue," and "Don't Think Twice," but I have to say that it seemed pretty perfunctory. I remember when Bob would blow harp like his life depended on it, taking chances, digging holes that you'd think he could never climb out of, and then finding a miraculous resolution. But that's only a minor criticism. For me, the absolute highlight was "Can't Wait." Bob seemed to get this really demented gleam in his eye, and his face broke out in this twisted grin. If Edgar Allen Poe had been in front of me reciting The Tell-Tale Heart, I don't think it could have been any creepier. It was one of those moments when you knew you were witnessing greatness. They wrapped things up with a rockin' "Not Fade Away," reminding us all that this week was the fortieth anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, one of the founding fathers, who helped Bob chart his course way back when he was a rebel without a cause up in the North Country. Saturday night in Nashville was quite different. I had not been in Municipal Auditorium since I was a mere lad of sixteen years who was there to see David Bowie on the Ziggy Stardust tour (you do the math). Its a big basketball arena, probaly seats about 10,000, but they didn't sell tickets behind they stage. It was not sold out, but did the show sell well, I'm guessing there were maybe 7000 people there. After the Memphis show, I wasn't sure if I was going to try to endure the general admission snake pit on the floor, but when it got down to the wire, I knew I wanted to get close, I wound up about two rows deep, again on Bucky's side of the stage. There was not nearly the kind of interaction with the audience that there had been in Memphis, but Bob and the band compensated by maybe rocking a little harder and louder. Typically, he played "Stuck Inside Of Mobile" for the Nashville crowd, after skipping it in Memphis. I guess Don McLean didn't call him "the Jester" for nothin'. Highlights included Hank Williams'/Leon Payne's "Honky Tonk Blues", "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat," and a very nice "Blowin' In The Wind." Bob even said something about getting a request for "Thin Man," saying that he wasn't gonna play it, but that people ask him what its about, and that its about "people who don't pay to get in, critics who don't pay to get in, but have the audacity to write about it," or something along those lines. When did Bob EVER explain one of his songs onstage before? Surely the Rapture is near. The only thing that bugged me was that there was this guy behind me who was familiar with the general pattern of Bob's shows these days, and he kept shouting out the names of the songs BEFORE Bob would play them. He also thought he was Howard Cosell, and was giving everybody the play by play commentary during the songs: "perfect phrasing"... "he sang that line just right"... etc. Where is a large sack of dog shit when you need one? Nevertheless, it was a great show, and a wonderful weekend. It was very nice meeting a lot of you: Christine, Jim, Cameron, Pat, Mick, Edwin... all in all, one of the most pleasurable experiences in all my years out there on Highway 61. Now I'm stuck inside of Memphis, wishing I had gone on to Birmingham... Pablo ---------------------------------------------------------------- "Money may buy you a fine dog, but only love can make it wag its tail." -Kinky Friedman
Subject: Re: Memphis/Nashville weekend From: Sweet Melinda ( Date: Sun, 07 Feb 1999 22:04:25 GMT Someone pushed me up front and I was standing right in front of Bob. He kept looking at me and a couple of girls next to me and smiling. I was just grinning like an idiot in complete disbelief. At several times during the show he would look over and wink or raise his eyebrows. He seemed to be really enjoying himself and acting silly. At the end of the set I blew him a kiss, and he blew me a kiss back! What a show! I'll never forget this one. -- Sweet Melinda The peasants call her the goddess of gloom
Subject: Nashville- February 6- Extremely Long review From: Alan Sims ( Date: 9 Feb 1999 13:20:24 -0800 Hey Everybody, First MOMENT of the night for me: The most beautiful rendition of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" I have ever heard. The soft and delicate phrasing; almost a whisper on the refrain, were so fragile and regret filled, it was hard to imagine this as a song which can be sung by the same singer as a song of bitterness. Second MOMENT of the night for me: My first hero was Hank Williams. My second and I presume final hero is Bob Dylan. As a single digit aged boy growing up in Alabama I used to listen to WSM every Saturday night and imagine what it was like when Hank Williams sang over those airwaves. While still small I was fortunate enough to travel to Nashville twice to see the Opry live at the Ryman and stare at the spot where my hero stood. The years, adolescence and politics eased me toward Bob, but I never lost my love for Hank. To find myself thirty years later listening to Bob Dylan sing Honky Tonk Blues just a few hundred yards from the Ryman was almost too much for words. To hear Bob gamely fade his voice in and out in a post youth attempt at a brief yodel, ala Jerry, was also held a beautiful symmetry. Final and most Magical of MOMENTS for me: When my daughter was named in the seventies (she was born in 1983), we gave her the middle name of Wynd. That is pronounced with the softness of the breeze, not a long y, and generally with two syllables as we are known to do in this part of the country. It was after the song "Blowin' in the Wind" and until Saturday night, during her sixth Dylan show, she had never heard him sing it. That all changed during the encore when he sang as gorgeously a melodic version as I have ever heard him sing. Every word was carefully enunciated and given tremendous emphasis. The harmonies on the refrain, supported by Larry and Bucky are nothing short of chilling. To hold my fifteen-year-old daughter in my arms, with her name which resonates backwards through time, personal history and national movements to its origins in the hands of the singer now delivering it to us was an unspeakable experience. The show was a good one. In some ways it was workman-like, but that is a very real gift on these most recent tours when the work is of such high quality. Somewhere in the neighborhood of two to three hundred people were waiting for the doors to be opened. There was talk from the "officials" at the doors of being strict about what was allowed inside, but only purses were searched and those only cursorily. It was obvious from the crowed waiting outside and it did not change as it built inside that this was the youngest Bob crowd I have ever seen. My daughter guessed that the largest group was the early twenty contingent. I might have said there were as many teen-agers. A few were obviously there to see Brian Setzer, but they were dwarfed by the number who appeared to be there for Bob. Obviously some of that is a guess because very few fans had signs around their necks identifying them, but when some were dressed in silk shirts and all-too-polished shoes while others had the look of Dead Head refugees, well, I guess I allowed my stereo-types to emerge. The auditorium was built at least before the early sixties and was certainly nothing special. It was round, with the seats behind the stage not being sold. None of the balcony seats looked like good ones to me. By the time the show started, which was about 7:50 (twenty minutes late), there were very few empty seats and the floor looked as if it had sold to capacity. My guess was maybe 5500 in attendance. The biggest excitement of the pre-show time period for me was discovering that they were selling posters advertising the concert, which were duplicates of the one which has been the cover for I was delighted to get one for a mere $10.00! Brian Setzer took the stage to the sounds of the big band behind him. I will say that he is a good show-man and an excellent guitar player. His set looked odd, with each of his fifteen or so orchestra members seated behind small podiums which had florescent green covers. It looked like a bad setting for the high school bowl circa 1960. The costumes (uniforms? tuxedoes? ) worn by the band members were equally garish and made me question if they take the music seriously or if they see this entire project as one of spoof or camp. Maybe they would just say they were having fun. They are very proficient musicians and they did have their following. I met several fans who had seen them a number of times. One of them speculated that he would play two hours, since they are "co-headliners". I think he was mainlining. They played for fifty minutes as a good opener should. Thirty minutes would have been about right for my taste. The songs became redundant to me after that long. Brian ended the night dressed in his spaghetti strap undershirt revealing most of his wrist-to-wrist dragon tattoo, which was more than I wanted to see. If you like swing he may be the man, otherwise I would have like to seen a different opener. The highlight to me was "Sleepwalk", during which Brian did things to his guitar which Santo and Johnny would have found appalling. Very nice. His segment ended about 8:40. It took almost thirty minutes to prepare the stage for Bob. Bucky came out and tuned the steel guitar, which I had never seen before, but nobody seemed to notice. At 9:15, with strobe lights flashing and buckets of incence sending prayers heavenward for a visitation of the saints, Bob and band took the stage. They were already wired for action by the time we heard, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Welcome Columbia Recording Artist BOB DYLAN". Bob was wearing a black coat and pants with standard piping up the side of the pants, and piping which looked like the design on much of the current Dylan merchandise. Very nice. No hat. White shirt with what appeared to be a blunted tie. Not the western type. Not any type I've ever seen. Boots were snake skin, I think and the hair was straight out of a hurricane. First up was "Gotta Serve Somebody" which I had not heard live since 1981. The sound was clear and crisp from the beginning, which was a relief. This version is very good, with Larry and Bucky supplying an excellent female gospel sound to the backing "Ser-er-ve Somebody". I did catch a lyric I had not heard, though maybe it isn't new: You may be a woman, you may be a man, may eat from a table, maybe from a garbage can. . ." The chorus is delivered with altered timing from the album, with major emphasis on "But we all have to serve SOMEbody". "Million Miles" was next and it was good, though I don't really feel the live version adds anything new to the studio version. If anything, the studio version is more smoky and mysterious. "Stuck Inside of Mobile" was pretty standard. The crowd really responded to this one, singing along with the chorus (which was difficult given Dylan's phrasing) as if we were all singing standards at the local pub. I've heard this live many times, but I always enjoy it as I grew up in Mobile and often felt stuck there, myself. "Make You Feel My Love" was very nice, though not always clearly sung. It seemed much sadder and wistful live. I like it as a guitar song as opposed to the keyboards of the album. He said something afterward about that being his "cowboy song". Silvio returned to its slot and it was good as usual, though nothing special that I could tell. The crowd loved it, as always. This mystifies me somewhat, because they respond to it as if they know it, and certainly casual fans were not buying his albums in the late 80's. The acoustic set started with "Stone Walls and Steel Bars" which was good, but I really don't care for as a live song for Bob. I like "Cocaine" in this slot, but was hoping for "Rock of Ages". Next was a real highlight: "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (See above for details). This was followed by a solid "Friend of the Devil", which was more interesting to the audience. It seems to me one of these covers could be sacrificed for an acoustic Bob Song. Predictably, a crowd pleasing "Tangled Up in Blue" followed. The preferred profession for the husbands tonight was "truck drivers", which may be standard, now. There was a new one on me involving the job he got when he "drifted down to New Orleans". I think it was something like, "working both night and day, trying to leave his past behind, but his past would never go away." (Or something similar) This concluded the acoustic set, with no sign of the harmonica, and indeed we did not see it all night. At some point, Bob did introduce the band, with only an elaboration for David Kemper, I believe. I could not catch what he said. We also got a few, "Thankseverybodyyyyy"s. Then sometime during the final electric segment of the main set, we got a brief anecdote, some of which I missed because of audience members inexplicably screaming during his speech. It was similar to this: "Some people want us to play that song about something's happening here. (cheers) We aren't' going to play it, though. Some people want to know what it's about. It's about people who don't pay to get in. Journalists who don't pay to get in." There was a final part which I could not hear for the screaming. I'm sure this is inaccurate, but it is the best I can remember. "Honky Tonk Blues" followed and was met with enthusiastic response. I suppose if people anywhere were going to recognize it, this would be the city. They seemed to know it. It was a version which would have made Hank proud, though he would probably have scratched his head at Bob's lead guitar work :-) "Can't Wait" was next and I didn't feel it had quite the lilt of last year's version. This time out it is more similar to the album, I think. Naturally, "Highway 61" concluded the main set. The crowd loved it and he sang more verses than I remember him singing recently, but that may just be my memory. The encore started with "Love Sick", which continues to be very good. "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" was another crowd pleaser, though I would have loved to have heard just about anything else. "Blowin' in the Wind" was simply spectacular. Such emotion! The crowd was under his spell. I would absolutely take this version over any I have heard. "Not Fade Away" was the joyous closer, and a good closer it is. Final Thoughts and Notes: The lighting is different. The were times when a hard, white light from front stage would flood the performer with a light of such intensity, they would almost appear to be a sepia photograph from a hundred years before. It struck me how disappointed a person might be if they only knew the Greatest Hits album. They would only know "Blowin' in the Wind". If they were a classic rock radio listener, they would only likely have known "Tangled Up in Blue". If they knew the vintage sixties work, it would still only be four songs. I count four covers, four from the sixties, two from the seventies, one from the eighties and four from the nineties (Time Out of Mind, specifically). He certainly seems to have something on his mind, and it doesn't seem to have to do with his status as some sort of sixties icon. We left the arena tired, but happy and drove the three hours from the city of music to the city in the shadows of the Smoky Mountains listening to Biograph. Beautiful Trip. Peace, Alan in Knoxville

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