Monday, June 27, 2005

Dylan Does Jersey 

Bob Dylan in concert, Friday's show in Little Falls (or was it Verona?) was probably the second-best I've witnessed, ranking only behind an incendiary December 1995 set at The Beacon Theater with Patti Smith.

His friend Jerry Garcia had died in August of that year. It's just conjecture, but after seeing Dylan's performance that night a few months later, I couldn't help thinking that Jerry's death had been some kind of wake-up call. The show wasn't Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1966 or anything, but it was intense. Granted, it had been four years since I'd caught Bob in person, so maybe he'd already found his groove somewhere between those first three times I saw him in '89, '90, and '91 and when I caught up with him again in late '95. I've seen him so many times since, though, and while none of the shows were bad, I'd never seen him that fired up again.

This past Friday, Bob came close. Focused and fierce, he unfurled a stunning set that included "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again," which had taken over for "Tangled Up In Blue" many shows earlier as the "Bob song I've never seen him do live that I most want to see him do." Now I have to pick a new one. The fact that Friday was the closest I've ever been physically to the man and his stage also added significantly to the performance's visceral power. Standing alongside Brooklyn Vegan (who shot a boatload of cool pics of Bob and Willie) and our mutual friend Lupe (who reviewed the show on BV's site), we were 20 or so people back from the stage. The Yoge, home of the Can-Am League's New Jersey Jackals, was a great setting on an almost-too-warm Friday night.

Other highlights included a stately "Desolation Row" and a rousing "New Morning." Not a single song from the years 1971 to 1996, which is weird, but he often ignores huge whole chunks of his career in concert. Leading off the show with two love songs in a row from Nashville Skyline was unexpected but really, really cool. Bob played a lot of harp. The band rocked a lot. The Bard himself rocked the most.

Set list:
To Be Alone With You
Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
Just Like A Woman
Cold Irons Bound
Desolation Row
Highway 61 Revisited
Not Dark Yet
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
Make You Feel My Love
New Morning
Summer Days

It Ain't Me, Babe
Like A Rolling Stone

Scanning their way through "On The Road Again," "Crazy," "Always On My Mind," and other hits, Willie Nelson & Family were good too. Willie's voice has hardly changed through the last three decades or so. Sadly, he didn't match the intensity of the one previous time I saw him, at Irving Plaza about five years ago. Missed the very opening song or two of his set due to directions and parking snafus, so I'm not sure if he played "Whiskey River," but he was playing that execrable "Beer For My Horses" thing as we were walking into the ballpark. Willie's still totally worth showing up for, though.

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