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Bob Dylan 971208 at Irving Plaza, New York City, NY

Subject: The Dog And I Journey To Irving Plaza
From: Neil Ross (
Date: Tue, 09 Dec 1997 17:28:51 GMT

     The Dog bounded into my office a week and a day ago to tell
me the good news: Dylan's playing Irving Plaza, and, according to
a page on the web, we can order tickets by mail.  And so we
immediately began to scurry around like madmen, got our money
orders, filled out index cards, scribbled on FedEx envelopes,
followed directions carefully and, while we weren't wondering if the
folks in Sebastopol, California are really incredible scam
artists (money to some post office box after reading about it on
the internet?  Ha!), hoped to get a chance to see Bob Dylan
perform in a comparatively tiny New York City venue.  Could it
really happen?

     72 hours later, the answer was in: Yes it can.  And while no
email confirmation about winning the ticket lottery came my way,
The Dog indeed received one on his end.  And without hesitating,
The Dog asked me to join him.  We were going.   

     All through the day yesterday, The Dog was crazy with
anticipation.  Bob Dylan posters went up on his office walls,
articles of the Washington award ceremony were taped to his door, 
play lists were perused (is Silvio always the sixth song?), tapes
played and lyrics repeated.  Every fifteen minutes The Dog would
walk into my office looking at his watch.  It was not a very
productive day for him.  By mid-afternoon, his excitement
started getting to me big time, so by 4:30 we were ready to
leave, ready to brave the cold, ready to stand in line for hours
just to get a chance to see up close a 56 year old legend.  And
so we journeyed to Irving Plaza.  And stood in line.  And froze
for a while.  But all for good reason.

     Although we could've been far closer, we ended up deciding
to stand in the balcony area of Irving Plaza.  Right against the
ledge of the balcony, our coats over the balcony rail, we were
comfortable, had little pushing to deal with, and had a truly
perfect unobstructed view.  Joan Osborne finished, we prepared
for the main event.      

     Compared to The Dog and the avid readers of this newsgroup,
I'm an amateur when it comes to Bob Dylan.  In fact, it took me a
mere 22 years to see him in concert for the second time. 
Coincidentally, the first time was on December 8, 1975 - the
Night of the Hurricane at Madison Square Garden - exactly 22
years earlier to the day.  And so, my thoughts here are the
thoughts of an "amateur" Bob Dylan fan; please take them at that

     I found this to be one the most enjoyable concert 
performances I've seen in years.  The sound system was excellent,
the band truly complimented the star, and - could it be? - Bob
seemed to truly enjoy performing.  Most of all though, I was
thoroughly taken with the fact that Dylan and this band can really
rock.  Among the great rockers of the night: Silvio and Tangled Up In
Blue.  "To Ramona," the second song in the acoustic set was also
a real pleasure.  One negative note: I thought that following
Tangled Up In Blue with "White Dove" was an error in pacing which
unfortunately slowed down the whole set and made White Dove seem
out of place.  Still, to this listener's ears, the short acoustic
set (three songs and a magnificent rendition of Don't Think
Twice, It's Alright performed as the second song in what became a
four song encore) seemed to bring out the best in the band.  In
fact, I found myself wishing that the band had done more

     I also found myself wishing that Jerry Garcia had been able
to jam with this band on the acoustic numbers.  It made me sorry
I had not made more of an effort to see some of the Dylan and the
Dead shows from year ago.  On another note - and this must be
pure "amateur" error - the first few notes of one song (I and I,
perhaps?) sounded so familiar that I leaned over and asked The
Dog if it was Dear Mr. Fantasy.  But then I remembered that I was
in fact seeing Dylan, and not the Dead, and that Dylan performing
Dear Mr. Fantasy during this concert was a rather unlikely

     One of the great laughs of the night took place just as the
band concluded playing "Can't Wait," the fifth song of the
evening.  Having seen the set lists going back a few months, I
laughingly (just to amuse The Dog, really) yelled out "Silvio,"
and, predictably, it began about five seconds later.  Standing
right next to me at the time was, I believe, Ann Powers, one of
the rock critics for the NY Times.  When she realized what song
was being played, she turned to me, and with a rather curious
look, asked me if I was always able to do that.  Naturally, at
this, The Dog just cracked up.  And so did I.  And Silvio rocked. 
Much more than I even imagined it would.

     And that's really my final thought on the show.  Dylan
rocked much more than I really thought he would.  He is plainly
not someone whom one would imagine was gravely ill just a few
months ago.  To this amateur viewer, he was rocking, and enjoying
himself as he did.  

     Quite simply, I enjoyed the hell out this show.  It even
seems as thought it was worth the duel waits of 22 years and one
week.  And I especially enjoyed going to the show with The Dog.  It
was a great night for both of us, and I thank him for allowing me to
join him.  Other than Bob Dylan, I must acknowledge that The Dog
is The Man.

All the best,

Subject: Re: The Dog And I Journey To Irving Plaza From: Gert Webelhuth ( Date: Tue, 09 Dec 1997 12:45:10 -0500 Ah, what pleasure! An amateur, not another slick rmd mandarin! Go ahead! ... Neil, thanks for a great review? Only one question at the end: did Bobby make the Dog bark? :-)
Subject: Re: The Dog And I Journey To Irving Plaza From: Ig moon ( Date: 10 Dec 1997 05:37:19 GMT Neil great review always nice to hear from someone new Iggi
Subject: Irving Plaza (Another View) From: Zoner13 ( Date: 9 Dec 1997 20:35:39 GMT This was another really great night on the Dylan trail. And, if people haven't got the picture yet (I know I'm preaching to the converted here) please listen: see this man! You shouldn't go because of what he did in 1966, or 1976, or even 1996. You should go because the NEXT show will probably stand on its own. (Free from the Dylan history, the myth, all that crap). Listen to the live versions of Love Sick and Cold Irons Bound. (What a treat to hear a roaring applause for a NEW Dylan song!) People so surprised how great that album is, are people who haven't seen this man/band in recent years. The sound they get -- that pulsing, jabbing on Love Sick, or that haunting freight-train sound (how else can I describe it?) on Cold Irons Bound, is mezmerizing. And in a small place like Irving Plaza. (I had what I consider the "best seat" in the house -- front row, to the left of Dylan's microphone. Go early, folks.) And to see Dylan enjoying himself (after a few songs, of course) was worth the wait. He played his heart out. After Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You, the crowd was his, and he made the best of it. To Ramona. Worth the price of admission. Why not more accoustic numbers?! The sound of all those guitars whirling and twirling, and Dylan's voice (you can hear it so much better on these songs) -- it's classic "Dylan." No, he doesn't sound like Blonde on Blonde, or even Street Legal, and if you're expecting You're a Big Girl Now to sound like Blood on the Tracks (no harm there) then go BUY it. But if you want to hear a great version of the 1997 version, representative of the consistent quality of the "new" sound -- of Dylan's "new" energy and commitment -- (since '93 or so) -- get some tapes. (No, I didn't.) I was glad Cocaine was back. After 10 shows (double digits!) it's amazing how differently you look at Dylan and a concert with a few under your belt. I was cheering this on as if it were a long lost classic. (Not unlike people still cheer Tangled.) And one guy, after hearing Silvio, asked, "what was THAT?" That's one I don't cheer so much, don't look forward to on tapes, but always cheer live. (see Watchtower, r.i.p.) But I could hear Cocaine every night -- Dylan's voice (as this summer) like an echo: "Co-caaaaiiiiine.....all around my braaaaaiin...") It's scary. Or that sound on You're a Big Girl Now -- a great vehicle for Dylan these days (not unlike Queen Jane, which we didn't get). That "poking" sound, what's accused of "noodling." Dylan playing his voice against the stopping and starting of the guitars (thank God for Bucky Baxter). No, Dylan doesn't have the voice he used to. But he finds a way to get by. He finds creative to carry on. That's what is so amazing about the shows during this "Dylan Revival" in recent years -- Dylan coming to terms with his inability to "sing 'em like he used to" but still playing great shows, and still getting that "Dylan" sound. Listen to these versions of Don't Think Twice. Or Tangled (though it's worn out its welcome). Or To Ramona. And TELL me The Voice ain't got something left to sing. Tell me at MSG -- I'll be there every night, Zoner
Subject: Irving Pl/a full review From: MLPman219x ( Date: 10 Dec 1997 02:46:02 GMT I wrote this for posting on a bulletin board on a system that has lotsa Dylan fans (among them, some of the most thoughtful fans Ive ever known) and many who think his last major song was Blowin in the Wind... But I thought some of u might be interested in seeing it. (Also posted identical review on AOL's Dylan board) One thing that I didnt post elsewhere: the woman just behind me (on the rail directly in front of Bucky), kept yelling, "Bob, tell me your screen name!" He didnt answer her then, but if she found out subsequently, I certainly hope she'll share The review: My last Dylan concert post was this past August, when I saw him at the Mann Music Center in Philly (a large outdoor ampitheater in Fairmont Park) w/ Ani DiFranco and BR-549. Last nite I saw him at Irving Plaza, a tiny (max ocupancy: 1500) club near Union Sq. in Manhattan. And for the first time ever, was in the front row (standing at the stage), an *unbelievable* experience. The concert was great... His voice was *much* stronger than it was in August, and other than the fact that he didnt play the harmonica at all, no indication of his early summer illness. His guitar playing was spectacularly good (and, as he always seems to, got stronger as time went on), and he was actualy having fun.. vamping with audience, taking extra pauses in the middle of phrases to give almost a jazzy flavor to some of the pieces (looked extraordinarily spiffy as well). Band has finally congealed as a unit, and tho I still miss Winston on drums, Bob's interplay w/ Larry Campbell (as lead guitar) is now as seamless as it was w JJ (and Campbell, imnsho, has much better chops). Concert was sposed to be just Bob. Surprise! Joan Osborne came out for opening set, and confirmed my expectations (from the Relish CD) that this is not just a flash-in-the-panner, rock chick du jour, but a woman deeply rooted in the blues who can rock the hell out of any song (her set included, variously, Spooky, Drown in My Own tears, Man in the Long Black Coat (the one Dylan song that she's recorded) and Born in Bethlehem. She was backed by 2 members of her own band, and the legendary Holmes Brothers (who backed her up vocally on a couple of numbers). A great opening act... Then Bob. Started w Maggie's Farm, one of my least favorites of all his songs (concededly, a better opener than Sweet Marie (this summer/fall's choice, and, to my mind a much better song), but one that made it clear that Bob was in rockin' form (both vocally and on guitar). Followed with Tonite, I'll Be Staying Here With You... good job, soulful, reflective. Then, my first life-list add-on.. Cold Iron Bound (from Time out of Mind [TooM])... so great to hear a totally new song, and already, he began to play with the line.. pausing a few beats before the word "bound" in the verse. This set the tone for the nite... a lot of idiosyncratic phrasing (some almost jazz-like in its character), certainly keeping the audience off guard. [NB: Since this is in the mystical #3 position, I think it's a good bet that we'll be hearing this at all concerts for the remainder of the tour (at least). Next was an excellent You're A Big Girl Now (with one of my fave lines in all of Dylan's lyrics.. "like a corkscrew to my *heart*"). Again, great phraseology, and great timing. He followed this with Can't Wait (also from TooM), and with it the sense of world-weariness and of finally-being-an-adult that permeates all of TooM. Then, Silvio (apparently ensconced in #6 quasi-permanently). Just as Watchtower used to be the clue to how an entire concert was gonna shape up, so does Silvio serve that task now. And it was, simply, the best I've ever heard. It rocked, and it steamed and it propelled the band (symbolically) into the audience. At this point, the muscianship of each of the band members began to come into clearer focus (again, that seems to happen at some different moment in each concert, and last nite it happened here. Almost as if the spotlite kept shifting from Campbell to Bucky to Tony to Kempner and back to Bob... who was attacking the hell out of his guitar all nite long (and had some fun, vamping, w/ facial expressions that cd ve been done by an entertainer trying to imitate Dylan (if that makes sense). Then the first acoustic set. Began with a version of Cocaine even better than the one we saw in Philly in August. Perfect enunciation (*every* word of *every* acoustic song totally understandable tonite), and some killer ukelele work by Bucky backing. Then, Tangled Up in Blue (has been done at every concert since April), in what's closest to the Jerry Garcia arrangement. Here, he started playing with the audience a bit; since we were singing along w/ every word (how many 6 verse songs are there (well, 7 but, dammit, he still isnt singing the Italian poet one) that 99% of an audience knows word for word?), he'd speed up tempo and then drop back a bit so that we'd continually be off the note (he smilingly Sphinx-like all the while). I never tire of it. Finally, To Ramona (which I believe I last heard at Rutgers in the spring of 1965).. gorgeous, mournful song (and what a song for NYC: "The flowers of the city/Though breathlike, get deathlike at times"). Wow (a friend who saw the other performance of this one this tour (in Ohio) told me it was the high point, and I certainly understand how it could have been. Back to electric. Started with another life-list add-on for me, tho one that I, honestly, cd ve lived without hearing: a country/bluegrass song called White Dove (by the Stanley Brothers).. was nice to listen to, but didnt do very much for me. Then: this was the slot that I was holding my breath for, since if he was gonna play Blind Willie McTell or This Wheel's On Fire (#s 1 and 2 on the I've-never-heard-but-have-a-really-good-chance-of-hearing-before-the-tour' s-over-if-he-keeps-to-form), this would be it. It wasnt,. But..... Opened with guitars doing a long almost ostinato strummmmmmm that wouldn't've been out of place in Screaming Jay Hawkins' I Put a Spell on You. Had NO idea what it was gonna be, but expected to be electrified. And I was. My first ever I & I (from the vastly underrated Infidels album). Probably the most complex lyrics of any song Bob's written in the past 20 years (it's about Gd or creation or the endless abyss or transcendtalism or all of the above and is, as a friend says, the most Jungian song ever written). Absototalllutely brilliant.. vocally and musically. Shattering. If an import version of this concert is ever available, this one is worth the price of admission. And then, quickly into the third from TooM: Til I Fell in Love With You. And again.. a rocking, blazing, smoking masterpiece (on one verse, he went into his helium voice for abt 8 bars, and then got quickly out of it). Voice was staying strong and steady. The encores: altho he's been beginning almost every encore set w/ Like a Rolling Stone, he substituted Hiway 61 Revisited, and this one was even better than the one in Philly. Bob and Larry were blasting at ea other (and from the first row, it *really* blasted), almost as if they were "trading 4s" (in jazz lingo) but at the same time... again, I had thought Bob shdda dropped this one after Johnny Winter recorded this version, but this one was a meteor. The next slot is the 2d most interesting spot for me of the nite: this is where Ive heard Forever Young and Hard Rain in recent years, and am always up for a where-did-*that*-come-from choice. Not last nite.. a wonderful, laconic and loving Don't Think Twice (w/ another helium line lapse), and an absolute joy to listen to (cue sheet alternates were My Back pages and Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol (latter last heard by me in 1963.. damn!). Then, his 4th from TooM, Love Sick, the opening song on the CD (and my 2d fave, next to Trying to Get to Heaven). This is his valedictory, and his near-out-of-body-experience (from his spring potentially-fatal illness): my feet are so tired/my brain is so wired/ and the clouds are ..... [long pause] .... *weeping*. Sublime. Ended w/ Rainy Day (yawn). Over 100 minutes of nonstop playing. The nite after the Presidential award ceremony. From the White House to a tiny club on E. 15th St. From Bacall and Peck and the pols to 1000 fans (certainly more in my age bracket than at either the Philly or Wayne concerts this year), but a mix from 18 to at least 65. I was privileged to be there...
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