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Bob Dylan 971214 at the Club Metro, Chicago, IL

Sunday, 14 December, 1997
Metro, Chicago
John H. Haas

I will try to resist the temptation to cram the review with biographical
details, though I will say I think my wife and I are on the verge of being
too old for a club such as the Metro.  Physiologically speaking, it
approached the "ordeal" category, in the medieval sense of the word.  The
30 minutes it took to get into the club as we decently and in order snaked
our way forward wasn't too bad; I'm always delighted and amazed at the
instinctual decency people display in these situations, walking meekly to
the back and taking their humble place in line-precedence is all.  The
Metro is indeed small-I've taught in larger venues (though usually to
somewhat less enthusiastic audiences).  But it was a long wait till 7:30,
and then another wait till things commenced, during which period I was
having anxious thoughts about how much money it was all costing, Christmas
shopping, whether my back would hold out, etc.  All of which was
exacerbated by the VIP's lounging comfortably in the balcony, giving the
Metro an uncomfortable Globe-Theatre-like feeling, complete with
groundlings.  Where's Andrew Jackson when we need him, anyway?

The explanation for the wait would soon become manifest; as it was, it
looked as if there was some electrical glitch, with an intent guitar
technician or two looking very serious, tightening wires, strumming a
guitar, etc., over on Larry's side.  I thought this odd given it was the
second night.  About 8 o'clock the band comes out, everyone looking very
good, but the house lights are up, so there's this big collective question
mark hanging over our heads.  They launch into an electric instrumental
blues, stop.  Tony-who, let's face it, has a smile that's hard to
resist-steps to the microphone and says, "We have a very special hometown
guest tonight, please welcome David Bromberg," or words to that effect.
This was very exciting-I used to listen to Bromberg a lot in college, saw
him numerous times in the 70s and early 80s, but had lost track of him
along the way.  Last I heard he was making, rather than playing, guitars.
Bromberg plays two raucous, hilarious blues tunes of the sort he is noted
for, the "I'm leaving you/I can't believe you're leaving me" variety; and
he's an incredible musician.  (He played on New Morning-anything else?
Self Portrait?)  This was a treat, and led to expectations/hopes that he
would reappear later in the show.  The crowd is going wild all through
these events, and would prove attentive, knowledgeable, and extremely
enthusiastic throughout the show.

Finally the lights go down and Bob and the boys are on, doing Maggie's Farm
of course.  The sound in this room is out of this world.  I thought it was
great in Dayton in November, and that it was due to our placement about 30
feet back from the left speaker bank, but this is just amazing.  And, not
only can we hear every enunciated word, we can count his eyebrows if we
want.  Bob looks grumpy (and stayed looking grumpy throughout the show) but
these days at least that's no indication of the quality of the music he
plays.  Larry and Tony compensate for their boss, grinning widely most of
the night.  There's no point attempting to put into words how tight these
guys are, how warm and good they can sound.  By TIBSHWY Bob's bending his
knees, bobbing his head, dipping his guitar, all in spite of his apparent
determination not to enjoy himself.  It's as if the music is exercising
some gravitational force on him, forcing him to move with it.

It was astonishing to see how far the TOOM songs had come.  In Dayton there
was a feel of, "Boy, I hope this works!"; now they simply radiated
confidence.  My wife thought CIB (and CIB alone) too loud, that it was
getting distorted-I'm not sure it wasn't intended.  I found it exemplary,
lush and threatening, musically dense with Larry using a lot of controlled
feedback and distortion and what not to give it that contained-chaos feel.
Simple Twist was sung (at least the first half) from the woman's
perspective!  How long has this been going on?  When he sang, "Maybe she'll
pick him out again/how long must he wait?," it was as if he was
anticipating the next song, which was stunning, simply and literally.  The
folks up in the balcony were gaping and slack-jawed by this time.  I have
to confess I've yet to tire of Silvio, and this one was simply stupendous,
excellent jam at the end, longer than I've heard in awhile.

The acoustic set saw the placement of a fiddle on the amp next to Larry,
which was enough to get the attention of the deadheads and assorted fellow
travelers in the audience.  Roving Gambler was the best I've heard, with
more verses than I recall hearing before, but perhaps I've been distracted.
Here, I think, we can see how far Bob has come as a performer since the
early 90s; he clearly wasn't pushing in any deep emotional way on this
song, yet it was still excellent.  You can really tell the difference,
however, when he's connecting with the oversoul, as it were, and when he's
not.  It can make your hair stand on end (often its during a routine song,
too-Mr. Tambourine Man at Noblesville this summer, for example).  Its my
opinion that it would be impossible to sustain that level of intensity
throughout an entire concert-it would kill him, or us, or both.  (A
variation of Roving Gambler, btw, can be heard on Mike Seeger's Close to
Home cd, and found in Sandburg's American Songbag.)  To Ramona was magical,
and the crowd seemed to appreciate the rarity.  TUIB was even better-it
astounds me that he can really pull out the stops on such a familiar song
and just whip the audience into a frenzy, himself feeding off the
audience's enthusiasm.  (Maybe that's why he sticks to the familiar and
guaranteed?)  Then there came the once in a life-time experience of Larry
picking up the fiddle, Bromberg coming out with an acoustic, and hearing
Bob say something largely indecipherable.  To my ears he said:  ". . . berg
. . . play . . . whatsanameathatsong?"  And then what sounded like "Black
Manor Road."  Heck if I know.  But a sweet instrumental Appalachian stomp
it was, even though Bob was looking as if he was thinking, "I can't believe
I allowed myself to be talked into this!"  Bromberg shot Bob several
glances during Larry's fiddle solo that seemed to say, "Hey, he's really
good!"  Altogether, Bromberg's contributions were a nice reminder of the
dual roots these two Jewish, American musicians share in the blues and in
the country/bluegrass/folk tradition.

Much to our delight, Bromberg stayed for the first song of the electric
set, and I was hoping against hope for One More Weekend.  Not a chance.
What we got was a rousing Takes a Lot to Laugh.  When I saw this in
Kalamazoo in November 96 it was slow and beautiful; now it was racing down
the tracks like the phantom engineer of yore, Bromberg wailing on slide
guitar, Bob determined to remain unimpressed.  Then Bromberg motioned for
Bob to give it a go, and you could tell Bob was really working, that
competitive streak of his coming out at the prospect of someone else
walking off as the guitar hero of the night.  Larry and Tony were simply
beaming during Bob's solo, as if they were thinking "YES! I knew he
wouldn't let us down!!"  Bromberg also sang the "moon looks good" verse,
after asking Bob's permission-he had to bend over double to get his mouth
down to Bob's mike.  Afterwards, Bob seemed to want to get Bromberg off the
stage with minimal public displays of affection, but Bromberg grabbed his
hand and they pressed their foreheads together smiling and exchanging what
must have been pleasantries.

The last surprise of the night followed Bromberg's exit.  This bouncy,
jaunty noise came rolling off the stage, momentarily perplexing me, but
just before the vocals I got it:  Joey.  Not one, I must confess, that I'd
been yearning for-the performances with the Dead were usually something to
be endured rather than enjoyed, but this was altogether different.  It was
fresh and full of energy.  I was still reeling from this during TIFILWY,
which is truly as lapel-grabbing a song as Bob has written and is utterly
mesmerizing in concert.

Don't Think Twice was the first encore (I was hoping the bluegrass number
would be a freebie, but Bob's got an accountant's streak in him-it counted,
vocals or no), and amazingly he ripped the house down with this again very
familiar tune.  By this time I'm becoming convinced he needs the audience
response he gets from the classics.  Then Love Sick, which, I must say, is
at once faithful to and nothing like the cd version.  "Rumbling force,"
indeed.  The mood during this song isn't gloomy, it's apocalyptic, brimming
with a kind of restrained violence that on the last line suddenly subsides
into confessed, almost pathetic, yearning.  The live performances make me
wonder if the song isn't derived from the Book of Hosea.  The effect of
this complex song is like nothing I've ever seen from anyone, Dylan
included.  RDW was an anti-climax after that.

Forgive me for getting a bit wordy.

Next time down the highway.

Subject: Dylan in Chicago, 12/14 (review) From: Mike Stillman ( Date: 16 Dec 1997 04:52:43 GMT Our first indication that things were going to be a bit peculiar was when Dylan's band took the stage and began to play without Bob. Then bassist Tony Garnier stepped up to Dylan's microphone ("What? Tony's going to sing?") and announced, "We have a very special guest tonight, someone who lives in Chicago, please welcome.....David Bromberg!" Bromberg almost ran to the microphone and sang a couple of his outrageous blues/comedy tunes, improvising many of the lyrics on the spot. His first song proclaimed, "Get your tongue out of my mouth, because I'm kissing you goodbye!" and the band was cracking up at Bromberg's antics: dancing around, making faces, going off on extemporaneous rants, and stopping the band with a wave of his hand to say good-bye in a variety of languages: "Sayonara, geisha girl!" (wham) "Adios, chiquita!" (wham) "Auf wiederschoen (sp?), schottzie!" (wham) and so forth until the final "So long, sucker!" and the band's climactic ending. In his second tune, the situation was reversed, with his woman leaving him and taking their car, saying to him, "You got that mule, you can ride" but as soon as she pulled out of the driveway, of course the mule laid down and died. It was a fun little opening set, and Bromberg received a good hand as he left the stage, but we were ready for Bob..... .....who stepped out of the darkness after the obligatory "Columbia recording artist" announcement and began to tell us about the working conditions on MAGGIE'S FARM, same opener as the Saturday night show. The band seemed a little looser, louder, and rowdier after Bromberg primed the pump, and Bob extended the "no" during the final "Ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm noooooooooooooooooo more!" Next was TONIGHT I'LL BE STAYING HERE WITH YOU, given a very sincere, sweet delivery, which seemed to cause much swooning among the female contingent. Then came COLD IRONS BOUND, played a little more frenetically than the previous night, but the instrumental excursions were not as well-developed, which became a pattern as the night went on. Sunday's show was more raucous, more of a party show, and the crowd was rowdier. The Saturday show also rocked, but was played with more precision and depth, and there was more detailed interplay among the musicians. Next was one of the evening's highlights, an electric SIMPLE TWIST OF FATE, which included several lyric changes from trickster Bob. Most notably, the first verse became a lesbian saga (!) when he changed the masculine pronouns into feminine: "she looked at her and she felt a spark, tingle to her bone, 'twas then she felt alone, and wished that she'd gone straight! Blame it on a simple twist of fate..." Ha! That Bob, took us by surprise again. There were a few other changes too, but we'll have to wait for the tape. Then came CAN'T WAIT, during which Bob really prolonged the "don't much longer...I can....waaait..." and of course the band effortlessly adapted, ears perked and ever ready for the mecurial. This band, right now, is one of the major contenders for the title of "Best Dylan Band Ever," right up there with the '66 Hawks; not as idiosyncratic as the Hawks but probably better musicians, with more stylistic range and greater empathy for Dylan's sudden emotional shifts. Dylan himself has apparently made a complete recovery from his heart problems, very active and involved, *the* lead guitarist and main instigator of all the surprising things that are happening during the jams that occur in almost every song. This club tour will one day be seen as one of the absolute peaks of Dylan's long career, but don't take my word for it: get a ticket to one of the remaining dates if there's any way you possibly can. Then came SILVIO, a fixture in the #6 slot, also played a little more uptempo than Saturday night. Yesterday I made a typo and said that it was a Hunter-Garcia song, when of course I meant to say Hunter-Dylan. This is one of a handful of songs on which Bucky and Larry sing backup, and they harmonize quite well on the chorus. The band tore up the final instrumental break, and then Dylan glanced over his right shoulder at David Kemper, the powerhouse drummer, to signal the ending. The acoustic set began with ROVIN' GAMBLER, which was competent but not extraordinary. Our post-concert consensus was that Saturday's acoustic set was superior to Sunday's. Then they performed TO RAMONA, and it's been so many years since I've heard this tune that I didn't recognize it at first. Bob sang it well, and the band was fine, but many of us were distracted by the plainclothes security suddenly busting my friend, the stealth taper with the capsule microphones discreetly clipped to the frame of his glasses, motionless with his DAT recorder in the pouch pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. A second taper was also taken away, but a third escaped detection. I don't know the third taper though, so I probably won't be able to get a tape. The final tune of the acoustic set was a bluegrass number that Bob announced as RAGTIME ANNIE as Bromberg returned to play acoustic guitar, on which he seemed a little rusty. Since moving to Chicago almost a decade ago to learn violin-making, Bromberg has kept a very low profile, rarely appearing on stage. Larry Campbell played the fiddle on this tune, and proved to be extremely adept, even virtuosic, accelerating through several choruses into doubletime, another of the evening's surprises. Then the equipment crew brought back Bob and Larry's Stratocasters, and they also handed Bromberg a guitar at Bob's request. The band launched into a scintillating IT TAKES A LOT TO LAUGH, IT TAKES A TRAIN TO CRY with Bromberg playing slide, which meshed perfectly with Larry's rhythm, Bob's lead, and Bucky's pedal steel. Bromberg sang the "moon going down" verse with great gusto, but Bob is singing so well these days that I would have rather heard him sing it (don't believe what you might read in the Chicago Tribune about Bob's voice sounding "ravaged"; the reviewer was apparently recycling words from previous tours). The song's closing jam featured Larry Campbell and Bromberg standing back to back trading licks while Dylan quietly played rhythm guitar in the background, and after Kemper thundered to the ending, Bob announced "David Bromberg!" with a sweep of his hand, and Bromberg left the stage to applause. The next surprise was a big one. The band stormed into the next tune, something uptempo; what the heck is it? Then Bob shouted the chorus: JOEY! We all looked at each other, shaking our heads, half-smiling. During the wait for the doors to open, our party of five had discussed many aspects of Dylanology, and one of the topics was "songs that we *don't* want to hear." "Joey" was probably the first song mentioned, and the only mutual choice, but of course, Bob knew better. We were stunned to hear this complete remake, very uptempo, with Bob shouting "Joey! Joey!" as if he had just discovered a close relative doing a very stupid thing, and he had to stop the idiot from killing us all. Jaws were dropping all over the room; no one had any idea that "Joey" could be like this. Then Bob sang the penultimate line, "`What time is it?' said the judge to Joey when they met" and then he absolutely nailed the final line, the most effective delivery of the entire weekend: "`Five to ten,' said Joey. The Judge says, `That's exactly what you get.'" But Bob shouted it out perfectly on top of the rhythm: "Five to ten said Joey the judge says that's exactly what you get!!!" It was unbelievably perfect, the revelation of the evening, against all expectations. Vintage Bob, being himself as only he can be. Joey? The closer? The highlight of the entire weekend? Believe it. The encores were a bit anticlimactic. 'TIL I FELL IN LOVE WITH YOU first, then a fine acoustic DON'T THINK TWICE, IT'S ALL RIGHT, next LOVE SICK and then finally RAINY DAY WOMEN #12 AND #35 (not #45, as I mistyped yesterday; woman #45 was not involved). We squeezed our way to the coat check, exhausted, amazed. Our weekend with Dylan was over, and probably never again would we get the chance to stand 15 feet away from Bob on two consecutive nights, having him look us right in the eye while he raised his eyebrows and grinned and shook his head. Incredible. _.,-*~'`^'*-,._ _.,-*'`^'*-,. '*-,._ Mike Stillman '*-, '*-,.__.,-*' Chicago, IL _.,-*~'`^'*-,._ '*-,._.,-*'`^ '
Subject: Re: Dylan in Chicago, 12/14 (review) From: Mike Stillman ( Date: 16 Dec 1997 05:23:59 GMT Oops, my review omitted "Tangled Up In Blue" which appeared in the acoustic set between "To Ramona" and "Ragtime Annie." _.,-*~'`^'*-,._ _.,-*'`^'*-,. '*-,._.,-*'`^ '
Subject: Chicago Metro shows From: Sandy Ramer ( Date: 17 Dec 1997 03:49:45 GMT Every pleasure has an edge of pain Pay for your ticket, and don't complain Sure Bob. And thanks for the coffee and donuts while we were waiting in line. :-) But that wasn't the sweetest part. The Metro shows were superb, each in its own way. I think the Sunday show was the best one I've ever attended. I know it was the most fun. Just talked to someone who has seen a couple gazillion shows, and she said the same thing. Saturday, the show started a little late, with Bob and the band walking out looking tired and somber. But that didn't keep them from putting on a beautiful performance. Shooting Star was particularly moving. I had to wipe away some tears, actually, feeling a little foolish and trying to be discrete because a security guard was standing right in front of me giving me strange looks. All the songs were just very, very nice. Blind Willie McTell live was easier to fully appreciate the second time around. The first time, a month earlier in Milwaukee, it was just such a shock. The sound from the monitor at the left side of the stage was muffled and very, very loud Saturday night. Sunday night we were also at the rail, but on the right side. From there, the sound was excellent--maybe it was better throughout the entire venue on Sunday. Sunday's show was simply magic, from the very beginning of the show. The boys were very, very spiffy, all in black and gray. And the mood was extremely mellow. David Bromberg was really fine. So outrageously funny. Bob seemed relaxed right away, and he was in wonderful voice. Mike was right about all us swooning females. :-) Not just the females, though. I talked to one fellow who said when Bob looked him in the eye he almost fainted. There was much eye contact all night! He just went up and down the front row and zapped us all. When he got to me I felt like I'd been hit by a bolt of bright blue lightning. It's hard to single out any one song, since Bob sounded so great on all of them. To Ramona was a nice surprise. Simple Twist of Fate was wonderful. And that Ragtime Annie instrumental was something else, with Larry burning up the fiddle and some great guitar work by David Bromberg. Bob seemed to be having a good time with this. Bromberg started out It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry and then Bob took over, sounding terrific. That was followed by Joey, a song which I always think I just don't like, but which nobody could have resisted as Bob sang it this time. Amazing. Gush, gush. I know. You just should have been there. After the coffee and donuts treat on Saturday, some of us were thinking it was about time to come up with a present for Bob. After much discussion, we settled on Beanie Babies (well,the generic equivalent) and went out shopping for them Sunday morning. We bought holiday penguins and bears and several cartoon characters. Those in our group not standing in line early Sunday afternoon were sitting in a nearby bar curling ribbons and tying them around the necks of the beanie babies. This in one of those sports bars where they talk about Da Bears, when they aren't talking baseball. (The venue is just down the street from Wrigley Field.) Before we went inside The Metro we each claimed one or two of them and tried to find someplace to keep them out of sight. (Some with better plans than others, eh Christine?) There was a slight glitch when Bob forgot to introduce the band, messing up our cue. But then he came back and said, "I forgot to introduce the band!" So beanie babies were tossed and landed in various interesting spots around the stage. Tony laughed and picked up a couple of them, almost forgetting to take his bow. Bob looked surprised and then amused when he saw several of them and realized it was a joke. With one patent-leathered toe he nudged away the Tasmanian Devil which had landed right in front of him, mumbling something like, "It's getting pretty crowded up here." So there he was, Tweetie Bird staring at him off to his right with huge blue eyes, the Tasmanian Devil at his feet and, off to his left, with its head lifted up as if it were staring at Bob like the rest of us, was a fluffy little white bear. Bob kept glancing at the bear as he sang Love Sick. And the performance was just as dramatic as ever. People who couldn't see the stage floor probably didn't even know what was going on. Anyway, what a night. Sandy
December Setlists