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Bob Dylan 971218 at the El Rey Theater, Los Angeles, CA

Subject: el rey, numero tres (review) 18dec97
From: "oracle@delphi" (oracle@del.phi)
Date: 19 Dec 1997 03:52:00 -0700

rained all day; in the low 50's cold and clearing by showtime; dylan
didnt come out til 21:30.  _maggie's was perfectly played and sung
but, while the sound system seemed a lot clearer, the level was
loud enough to bounce plenty of annoyance off walls and ceilings.

tonight, pacing was the key.  _maggie was syncopated and 
countrified in a middle tempo; dylan's voice was clear, but at a 
lower volume than the instruments --

the band is vibrant and supple from the get-go so it's just
a question of warming up and building up enough rock 'n' roll
momentum to take the enthusiasm to a new level.

_i want you_ was the on-deck hitter, and kemper put just the
proper garcia-esque off-centeredness to turn a potentially
routine reading into kind of a haiku; the band was warm-bodied
and flexible as always, marking the beginning of real rhythmic 
momentum leading to:

_cold irons bound_, performed perfectly though loud as fuck.
i wandered around the sides and back during the show but
there was always a level of ear-ringing, despite the clarity
being much improved since the first night -- or maybe
it's just the ears learning to pick out details.

anyway, next was _born in time_, also played obliquely;
feisty almost jovial vocal.  seasoned delicacy.

_cant wait_ moves a touch fast for extensive nuancing, but
works more as a rolling train passing through a blues graveyard
of the mind.

crowd has been getting more loose and forceful with each
show, maybe because most enthusiastic people try to get 
tickets starting from weekend, working backwards to tuesday.

anyway, with each song, people became steadily more 
enthused, though the performers seem to be doing nothing
out of the ordinary, merely continually providing their 
now-routinely precise outpourings.  it was just a matter of time
until the arc of the audience met the arc of the setlist.

next is _silvio, builds satisfyingly and ends quickly after ignition
during hot jam.  again, for band and bob just another nonchalant 
trip to the teller window before acoustic time.

_stone walls and steel bars_: nice country waltz; since
i've never heard this song before, it was a good test to see what
things sound like for people unfamiliar with dylan's work.
essentially, though bob's singing was clear and forceful, i could 
only tell the contents of a few phrases, but it felt good in a 
fireplace kind of style.

a plucky _mr t-man was confident, forceful, and relaxed -- lyrics 
eminently intelligible.  if the electric songs could be just slightly 
above this attractive volume it would be great.  perhaps the people 
on the recessed dance floor have a better acoustical distribution 
since they're between the large speaker towers and probably hearing
the stage amps and monitors in a pleasant proportion unlike the
rest of us vagrants.

_tangled; larry's jangling intro was inviting, and bob started 
to run with the song, giving individual phrases ample spin; 
halfway through, about to get repetitive, jumped up a notch 
in visceral energy and pushed the show toward an exuberant act iii.

_takes a lot to laugh: slinky slow blues with edge; building,
building to bar-band heaven.  seemed like larry's blues
style: gentle, content, vigorous.

_blind willie mctell_ mid-speed horse trotting feel; very mysterious
and swooning.  make a great opener every night especially during
this blues-motif tour.

gag-intro: "it's not robbie robertson up's larry campbell 
playing guitar."  after two nights of hearing his potential replacements,
tony got only: "on bass tonight, tony garnier." which seemed 
reasonable to him as he tried to hide behind an amp for the third 
straight night -- the ed mcmahon of dylandom.

_til i fell in love with you_: aggressive vocal, barrel-house 
pendulum swinging blues vibe; juicy and bouncy

_like a rolling stone_: seductively omnipotent; perfect middle-paced
beat allows music to climax whole show around colorful vocal 
shadings never rushed; ended after chunky instrumental rhythm 
rub-a-dub in high excitement.  signature reading.

_ain't me, babe_: on vacation since overworked '93-5 era;
profits immensely from sporadic appearance.  intensifies with
each verse, slows to finish; begins enthused becomes 
remorseful ends satisfied.

_love sick_: dont start me talking; actually, the music sounded
on the verge of being interestingly mysterious and atmospheric
in the lanoisian smoky bayou category but the lyrics are so
ridiculous it's an insult to all human civilization.  maybe it's a
parody of u2.  sick of lovesick.

_rainy day women_: fun and sexy l.a. romp; enjoyable throughout; 
built into good release of audience into cold rainy night; who was
french philosopher who said, "when you run out of lovers, 
there's always your wife."  even dylan's funny eyebrow dances
stayed interesting.

ultimately, a vibrant, enthused outing with superior setlist and
no down moments.  crowd a palpable hydra of appreciation.

(c) oracle@delphi 19dec97 02:14

Subject: El Rey - 12/18/97 - Review From: ( Date: Thu, 01 Jan 1998 13:51:05 -0600 BOB DYLAN @ The El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, Thursday 12/18/97

Again the great intimate venue. A very lively and eager audience. Sheryl Crow is onstage "I'm Sheryl...I'm opening for Bob...and I'm damn glad!". Her band is two guitars, mandolin, keyboards, but it will later feature Sheryl on harmonica, keyboards, and accordian and even the band will swith a bit. This is the former back up singer who clearly has energy, experience, pipes!, and dogone good mike technique. She is seasoned, confident, and experienced. She knows what she is doing and just does it. Some of the songs..."Heaven's Gate"; "Leaving Las Vegas"; "Rosaline"; "Run Baby Run"; "It Don't Hurt"; "Tearing Us Upart" ; "Everyday Is A Winding Road". By far she is the "hottest" opening act so far. The other thing that is cool about Sheryl is that she and her entire band come back off stage right to watch and "dig" the entire Dylan performance

The audience is clearly primed for Bob. But where the heck is he? He is at least 30 minutes late, but the polite and appreciative audience cheers him as he hits the stage in his grey suit and black tie. You kinda sense that he has "an attitude".

And "Maggie's Farm" is out there. There is a genuine sense of excitement. From here on in each song tops the other and this is the most outstanding evening of the entire Bob Dylan Festival so far. This is the day that Robert Hilburn's LA Times review "Freewheeling Dylan Shows He's Again Where It's At: With Beck as his opening act, the veteran troubadour finds his focus in an inspiring set" has hit the streets. Hilburn has acknowledged that Dylan is fully involved, with clear vocals, a stellar performance, and as usual not wedded to the original versions of the songs. Hilburn expresses his disappointment that Dylan has selected songs that "interest him..."rather than placing them in any dramatic context" AND is critical that more could have been drawn from the new "Time Out Of Mind" album...especially the 16 minute "Highlands" and "Not Dark Yet". Hilburn misses the entire dramatic structure that Dylan has set up. It is clear that he is rotating eight songs an evening. And this will turn out to be a very special evening indeed. At one point I wanted to shout out..."Play whatever you damn well want Bob!!!!!!!!! ". I didn't have to. He does. And tonight you see him actually consulting with the band after "Tangled Up In Blue", , and again after "Blind Willie McTell". Another factor may be that the brilliant new guitarist Larry Campbell is probably still learning some of these songs. There is no question he is being blown away onstage when he and Bob get into things. His eyes are wide and he gets a big grin, shaking his head. Later, when Dylan introduces him he says.."This is not Robbie Robertson. Somebody asked me....Oh. And this is Bucky Baxter... the former mayor of Bloomsfield, North Virgina".

"I Want You" (what a surprise!); "Born In Time"; "Can't Wait" (solid); "Silvio" (better and better!) ; "Stone Walls And Steel Bars" (traditional acoustic...damn!); "Mr. Tamborine Man" (an acoustic masterpiece!!!!); "Tangled Up In Blue" (the acoustic highlight that knocks out the entire audience); "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry" ( this is a result of the of my favorites and the best version I've ever heard him do) ; "Blind Willie McTell" ( after another cosultation...and stronger than any other night...there is electricity here!); "'Til I Fell In Love With You"; (encore) "Like A Rolling Stone" (another consultation and featuring 'The Dylan Had Shake'); "It Ain't Me Babe" (acoustic wonder!); "Love Sick" (this is better and better and a key song of the new stuff!); "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" ....This is the all time finale. Bob has faked a final encore and does this song to close out the night. The lights are on again. The back ota his jacket is showing his sweat. He's earned it. From the first song tonight he has been 'The Travola Dylan' . By this time he is fully 'The Animated Dylan' ....he is mugging the audience and milking each and every one. It is like he is reaching out and making eye contact. He knows exactly what he is doing. I teel yah this guy is in danger of getting a whiplash from jerking his head around. Did I really see him "moonwalk"?

Alistair (Al) Hunter

December Setlists