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Bob Dylan 971219 at the El Rey Theater, Los Angeles, CA

Subject: Re: 12/19
From: (
Date: 20 Dec 1997 17:35:30 GMT

Just some thoughts about the Friday show. 

As much as I liked Wednesday's performance, I enjoyed last night's even
more (I missed Thurs.). It was probably the best Dylan show I've seen in
the last few years, despite a couple lyric mix-ups. And the set list was my
favorite since some of the '92 shows.

Bob and the band started off with a solid "Maggie's Farm" and went into a
fairly ominous "Man in the Long Black Coat," with Dylan gasping the words
more than singing them. 

"Man" worked better in the #2 spot than most of the other songs that end up
there. "She left with the man in the long black coat" seemed like an
interesting echo of the "hitting the road" idea in "Maggie's Farm." And
musically, "Man" segued perfectly into the feedback opening of "Cold Irons
Bound" (well-done as usual).

Then, for me, came the real highlight of the night -- "Just Like a Woman."
This was the best version I've seen him do. There was a lot to like about
it, but I was especially struck by the way they played down the change in
tone that hits with "Well it was raining from the first." I thought this
quieter version worked better than the "Da-DUM, Da-DUM, Da-DUM" sound I've
heard in many past performances.

"Can't Wait" and "Silvio" will never be two of my favorite songs, but again
as usual, they were well performed.

"O Babe" was also first-rate, and "Love-0" went over very well. "Tangled"
did too, of course.

Then came "Masterpiece," done fairly slow and relaxed, except for the
occasional vocal outburst. This song worked better than almost anything
else I've heard in this slot. I noticed (or think I noticed -- the sound
wasn't great) that he sang "Someday everything is gonna be beautiful,"
rather than "different." I don't know if that's standard these days.

"Joey" was, for me, probably the weakest performance of the night; but
given the strength of the whole show, this isn't a heavy criticism. It's
just that there wasn't much nuance (compared to, for example, Berkeley in
1988, which was driving but still sharp). 

"Till I Fell in Love" was another well-performed song that I don't
especially like.

"Highway 61" featured Sheryl Crow playing acoustic guitar and doing a
pretty good job on the "Georgia Sam" verse. I think they may have sung one
less verse than usual and filled the space with some excellent extended
jamming. In any case, the non-vocal sections were very well-received.

"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" began with Sheryl playing the accordion and
doing the "Ooo, Ooo, Ooo"s. Bob took the first verse then began to sing a
few words from the second before remembering (apparently) that it was
supposed to be Sheryl's turn. She finished off that verse and eventually
went back to the "Ooo Ooo"s. I thought this meant the end of a truncated
version, but then Bob came back to the mic to sing a last verse somewhat
different than the ones I'm familiar with:

(approximately, and assuming I wasn't just hearing things)
Mama wipe the blood outta my eyes
I can't see through it anymore
I'm looking into a dark and empty sky
And I feel like I'm knockin on heaven's door

"Love Sick" had an especially pronounced two-note guitar riff used as
punctuation. I think it's been there all along, but it seemed to stand out
a lot more last night.

Finally, "Rainy Day Women" was enjoyable enough, with Bob singing a bit
more than he sometimes does.

As for interesting comments from Dylan, there were none as far as I could
tell. Just band introductions, a couple of "Thanks everybody"s, and a
mumbled acknowledgment of Sheryl Crow.

And finally, Gregory Peck was sitting in the same balcony spot formerly
occupied by Ringo. As far as I could tell, he stayed for the whole show.
And I definitely saw him applaud "Love-0."

Sorry for any mistakes.

   1.   Maggie's Farm 
   2.   Man In The Long Black Coat 
   3.   Cold Irons Bound 
   4.   Just Like A Woman 
   5.   Can't Wait 
   6.   Silvio 
   7.   O Babe It Ain't No Lie (Elizabeth Cotten) (acoustic) 
   8.   Love Minus Zero/No Limit (acoustic) 
   9.   Tangled Up In Blue (acoustic) 
  10.  When I Paint My Masterpiece 
  11.  Joey 
  12.  'Til I Fell In Love With You 

  13.  Highway 61 Revisited (Sheryl Crow on guitar and vocals) 
  14.  Knockin' On Heaven's Door (Sheryl Crow on accordian and vocals)
  15.  Love Sick 
  16.  Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 

Subject: el rey, el lay, 4th time around (review) 19dec97 From: "oracle@delphi" (oracle@del.phi) Date: 20 Dec 1997 19:38:00 -0700 maybe 4 is a charm for bob dylan. some of his "4" titles: 4th time around, positively 4th street, for ramona... ;) anyway, like a thoroughbred negotiating a new track for three races, the fourth became a natural mix of the swift, stately, spontaneous and soulful. tonight's key word was "harmonious." in the most colorful el rey show yet, the sound seemed much clearer, though the oracle was standing directly behind the mixing board in the center where everything is made to sound perfect; yet there was something lower-key, clearer, more intelligible in both performance and sound reproduction. maybe it was due to more people packed into the room, but there was barely one blurry note in the whole show. even a blistering _highway 61_ with sheryl crow had clear instrumental differentiation. the crowd was active and vociferous from the opening bars, and since everyone was standing already, with every song the ovations grew and grew into a sea of arms in the air. at least one song, _just like a woman_ got an ovation in the middle -- "when i was hungry and it was your world". the band, always tight, warm, and flexible, was measured and nobly restrained. _maggie's farm_ sounded like the newport fest arrangement sans rough outdoor edges. bob sung song after song with increasing vocal creativity, sometimes bunching syllables, sometimes drawing out one word, a syllable at a time over two musical bars like in _love minus zero_: "the night falls like a hammmmmmmer." after three nights for adjustments, any stray dissonant moments were squeezed away tonight, giving birth to that elusively magical everybody's-in-this-hot-room together, club-feel. not bad for a thousand bodies transfixed on one bob cat. from the start, you didnt get the feeling dylan was performing *for* the audience, but in the center of weekend revelers knowing exactly when to be silent and when to erupt -- an audience tuned to details. a woman, after watching dylan in close-up through binoculars kept repeating, "ohhh, this is so exciting." the whole evening had that ingenuous incendiary just-dropped-in-to-take-care-of-business spontaneity. as more people whoooped it up, the band got more articulate, never kicking into unbridled ear-assault, but nuancing each phrase with mature abandon. many times dylan comes out and blasts away and you see blank faces staring thinking about what they're supposed to be absorbing. with tonight's vocals front and center, and the backgrounds proportionately separated and modulated, you could hear more words, more voicepower, more playful aggressiveness. songs were never rushed -- thus painted with more internal colors, continually fleshed-out and explored. people were absorbing music, vocals, and rhythms synchronously, rather than previous nights where many unfamiliar minds may have begun to wander uncertainly during slightly repetitive stretches. _maggie vocals were clear enough to hear dylan varying pitches and delivery rhythms with nearly every word. though loud, the music didnt distort or bury the lyrics, letting bob experiment freely and the audience absorb the subtleties. _man in long black coat_ was clear, layered, and accessible -- though personally i'm a little saturated with the lanois "mystique" for awhile. yet this was a fresh, inviting journey into a dark smoky haze. _cold irons bound_: superbly modulated; loud as always, but with sensitive articulation exceeding anything that could be accomplished by power-chording. it felt like a story unfolding, not merely an over-powering rhythm-train. has refined itself every night. throughout the night, dylan's voice spewed color with abandon into every available musical space. _just like a woman_: slow, curvy, impetuous; i've never heard it so sinuous and smoky; patented dylanesque improvisatory phrasing makes the 'classy' '92 version seem like a stack of cinder blocks. with drunken people singing "just liiiiiike a wommmmman!" like a fraternity rush you could sense dylan's mind changing direction but never losing poise, never letting the song leave the present moment as he extemporized vocally to elude their chant. _cant wait_: a more sculpted flowing flag for funky images of boschian hell, "way past midnight, people all around, some on their way up, some on their way down. the air burns..." best version of the series; to the point but playfully jagged. _silvio_: since _silvio has more forward rock 'n' roll intensity than _cant wait_, a slow ballad between them might not be a bad idea. _cant wait is done faster than the album, and _silvio is faster than _cant wait -- so it feels like two big songs in a row, putting more pressure on _silvio to be perfect. tonight it didnt seem to build symmetrically and climax like some full-out versions, but this is a minor quibble in the nearly perfectly paced arc of songs. _aint no lie: plucky, bouncy bluegrass; faster than '96 versions; after hearing dylan do _sugaree the oracle bought the elizabeth cotten album which led to a bunch of other dylan-induced roots and blues purchases, making this #7 cover slot more edifying. elizabeth cotten is a deceptively powerful force in american roots music. _love minus zero_: slow, smoky pedal steel backing gave our host a chance to stretch syllables like taffy. like nearly every song tonight, seemed proportioned, flowing, and extemporaneous. _tangled up in blue_: clear, aggressively shaded; maybe could use a rest but each outing is more powerfully pointed. smart money rides. _paint my masterpiece_: radiantly intense wild card pick of the night. lyric change: "some day everything's gonna be _beautiful_," though i dont recall if this replaced "different," or "smooth like a rhapsody." _joey: i think the lyrics are a bad _godfather_ knock-off, but performed with a kind of a reggae beat, it held together. as a musical performance, like every song, colorfully complete. _till i fell in love with you_: swift, seductive, spunky, with more economy and swing each night; still cant figure out how that r&b horn-section hides under bucky's feet. _highway 61_: sheryl crow playing a big acoustic guitar, making her look like a raggedy ann in a music store doing joan baez- style imitation dylan -- "welfare deparrrrrrrrrtment wouldn't give him no clllllllllllothes" -- bringing an uncomfortably surprising though-approving smile to the bemused maestro's face. it looked like she was going to end with a big dylanesque wailing whine but said the words "61" very quickly under his curious gaze. her first few lines were no match for dylan's chain-saw adenoids, but once she got rolling she showcased her own forceful, though limited coloration. _heaven's door_: sheryl played accordian and ooooh-wooohed the backgrounds with bucky and larry; she bobbed up and down, but with dylan's guitar in the way he had to step back and forfeit a verse; then they had to shift positions a few times to share the same mike, but finally they got it together on a night where every song flowed like champagne. she smiled weirdly as they left the stage as if to ask whether her parody offended him -- or maybe they were exchanging hash-brownie xmas recipes. _lovesick: sometimes i wish daniel lanois had never met bob dylan. still not too late to fill this slot with _not dark yet_. _rainy day women_: perfect party-animal closer for a weekend; whether this song works or not on any given night is dependent on the audience and surroundings; but on a night where every roll of the dice was a winner, nothing detracted from this tightly structured, resonant exuberance. weather: rains gone east, a clear beautiful desert day in the 80's -- cold clear, 48 by show-time. december is l.a.'s most dramatic and beautiful month and dylan hasn't played winter l.a. in over a decade. supposedly bruce springsteen was in the balcony last night. no band gag-intro tonight. yesterday dylan looked like he was wearing the light gray sinatra-bash jacket with the black collar, though it didnt look as shiny. tonight, tuesday's black spider-embroidery jacket was back from the cleaners and looking spiffy. a grungy-looking guy took a look through the oracle's binoculars and said: "dylan's hair looks great." you can only see the brown dye with front lightning. ;) tonight, the fourth time around, sound system and stage fury finally converged to enshrine bob dylan as contemporary music's most resourceful, unabashed harlequin magician. play a little and they love you a lot, play a lot and they make you king. (c) oracle@delphi 20dec97 18:17
Subject: Dylan - El Rey - 12/19/97 - Review From: ( Date: Thu, 01 Jan 1998 14:01:07 -0600 BOB DYLAN @ The El Rey Theatre in LA - Friday, 12/19/97

The El Rey Theatre with it's audience capacity of 900 is a wonderfully intimate venue. Again, I'm stage left, on the riser by the speakers, and 18' from center stage.

"My name's Sheryl. I'll be opening for Bob". And with that Sheryl Crow is into her 45 minute set including, "Heaven's Gate"; "Sweet Rosalin"; Hard To Understand"; "I Can Sing My Song Again"; Everyday Is A Winding Road"; "All I Wanna Do". A remarkably versatile band. As is she. Harmonica. Accordian. She does her job and the audience is clearly primmed for Bob Dylan. Bob hits the stage about fifteen minutes late. The legendary 1) "Maggie's Farm", that started off the very first Dylan electric set at the Newport Folk Festival years ago, opens again. Is this symbolic? 2) "Man In A Long Black Coat" is a first for this week in LA. He is clearly into it. By this time Dylan has started a dueling guitar and eye contact with the audience. He even does 'The Dylan Rush', at one point, to the very front of the stage. The energy is up. 3) "Cold Irons Bound" and he is doing 'The Dylan Stomp'. 4) "Just Like A Woman" ... another LA first. Classic timing. 5) "Can't Wait" The audience is ready for a 'new' song. 6) Silvio 7) "O Babe It Ain't No Lie" (acoustic by Elizabeth Cotten). 8) "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" (acoustic) 9) "Tangled Up In Blue" 10) When I Paint My Masterpiece" 11) "Joey" 12) "'Til I Fell In Love With You" (encore) 13) "Highway 61 Revisited ( Sheryl Crow joins in on guitar and vocals ) 14) "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" ( this is acoustic ....and again with Sheryl Crow with accordian and vocals 15) "Love Sick" 16) "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"

December Setlists