Peter Stone Brown: by the cold grey sea
We knew we were in for a special night when they rolled the organ
onstage. Then Bob came out wearing, jeans, beatle boots, an old sports
jacket and his black wayfarer shades accompanied by none other than Jim
Dickinson on keyboards! A guitarless Bob blew one wailing note on the
harp and they launched into an unbelievably rocking "Black Crow Blues."
As if that wasn't surprise enough, the guitar roadie then brought out an
ancient Gibson J-50 acoustic and Bob slipped on finger picks while the
band watched him with the most caution they've displayed since 1991.
Another roadie brought him a stool that was next to the monitor mixing
board and he sat down and slowly began the lick to "Highlands," and did the
whole damn song. I pulled out the 45 I'd bought in a hock shop earlier that
day and shot the three people talking behind me just in time to hear the
restaurant verse. The song went on for over 20 minutes and he did all
kinds of verses not on the album. My notebook with the setlist had
fallen out of my hands onto the floor. At the very end after "it's good
enough for now," he whipped out a slide and played the best slide solo
he's played since "In My Time of Dyin'." At the song's end, the roadie
brought him his regular Gibson acoustic and someone took the stool. Bob
took off his shades, peered at the crowd and said, "We're really happy
to be in a gamblin' town tonight," as Kemper kicked of a rockabilly
train beat and Dylan strummed real fast like he does on the outtake of
"That's All Right Mama," and played a frenzied two minute harp solo
before singing, "Come around you rovin' gamblers and a story I will
tell..." "I think I'm going to have a heart attack, I can't believe
he's doing `Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie'," I said to my friend, a bluegrass
singer by the name of Train, then it went into the "Ride Willie Ride"
chorus with Larry and Bucky joining in, with Bucky providing a dazzling
mandolin solo. Most of the audience didn't know what the hell was
happening except for a few scattered hard-core rmd-ers who were writhing
in ecstacy. The song ended with Bob with the harmonica holder once
again around his neck trading off licks with Larry and Bucky. At the
song's end, Dylan laughed and said, "This sure is a hell of a town. I
haven't seen this many bright lights since San Francisco. I saw 150
card games just outside this room. Here's one we haven't done for about
20 years, this is for all those people playin' cards," and began another
high flying version of "Lily Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts," that was
unbelievably incredible until the jam at the end where Bob tried to play
lead guitar and harp at the same time. The lights got real low, with
the rest of the band in shadows and a sole spotlight on Bob. Kemper
clicked his sticks together four times, hit the kick drum and Larry
played an incredibly soulful reminiscent of Steve Cropper solo and Bob
began singing a stunningly intense "Tryin' To Get To Heaven,"
remembering the two note harp solo, followed by an equally incredible
"Cold Irons Bound," which got twice as amazing when they segued into
Howling Wolf's "How Many More Years," in the middle before going back to
the last verse. The invevitable "Sylvio" followed. Then the roadie
brought back the Gibson and a very curious thing happened. All of the
band left the stage except for Tony and Jim Dickenson. Dylan spoke
again, "I was down in another gamblin' town, not too long ago, uh
Washington DC. They've got some very strange people in Washington.
This is for them." And slowly with the guitar in open E tuning, he began
a slow, mournful "Idiot Wind," and when he got the "Grand Coulee Dam to
the Capitol," line he held the "tol" part as long as he could '66 style,
the rest of the band snuck on stage and kicked in during the last verse.
The guitar roadie appeared again and handed Bob a shining Gibson
12-string. At this point I was about 95 miles past eternity as Kemper
hit the drums with a crack almost as powerful as Mickey Jones on the
9-minute "Like A Rolling Stone," and Kemper shot out the opening lick to
"Caribbean Wind." The audience virtually exploded when he sang,
"Atlantic City by the cold grey sea." Dylan introduced the band minus
the usual Bucky jokes and closed the set with a searing, " 'Till I Fell
In Love With You," taking off his guitar and just standing there while
the band finished the song. They returned a few minutes later of course
and before they began to play, Dylan said, "This one's for Donald
Trump," as Tony launched into a loud heavy blues riff that turned out to
be "Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar." Once again the roadie brought
out the acoustic, Larry picked up a fiddle, Tony the double-bass, and
with Kemper brushing the drums, played an absolutely celestial "Restless
Farewell." The lights went down, but you could see the band huddling
near the monitor mixing console before they returned for "Love Sick,"
but it wasn't "Love Sick" at all, it was a triumphant "Changing of the
Guard" with Bucky playing the sax part on the steel. The house lights
came on with the band still on stage and I waited for the usual drum
kick-off to "Rainy Day Women," but Dylan had one more surprise in store,
"We've got a special friend here tonight," he said, as the roadies
brought out an extra mike stand, "drove 200 miles just to be here,"
Levon Helm walked out smoking a cigarette and holding an old Gibson
mandolin, he and Larry looked at each other intently, then began a
perfectly executed intro to a completely raucous, "Please Mrs. Henry."
Levon, alternating verses with Dylan, completely ignored his own mike
during the choruses, sharing Bob's instead while Dylan was trying his
very best not to crack up laughing. Then they were gone. We walked out
into the bright lobby assaulted by one-armed bandits, dressed up people
wearing fancy clothes, and 100 card games happening all at once.
© Peter Stone Brown, 1998.
Snatched from rec.music.dylan with permission.