Saturday, August 28th, 2010
The opening opening act was the Dough Rollers out of NYC. The lead singer sounded like he was going for the low pitched gargled scream of Tom Waits, but he was trying much harder than Mr. Waits. During the opening songs, the veins were popping out of his neck. Through the middle part of the show, the veins became visible on his forehead. By the end of the show, his face was the color of a fire truck and veins were popping out of his nose. They were a bit too religious for my taste, but it was a great effort, really. According to their myspace, they have a third member, a female violinist, but I only saw the guitar player and singer on stage. I was sober at this point, so maybe my perception switch was still off.
Next up was John Mellencamp. The Cougar is missing from his name, but they sure weren't missing from this capacity crowd of mostly elders. And speaking of elders, did you know Johnny C is 58 years old? I spent way too much time listening to the radio in the 80s and 90s, so I know all your hits, but I know nothing about your career since I graduated high school. I'm just here to see Mr. Dylan. When you walked out on stage wearing jeans, a tee shirt, and sunglasses, with your hair slicked back, I was picturing the fast talking local at a dive bar in a small town telling over exaggerated stories from his youth. Maybe that's what your going for, which is respectable, or maybe I just didn't realized you aged 20 years since I've last seen you.
Either way, I'm standing near the front waiting for a couple laughs, and he starts the show with "Pink Houses" followed by "Paper In Fire," and has most of the crowd wrapped around his finger. I tried to resist, but it wasn't going to happen. My legs and mouth started moving, and he had me shouting along and pumping my fist like everyone else.
The accordion and electronic violin player stage left created a unique sound I've never seen live, but it was a familiar sound on hits "Paper In Fire" and "Check It Out." The bassman resided at the far rightof the stage, alternating between electric and stand up, and Johnny C had a guitar player on each side of him. John John said the guitar player to his left has been playing with him for 35 years! Holy shit, I haven't even been alive 35 years. This is the youngest I've felt since my grandmother tried to spank me when I was 23 for using foul language. Remind me to attend more performances by old musicians. Anyone have a Willie Nelson ticket available for face?
After a couple of acoustic sets, including a brief crowd sing along in which no instrument was played, he continued working the crowd with lines such as, "I wrote this song when my wife was 13," and "You know why this chant works at every show, because it's fun!" While briefly exiting to grab another round of beers, I even had to duck under a couple's extended arms who were dancing around on the path shouting, "London Bridges, London Bridges!" Wait, was I suppose to fall down, or where they? Damn, it's been a long time.
Upon my return, he opened "The Authority Song" with the line, "I wrote this song when I was 22, and I still feel the same way." The crowd cheered of course. However, it wasn't all smiles and high fives. Johnathan pulled the same leg kick, into fist pump, into mimicking the final drum beats of a song, three times. He was also chewing gum the entire show. I don't trust people who chew gum in public. Oh yeah, he didn't play Jack and Diane either, which didn't bother me, but obviously bothered a couple younger chicks standing near me who said, "I can't believe he didn't play Jack and Diane," immediately after the show ended.
Anyway, Mr. Mellencamp, you surprised the hell out of me and put on one entertaining show. I tip my hat, and I take back anything negative I've ever said about you before and within this review (except the part about the gum chewing). It had to be one hell of an honor opening for one of your heroes, and the good vibes were flowing, so hugs all around.
Mr. Dylan entered the stage dressed sharply in a black suit with white pinstripes down each leg, and a white cowboy hat. His five-piece band of aging pretty boys were dressed in matching gray suits. Mr. Dylan alternated between the guitar and keyboards, while occasionally playing the harmonica, and rarely addressing the crowd. But you don't read Bob Dylan reviews to see what he was wearing, and the no names he was playing with, you read them to answer one simple question. "Did he have it?"
Before I get to that answer, I suppose we should talk about lawn chairs (sigh). So you showed up early, you are one of the first people in the venue, and maybe you waited in line for a long time. Congratulations, I hope you get a great view for the show. Just understand this, people stand in front of the stage. Knowing this phenomena occurs, plan on where you should place your armada of chairs and blankets. For example, if you place your gear within ten feet of the stage, you are an idiot, and your gear deserves to be trampled. I would recommend staying at least 20 feet away from the stage, maybe more. I'm talking to you middle aged woman who decided her empty chairs and blankets belong six feet from the stage, while continually telling people, "Don't move those."
I was standing in front of an empty chair, close enough to Mr. Dylan that I could have hit him with a baseball nine out of ten times. I could almost touch the front rail, yet halfway through the show, I have someone slapping the back of my legs, supposedly wanting me to move out of their way so they could sit down. Guess what, I'm taller than you, so you can't see the show anyway. Next time, try not to section off a 40 square foot section right in front of the stage for you and your three friends. I hope you had a great view for the Dough Rollers.
Anyway, to answer the question posed earlier, Mr. Dylan had it more than he didn't, so the easy answer is "yes," but the real answer is more like, "71% yes." His high(er) pitched voice was fine, but he couldn't sing in the lower tone for more than a couple words without his voice noticeably cracking. He also wasn't doing a very good job of singing softly. It was as if his throat was a steam engine with a lid. When he was blowing out the most steam, the lid stayed open and produced a beautiful sound. When the power supply of the steam tapered off, the lid would start flapping down, and the voice would sound muffled and cracked. He spent most of his time blowing steam, so I would say yes, he was on.
Now there will be some out there who will try to compare his voice on this evening to his voice on Blood on the Tracks, which is impossible to replicate 35 years later (there's that number again, I've discovered the fountain of youth). The fact is, his voice sounded very similar to Modern Times, which is to say he's 69 fucking years old, he's not supposed to sound like he's 34.
There's really not much else to say, no beach balls, no lasers, no video monitor playing Three Stooges movies, no crowd surfing or stage diving, no energy, just Mr. Dylan playing his material and sounding just like he should. What did you expect?
1. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
2. It's All Over Now Baby Blue
3. Tom Thumb's Blues
4. Just Like A Woman
5. Beyond Here Lies Nothing
6. Tangled Up In Blue
7. The Levees Gonna Break
8. Simple Twist Of Fate
9. Highway 61 Revisited
10. Workingman's Blues #2
11. Thunder on the Mountain
12. Ballad of a Thin Man
14. Like A Rolling Stone