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20 Pounds Of Headlines

by MARK CARTER

OCTOBER 2002

At last! A month with no Love And Theft reviews, which, means it’s now safe for Bob to release his follow up studio album. However, this month’s trawl through the October to December 2001 press coverage does include lots more Autumn 2001 tour reviews so it’s still not time for Bob to play any live shows in 2002. What? He’s played loads already?!! Feck.

Tony Bonyata hopped off to Milwaukee’s U.S. Cellular Arena and penned a positive review for concertlivewire.com; “…The evening may have weighed heavy on his ‘60s material, but as a performer and songwriter Dylan proved, as he enters the throws of old age, that some of his best material may still be yet to come,” Well, fingers crossed then. Billboard was equally positive about the Toronto Air Canada Show, calling it “excellent and, at times, captivating” and only during The Wicked Messenger did Dylan show signs of aging, when he used a lyric sheet to help him through the song. When Britney Spears played the same venue a few days earlier, her “pyrotechnic-laden” show involved 13 costume changes, but, as this review helpfully pointed out, when you’re Bob Dylan you don’t need such distractions. Just imagine – Britney Spears changing costume 13 times in 90 minutes. Oh, to have been a fly on that dressing room wall!

Curtis Schieber of The Columbus Dispatch enjoyed the Nationwide Arena gig, especially Positively 4th Street, which he considered the highlight of the show; “…To a half filled arena, Dylan seemed to be saying:”I am my legacy and it lives still. Furthermore, I continue to write it.” Amen.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Tom Moon was impressed with the audience at the First Union Spectrum and how Dylan now seems to attract yuppies, hippies, youngsters and pensioners; “…What was most amazing about watching Dylan was how often he connected with this wide constituency in the Spectrum, which was filled to near capacity…You sensed that Dylan’s followers were there for more than the uplift of the hits, that they’re aware of something profound about where he is right now. And curious about where he goes next.”

Dan Aquilante of the New York Post was predictably impressed with the excellent Madison Square Gardens show, especially the “defining moment” Tangled Up In Blue (Really? I must play my CD); “…Dylan growled and barked the lyrics as if he’d just written the old song. There was a vocal urgency that sent chills down the spine when he sang the lyrics, as if he were spitting poison.” In conclusion, “…His show was stellar…If there was a problem with this concert, it was only with the bad Bob impressions that the fans did as they left.”

Roger Catlin of the Hartford Courant was just as pleased with the Mohegan Sun Arena performance, feeling that this show was sharper than some previous Dylan gigs, primarily because, “the band is taking a larger role in driving the songs. Rather than follow Dylan’s every rambling solo. It forges ahead, letting him chime in when he has something to add.” As for The Voice, or what remains thereof; “…Those who hadn’t heard him in some time might have found Dylan’s voice a rusty hinge. But it is an expressive, playful and true one nonetheless, utterly fitting the timeless material.”

Amidst the post – September 11th hyped-up security measures, Jon Pareless of the New York Times, whilst watching the Madison Square Garden show, arrived at a conclusion that pleased me (and will please JRS too, I’ll wager):”… Mr. Dylan’s songs have the Nostradamus knack of wrapping themselves around contemporary events, and the song (Watchtower) was thoroughly ominous when he sang “Two riders were approaching / The wind began to howl”.”

Next up, a positive item on the Verizon Wireless Arena show by Charlie Perkins of the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News: “… Once again, a Dylan concert proved to be a microcosm of his career. It was a long roller-coaster ride with some stumbles – but the passion in his best songs shone through. At the show’s end, he lingered onstage, mutely acknowledging the applause with a few nods and hand gestures. Eccentric and unique, Dylan remains an artist who matters.”

The Michigan Daily’s Chris Lane, at the Cobo Arena, was amazed at how Dylan and his band could switch so swiftly from howling rock n roll (during Like A Rolling Stone, two girls fainted in front of him) to “ moments of divine, gospel-like togetherness”.

The Boston Globe’s Steve Morse was also impressed with the versatility of the band at the Fleet Center: “…This is the best group that has backed Dylan since The Band in the 70’s. No wonder that Dylan is back on top.”He also points out that the audience numbered 14,000 for this show. Six years ago, “before his renaissance began”, he could only manage 3,200.

The Boston Herald’s Daniel Gewertz was at the same venue and, despite last-night-ofthe- tour vocals (“his croak couldn’t compare to the relatively healthy hoarse wail he displayed a year ago at Boston University”), was also more than happy with what he saw; “,,,It was clear that the Dylan comeback was in full force… The most appreciated show lasted a whopping 2 ½ hours, including three encores, the band was nothing short of sublime, and Dylan was obviously energized by the new songs of his hit CD Love And Theft..”

Gadfly’s Peter Stone Brown followed the tour around for a while for the December issue (“September 11th hovered around this tour like a ghost”). He was less than impressed with Penn State University; the subdued crowd, the poor acoustics, the primarily familiar set lists. All of these meant that he only enjoyed the Love And Theft songs, though even then Floater “never found the groove”. The Washington MCI Center was better, especially the “surprising and chilling highlight” John Brown, though he felt that the encores were anticlimactic. At the Philadelphia Spectrum things were better still and, as had been happening all through the tour, “Sugar baby silenced the Arena.” This concert also reintroduced an old rock ‘n’ roll favourite, “…a curious thing happened – something I hadn’t seen at a concert in years. All of a sudden, spontaneously, there were thousands of raised cigarette lighters. One couldn’t have asked for a better show.”

However whether he asked or not, that’s exactly what he got a few days later at Madison Square Garden, where Dylan delivered perhaps the show of the tour, even stopping to autograph some CD sleeves at the end of the show. There were plenty of celebrities in the audience and it was an audience that was eating out of Dylan’s hand from the very first number. Patti Smith and her children watched from the side of the stage. “Madison Square Garden 2001 will go down as one of the great Dylan concerts of all time.” Brown concludes and he may well be right. This is a particularly atmospheric article. In the days of yore it would’ve been Article Of The Month but those days are gone now.

On a final tour related matter, Paul Cantin of Jam! Showbiz interviewed Toronto blues guitarist Paul James. James had recently been invited onstage at the Air Canada Center, the third time he has guested at a Dylan show. Their friendship seems to have taken off when Dylan was filming Farts For Hire in Toronto in 1986; “We’ve remained friends.

Whenever he comes to town he gives me a buzz. I have always been a fan of Bob’s. I never know what he is going to do.” Despite often telling James that he wants to record with him, Dylan has not yet actually offered him a studio gig: “ I am in Toronto and I am not very handy. And I think Bob is kind of a spontaneous guy.” In comparison to other visits, James is impressed with Bob’s current revitalisation; “He seems to have a really good handle on things right now, to be in really good spirits. He seems also to be very much in control.”

A few other odds and sods to round off, beginning with a less than favourable review of Howard Sounes Down The Highway by Michael Cote in the Boulder Daily Camera; “…Sounes never truly assesses the musicians gifts.. For a better understanding of Dylan as a person, Down The Highway delivers. For a better read on his music, you would be better served by picking up a copy of Love And Theft.”

There was an amusing cartoon strip in the New York Times Book Review by Mark Alan Stamaty which takes a sly look at the problems Dylan is having whilst writing his memoirs. As with all good jokes, it won’t benefit from me trying to explain it here, so I won’t.

The Autumn edition of Mojo Collections ran an article on the London branch of the Hard rock Café opening up a mini museum called The Vault (housed in a real one-time bank vault underground, previously owned by Coutt’s). Amongst the priceless items, it’s interesting to see that Dylan’s 1976 Rolling Thunder Nudie Jacket and National guitar have ended up there. Author Mark Paytrees is suitably impressed; “…I am reminded that so much rock and pop memorabilia reeks of bad taste.” In the same magazine, Mark Paytrees interviews David Crosby about his musical friends and inspirations, including old Bobby: “When I first got into Dylan I hated him. I didn’t think it was fair that anybody could be that good… I do have a better voice, but he had this incredible gift for storytelling. He had charisma too. Years later, I worked with him on Under The Red Sky… He wants you out on the edge. He wants to get you winging it. That’s where he lives. It’s verbal folk music jazz and it’s wonderful.”

Finally, the Autumn edition of Sing Out! Featured a briefish look at how Dylan was not averse to pinching other song’s melodies and lyrics for his own material during the 1960’s (and he’s still doing it to this very day, by all accounts) by Michael Cooney. Rumour has it that when Dylan first visited London, Grossman hired someone to tape the singers in a London folk club so that Dylan could listen to the songs and liberate what he wanted. Also reproduced (for the first time?) are the lyrics and music to Troubled And I Don’t Know Why. In the same magazine, Randy Poe interviews Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Dylan crops up from time to time, most notably during the early ‘60’s and again in 1975. Elliott’s daughter Aiyana recently made a 105-minute documentary about her Dad called The Ballad Of Ramblin’ Jack. Dylan allowed footage from Renaldo And Clara to be used but refused to be interviewed, which did not go down to well with her; “Dylan’s silence over the years about my Dad has been a source of persistent sadness and frustration for jack…Ultimately, I think his absence from the film is more poignant than his presence.”

And that’s yer lot. Until next month, toodle-pip.

THANKS TO: GRAHAM ASHTON AND TONY SHACKLETON

Philadelphia 2001 (Pete Rehill)
Philadelphia 2001 (Pete Rehill)


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