5 years ago Dylan had a 3 night stand at Boston's Orpheum Theatre and he played 44 songs...42 of them were unique. What a weekend.
Tomorrow Is A Long Time
Chimes of Freedom
it’s a crisp day but the sun is high and we cover a lot of ground before we happen upon the Littlest Bar. and they ain’t kidding. maybe room for 15-20 people safely. in the afternoon, there was enough room for all of us to squeeze in and order a round. or almost, a couple had to stand about outside, looking in. we must revisit in the evening, when it’s rockin’ or perhaps heavin’…it’s a little small to rock.
there’s still time for some late afternoon sightseeing before we make our way to dinner, organized by local Dylan fan, and friend, dancin’neathdiamondskies. and then the show.
the Orpheum is a bit past its prime, a tad worn down, most of the glitter long gone. but it’s cozy.
the band comes out quick, moving ‘double-time’ into a light and airy To Be Alone With You. a chance to celebrate life’s few pleasures. Bob’s still got the randomizer and rhyming dictionary on his keyboard and tonight the unfamiliar rhymes are centered around ‘walk the line’ and ‘yours and mine’. the rapid pace of the song has Bob stumbling through… “to many thoughts get in the boat?!?!?!?!” or something like that. I said it was light and airy. real nice fiddle break by…wait! where’s Elana? Donny Heron is playing the fiddle tonight and she’s nowhere to be seen. no time to think.
‘cause next up is a gift to Cece for missing it in Washington. tour debut, 5th live performance, 2nd I’ve been fortunate enough to catch…a more extended intro has us knowing, even before Bob leans forward to say… “Hazel…” and the crowd goes wild. a very good performance, evocative of the album version, if a little more road-weary. such a good sign I don’t even care we’re going to hear TDTD next.
then we don’t…we get a moody It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) with its wonderful palette of thought-dreams. so surreal a song, oft taken for granted due to its regular appearance, but just listen to the words. even Bob allowed, in his 60 Minutes interview…you can’t write like that, not on purpose anyway. much more controlled version than the scream-fest we had in Richmond VA last summer and just as captivating. more great fiddle work and the hole on the stage where Elana used to stand doesn’t seem as big.
a little jazz number to lighten the mood with If Dogs Run Free. perhaps the ‘low-light’ of this three night stand…and it didn’t suck at all. it’s a weak song at the best of times but a nice little interjection… “if dogs run free, then why not me (I don’t know!)”… makes it worthwhile in a small way.
now that he’s got us dozing Bob comes out with an uppercut that brings the audience to its feet as the familiar Robbie-esque guitar run leads us into Tough Mama. first for me since ’97...though it hasn’t been played much. it was part of the surprise London ’03 stand and had made its tour appearance last week in Milwaukee…on a Friday night. with Bob’s ‘day-of-the-week’ pattern, that was promising. and here it is again, a full blown power version. it’s cream-your-jeans time for Michey and –ryan- sitting in front of the soundboard, dead centre tonight. Bob nails all the lyrics, the pace is steady and fast throughout and he closes with an emphatic harp solo. well done.
heartbeats quicken as it sounds like we’re going to get… Frankie Lee and Judas Priest! Christ! if we get this, then maybe august west’s request for Joey can come true. ‘cept it’s not Frankie Lee and Judas Priest. it’s Shelter from the Storm…which is not a kick in the bags. a spare, country-ish version that trots along at a comfortable pace. well received by the appreciative crowd. for my taste, it’s much better than the fall ’02 versions I heard. I miss the harmonies from Charlie and Larry but Bob is much stronger this year. as an almost perfect rendition unfolds, Bob has a slight lyric stumble right at the “got my signals crossed” line…and you wonder if it’s a mistake or a macro-joke. either way, it’s ironic.
Georges’ drums usher in the more familiar, but always pleasing, Cold Irons Bound. once again, tonight it doesn’t disappoint and this can be added to the list of songs Bob always does well.
as the band switches instruments Bob treats us to a lengthy piano noodle that becomes the intro to another monster surprise, another monster song, it’s getting to the point where we might not be worthy, as Tomorrow Is A Long Time makes its tour debut…and only appearance in the tour. only the 69th (what’s your favorite number, dude?) appearance live, first since 2002. and it’s freakin’ glorious. the crowd is vocal in announcing its pleasure as the magic continues.
something old, something blue, in the guise of a rockin’ and engaged Highway 61 with George in complete chaotic control. there’s no let up in this show.
a lone cry of “we love you Bob” in front of … oh my god! Chimes of Freedom. first performance since 2001 and only the 24th lifetime. this is goosebump-inducing stuff. half of me is fearing the song will get goofed up onstage and break the spell of the moment; half of me is blushing with joy watching –ryan- excitedly, but silently, pump his fist in the air; and the other half of me (hey, it’s a big song) is just relishing the moment as Bob delivers a near perfect version. slight lyric flub where he transposes a couple of lines late in the song but it’s hardly noticeable. the images are just mind-blowing. majestic bolts followed by mad mystic hammering. whew.
Summer Days almost seems out of place tonight.
even Mr. Tambourine Man benefits from the strange mojo around the Orpheum this evening. Bob uses the upsinging to a level of ‘tolerable’ as it’s balanced with some breathy, whispering lines. a big improvement over ‘04’s version.
so just when you think he’s pretty well laid it all out there for the evening we get a new addition this tour to the Friday night set list…Mississippi. not as moody as it was in 2001 it’s almost jaunty at times. only a verse or two of upsinging in a new musical arrangement and one lyric change… “might not even have anything for myself anymore!” cute.
show closes with the show closer, Watchtower. and it’s out on the streets to talk about our good fortune and where the heck is Elana? and do we want her back if the band is going to play those songs?
Blind Willie McTell
well if this is Maggie’s Farm, it must be Saturday. as expected and a perfect warmup as we are still tingling over last nights set list.
in the second slot, a rare appearance for Forever Young. in its over 450 live appearances it’s only been the number two song 13 times, so something’s still happenin’ on stage, but we’re trying to be aware.
we get the new start/stop arrangement of Cry A While. this song continues to move up the ladder in my estimation. the more I hear it, the more I like it.
unlike Bye and Bye, the jazz number for the night but overall making this a substantially more disappointing start that last nights show.
Hollis Brown tries to right the boat but it’s an underplayed, subdued, loose-strings version that doesn’t pull the audience in quite as strongly as it can. less of a ‘howling’ version than we’d like.
more of the upsinging on If You See Her Say Hello. this is a 50/50 song. half of me likes to hear it…the other half is sorry I had too. it’s a song that deserves more heart than it gets in its current incarnation.
sensing he’s losing us, Bob throws us a bone. only one of the night, but it’s a biggie. first performance since 2000, 98th performance overall, Lenny Bruce is STILL dead. nicely done, a strange choice but a personal debut for me and a treat for all…it’s so rare.
when HWM comes out I think it’s way too early in the set. too early for the end to be near. and it is early, at song number 8 so we still have a bit to go.
the tour debut of Hattie Carroll followed by a banjo version of High Water is leading this show up to a nice finish.
Every Grain of Sand, with some experimental upsinging balanced with some throaty dips, and it comes of just fine thanks, ending with an extended harp solo.
as Highway 61 rambles through I realize it’s the first song that’s been repeated from last nights show!
Blind Willie McTell adds some nice Cajun flavour to the festivities. almost always done well (not counting the Desolation McTell we got in Columbus ’03) and almost is what it gets tonight as well as Bob mysteriously drops the “barren trees” line and make no attempt to fill the void or correct…just leaves the space empty.
a small and pleasant change in the closer as LARS is used in place of Watchtower.
we pour out of the venue and pick up assorted ‘hangers on’, Murphy’s Lightnin’ Review among them. his plan was to hit the Littlest Bar and I could only come up with 6 quick reasons why we shouldn’t: 1) our party is pretty large at 9, 2) the bar has a capacity of 23, 3) thousands of people just left the venue a mere couple blocks away, 4) it’s Saturday night in the theater district, 5) been there, and 6) done that. my arguments are lost in the din and we find ourselves stepping down the stairs of the Littlest Bar into a heaving, sweating mass of manhood. oh, and womanhood as -ryan- and I wedge ourselves in between a group of Sapphic love-dolls, two of whom were engaging in a Mexican tongue-dance. I began to consider I may have been wrong.
I leave august west, girlfriendmimi, -ryan-, dancin’ and a couple others inside and squeeze my way to the front door to hook up with MisLucy and Cece who are standing outside where you can breathe. we’re soon joined by the 4 Welsh lesbians who regale us with an aural assault, already having treated us to the oral show. they tell us of the good times they’ve been having…as tourist that is. over the half hour tirade they are bright lights in the dark night, dropping not-so-subtle hints about the wild times they were enjoying. my guess is they were all engaged and what happens in Boston, stays in Boston. quite the titillating group of girls. there was some Dylan talk…Dylan Thomas that is… whoever he was.
by this time, the rather well-lubricated (notice a pattern here?) Murphy is making noise about heading to another bar. I’m making noises about heading to another joint. unable to convince the gang I’ve been through this movie before the bar wins out and we find ourselves, all 9 of us, at a bar with 7 seats and no service. for a while, until we call it a night on this second long day.
Merle Haggard - Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down
Love Minus Zero Over No Limit
Ring Them Bells
I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine
even better than no Maggie’s Farm, after 6 complete Merle Haggard shows (which weren’t that bad, really) I finally get the one song I wanted to hear – Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down. been a big fan of it ever since it appeared on Elvis Costello’s terrific Almost Blue album. finally, I hate chasin’ Merle to get just one song…why that would be like followin’ Bob for Joey.
Drifter’s makes its appearance in the warm up slot and Bob gets to stretch his vocal chords with his favourite rhyme pattern…. ‘mo’ waaaaah / do’ waaaah. and a harp solo to close. we are ready to rumble.
ah, right a tour debut in Love Minus Zero Over No Limit, that’s the spirit Bobby. ice & fire & laughing flowers. more harp as Bob is feeling it early tonight and the crowd senses it.
God Knows. bam! love this song. love the transition. add it to the list of ‘always done well’ songs. the tension builds slowly in the sparse first half of the song as a liturgy of trials is laid out... things that ain’t pretty, struggles, crimes and things that are fragile and can snap apart like puttin’ scissors to a string. then the full force of the band as the show of horrors continues through the rising crescendo then we see the river, the purpose, the ‘rise above’ and the heaven. quite the mountain of a song.
he’s serious tonight as my third ever Ring Them Bells unfolds. and not only is time running backwards…there’s no place left to turn or hide!
woo hoo for MisLucy as we get another one-timer for the tour in Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat. this night is shaping up nicely as we’re treated to some great guitar work and another interjection: “I see you got a new boyfriend (ahhhh, who is he?)….”
to prove there’s a magic about in Boston this weekend Bob tackles Tryin’ To Get To Heaven and he nails it. always a threat to succumb to the upsinging with this tune but tonight he’s smooth and low as he unleashes a melancholy version.
then it’s step-it-up-and-go time with a rockin’ Down Along the Cove to shake us out of our dreamland slumber, injecting a little adrenalin.
when I Believe in You comes out, I wonder how long this can go on? great voice, great delivery. so good, I don’t even mind when I get my first TDTD in three nights.
as payback for that, another ‘holy sh*t’ moment as I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine makes its first appearance since November of 1992! only its 34th performance ever and quite the surprise. no disappointment in the straight forward rendition.
one for Cece as Thin Man comes out and another for MisLucy with a very good Hard Rain, which builds to a slow boil. each verse gains in intensity, almost imperceptibly until it explodes in the final verse. great control of pace and tempo throughout.
another one-off for the tour in Phantom Engineer. though I got one of two in 2004 and one of two in 2003 so it’s semi-regular with me. Bob’s singing is a little lame but the guitar work is remarkable, so I guess it’s not Stu.
what, Watchtower? you run out of songs Bob?
in case you weren’t following along that was 42 songs in 3 nights with 40 unique…only 2 repeats (Highway 61 on nights 1&2 and Watchtower on nights 1&3). quite the weekend stand.
you want rare songs? how about … Hazel, Tough Mama, Tomorrow Is A Long Time, Shelter From the Storm, Chimes of Freedom, Mississippi, Lenny Bruce, Ring Them Bells, I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine and It Takes A Lot To Laugh.
you want tour debuts? how about…11 songs out of 42! and three ‘one-offs’ for the tour.
some impressive shows.
what’s in store for New York?