Review by Seth Rogovoy: Bob Dylan at Springfield Symphony Hall 2/2/98 (SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Feb. 3, 1998) -- Every night that Bob Dylan takes the stage to perform is a magical, almost mystical occasion. The routine profusion of Dylan's appearances masks their singularity. None of Dylan's peers -- if he ever even had any -- has proved able to maintain his level of steady popularity and creative impact. The few contenders to the title have been left in the dust -- Elvis Presley checked out early, the Beatles split, and then John Lennon was struck down before his time. The Rolling Stones have devolved into bloated caricatures, and in any case they are mere pikers next to Dylan, who began his professional recording career in 1961. But as Dylan showed in his fabulous show at Springfield Symphony Hall on Monday night, he not busy being born is busy dying. Dylan's continued appeal and relevance 37 years after the launch of his career aren't based on marketing, pyrotechnics or even nostalgia. Rather, it is his steady, workmanlike devotion to the task, his unassuming nature, and his dogged determination to start over again night after night, week after week, year after year, to uncover unexplored nuances and reach new heights of transcendence in his prophetic style of folk-based rock music, that makes him utterly unique. It is a sad commentary on how things have developed, but no one else of Dylan's own generation or even of his youngest acolytes comes out each night with a backup band and just plays the songs. Then again, it is understandable, because no one else has the luxury of drawing upon the incredible repertoire that Dylan has amassed over the years. Dylan's songs need no elaboration, no fireworks or distractions, to grab an audience and take it along on a journey through dark heat. This is precisely what Dylan does and what he did on Monday night, beginning with a hard-driving, almost rockabilly version of "Absolutely Sweet Marie," performed with a freshness and playful vitality that belied its age. (It will be 32 this year.) But any sense of giddiness was to be short-lived, as the real scene- setter of the evening was the next song, "Senor," a dark, eerie narrative evocative of its subtitle, "Tales of Yankee Power." With its references to death and desperation in lines like, "Can you tell me where we're heading, Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?" Dylan established a duality that would frame much of what was to come. Each night Dylan plays different songs, and by constantly shaking up their order and juxtapositions, he not only challenges himself and his band but he suggests new relationships between compositions which were written and recorded decades apart. Thus, he followed "Senor" with "Can't Wait," one of his newest songs, from his Grammy-nominated album, 1997's "Time Out of Mind." It was a more direct but equally ominous twin to "Senor," and like several of the songs he played from the new album, it was more fluid and snakelike than on record. And when the choice is between Lincoln County Road or Armageddon, a line like "Oh honey....I don't know how much longer I can wait" takes on new resonance. Dylan continued in this death-haunted vein with "Shooting Star," a ballad about a lost love, and "Silvio," on which the singer has to take leave of a friend to "find out something only dead men know." His acoustic set included a mournful cover of "Cocaine Blues," and once again, as he did the last time the U.S. was on the brink of battle with Iraq, Dylan trotted out his old standard, "Masters of War," an eloquent indictment of the military-industrial complex. Dylan's current backup band is rightly considered by aficionados as one of his all-time best. The relatively faceless group has been together for almost a year, and in that time a sound has emerged that, while retaining its own rootsy signature, is also versatile enough to evoke the thin, wild mercury sound of Dylan's mid-'60s period, the haunted strains of '70s Dylan and the reverberant, post-apocalyptic sonics of his more recent work. It's easy to see without looking too far that not much is really sacred in rock 'n' roll these days. That Dylan is able to do what he does -- to get up on stage with a rock band and pour forth his poems and prophecies in a sort of contemporary replay of the revelation at Mt. Sinai -- in spite of the odds against such a thing in our time out of mind where commerce is the measure of all things, is nothing short of a miracle. [This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on Feb. 4, 1998. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 1998. All rights reserved.] Seth Rogovoy firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.berkshireweb.com/rogovoy music news, interviews, reviews, et al. *********************************************************************** Review by Buddy Kirschner: I was on the way home last Monday, from Newark, NJ that I experienced the best I can ever recall of Bob Dylan in the Springfield Symphony Hall. What a grand old building and what a peak level show.. even the anticipated Absolutely Sweet Marie had some extra licks and grooves, and then the tell tale of how this night was going to rank high and above all other nights.. the Senor was sang and played with so much emotion and soul that I swear Jerry was in the room and coming out of Bob Dylan's mouth.. it was uIn retrospect, I came to somehow have an extra special moment in connection with the anniversary of my sister Pegge's death (2-1-98)(just like sweet and Pretty Peggy-O), thinking I would surely get in either slot 10 or 14 a version of Tears of Rage, or I Shall Be Released or a Knocking on Heavens Door, but instead as I looked so intently in Bob Dylan's direction for the answer, he sang the song... "It Ain't Me Babe", as if to say, hey Buddy, this is your life, go out and live it, and let me live mine.. I fI can only say that for me Springfield, MA 2-2-98 was a time out of my mind, and lives in the special and precious places of those rare and few moments you get lucky and get.
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