Bob Dylan - Bob Links - Reviews - 02/02/98


Springfield, Massachusetts

February 2, 1998

Symphony Hall

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 

[This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on Feb. 4, 1998. 
Copyright Seth Rogovoy 1998. All rights reserved.]

Seth 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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