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Review by Trevor Hinson
The Stabler show was incredible. This was my 5th Dylan show, and probably
the best. The only one that truly competes with this was the Trocadero show
in December of 97. This was also the most convenient show to go to, I live
about 25 minutes away from Stabler. Being so used to traveling to New York
or Philadelphia to see the great Bobliness, driving 25 minutes made it all
the more worthwhile.
Pre-show highlights was seeing regular rmd user Fred. We knew eachother
from the Wayne show in 97, and we immediately recognized eachother upon
meeting again. It was nice to see him again, we smoked a few butts and
away about how much we both worship Bob.
And now the show:
GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY...Good opener. He got a few verses mixed up
but nonetheless it was a good song to get the evening rolling.
MILLION MILES...As I expected. It was okay, but not a highlight.
MAGGIE'S FARM...Not as loud and powerful as I remember it when he was
opening up with that song in December 97, but the crowd loved it.
I WANT YOU...Suprise #1. I was so overjoyed at hearing this. He sang it
so beautifully and we so much emotion. I just loved it. I thought it was
weird that it's in the # 4 slot in the setlist, but it fit nicely.
STUCK INSIDE OF MOBILE...Very nice version. Similar to the way he's
been playing it. He got most of the verses in tonight. The ending was
you can tell this one had been rehearsed until perfection.
MASTERS OF WAR...The crowd loved it. After every line at least someone
cheer. This was also where most of the people sat down and relaxed a little
standing through the electric set.
MAMA YOU BEEN ON MY MIND...Suprise #2. I loved it. I recognized it after
first two chords and went wild. He sang the lyrics perfectly (much better
bobdylan.com version) and I loved how toward the end the drums picked up and
it turned into a great country number!
TANGLED UP IN BLUE...Slower than expected, but very good to say the least.
The lighting on this one was a highlight. They had white floor lights that
after every verse, which was a nice touch.
TO RAMONA...Decent version. Beautifully sung, but the crowd seemed
disinterested. It seemed too slow and quiet for such an energetic evening.
CAN'T WAIT...I have heard a million versions of this song from recent tapes,
seriously folks, this was THE definative version. He sang it with such
it gave me chills...He really MEANT the words to this one. This was
a highlight for me. The jam towards the end was so damn good I can't even
it. David was ON tonight, that's for sure.
POSITIVELY 4TH STREET...Suprise #3. This usually graces the #4 slot on the
setlist, and it was very sutable for the #11 slot. It was the usual slowed
This version definately ranks up there with the one heard on "Soul" or "Eyes
of the Idol."
In my mind the best 4th Street ever was on "Soul," but this one's right up
there. The crowd absolutely loved it. By the way, right before he did this
song a friend and I screamed at the top of our lungs "WE LOVE YOU BOB
DYLAN!!!" and then more people from the crowd started yelling praises. He
introduced the band after 4th Street.
HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED...Though I have seen this one at every show I've been
to, this one never seems to grow old. This was the time that everybody
rushes to the stage, and this show was no exception. Everyone was on their
feet having a great time.
LOVE SICK...Awesome! This is the 3rd time I've experienced it live, and
this was the best. By far the best lighting the whole night was on this
one. It was just spooky. Larry's guitar work really made this one what it
is today. It's a shame Bob didn't use Larry for recording TOOM.
PILLBOX HAT...This one was good, the crowd loved it, and so did I. The did
some good jamming, and FINALLY Bob is starting to let Larry just take the
lead and just go with it. Too many times in the past Bob finds it
nessessary to take lead and just destroy it. Don't get me wrong, I like the
way Bob plays, but a 3 note guitar solo for this one just wouldn't cut it.
Again, Larry made the song what it is. I still think the "definative"
Pillbox Hat is from the Hyde Park 96 show, however.
BLOWIN' IN THE WIND...WOW. That's all I have to say. You could just see so
much emotion on Bob's face as he sang it. This song is still alive. The
harmonies Bob, Larry, and Bucky were doing were outstanding. Up til now
this got the most appreciation from the audience until...
NOT FADE AWAY...By far the best version EVER played by ANY band. Everybody
was going nuts on this one. The deadheads especially. This one gave me the
most chills the whole evening. I'm at a loss for words.
This show was SO good I'm asking myself if tonight was even real. I could
write a book just on tonight, but I think this short review shall suffice.
If ANYONE gets a hold of a tape of this show, PLEASE email me. It's so hard
to believe that he plays so this good, night after night, year after year.
Only Bob Dylan could do it.
That's all for now, take care.
Review by Peter Stone Brown
This was my third trip to the little town of Bethlehem to see Bob Dylan play at Stabler
Arena. I’d woke up about five times this morning in a driving rainstorm because of
something I shouldn’t have eaten the night before and wasn’t exactly thrilled at the
prospect of driving to Bethlehem in the rain. The last time I saw Dylan at Stabler I ended
up trying to race a snowstorm home and didn’t win and had a fun little white knuckle time
slipping and sliding down the turnpike to a toll plaza that should’ve been an ice skating
rink. Luckily the rain stopped but my spirits didn’t lift until driving through Bethlehem
to a friends house for dinner, past the Stabler turn-off, I saw a big gold tour bus probably
delivering someone’s band to a soundcheck. Once at my friend’s house the talk turned to a
safe time to leave in order to miss Natalie Merchant. I assured my friends 8 pm would be
just perfect but they were a little nervous. I told them I had it down having had a lot of
practice during the Ani Di Franco tour, and how when Bob played the Mann I arrived there in
time to be right behind Bob’s bus. So we set out for Stabler at about 8 anyway which was
maybe 20 minutes away and just as we’re about to turn into the last road leading to the
arena, coming towards us from the opposite direction is a very familiar looking bus. Well
it’s not every day I get the chance to give the right of way to Bob, so much to the
annoyance of my friend’s wife who was following in the car behind us, I sat at the stop sign
and let the bus pass and immediately turned in right behind it of course.
Dylan came on stage with his hair still sort of damp with a part in it that only he
could have and started as usual with a reasonably strong “Serve Somebody,” can
considering he has played just about every night this month, his voice was in pretty
good shape. They worked up a new pretty sharp ending. “Million Miles” and a
semi-countrified “Maggie’s Farm” built around a riff similar to Merle Haggard’s “Working Man
Blues” followed, but were nothing special, though it did bring out his first smile of the
night. But on the fourth song, Dylan reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a new
version of “I Want You” that was the first highlight of the night. It was played at a
moderate pace that may have been a tiny bit too slow, but had lots of beautiful steel work
from Bucky (who’s really starting to look like Jesse Ventura with a derby), especially in
the beginning. Imagine “I Want You” done at the pace of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With
You” and you’ll have an idea. Now I’ve seen Dylan drive this song right into the very
depths of my soul, and it wasn’t like that, but he did seem to care about it. “Memphis
Blues Again” followed with Bob letting loose with some prime search and destroy guitar, but
at the same time he was digging into the song and having a good time. He seemed to be
playing more with Larry Campbell than against him. But I found myself thinking about when
was the last time Dylan played two songs in the same order as on an album, and was kind of
hoping that follow it with “Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat” and “Just Like A Woman” for the sheer
hell of it.
That wasn’t to be of course because he took of the Fender and put on the Gibson and went
into a fairly intense and spooky “Masters of War” that got one of the first real responses
from the fairly sedate, standing crowd. It was great but I found myself thinking it
would’ve been even greater if I hadn’t seen him sing it who knows how many times over the
past five or six years. But then Dylan again pulled out another surprise, a beautiful “Mama
You Been On My Mind,” and if he wasn’t knocking over the intensity meter, he certainly was
treating the song with care. “Tangled” was followed by a delicate “To Ramona,” with Dylan
again making it plain he cared about the song. Watching him, I couldn’t help but think of
when I first saw him sing it a little over 33 years ago.
“Can’t Wait” followed featuring some nice Steve Cropper-esque licks from Larry Campbell and
a strong vocal from Dylan who at this show was making effective use of the lower register of
his voice. “Positively Fourth Street” found Dylan playing around in his delivery and
clearly enjoying himself. As the song went on instead of playing rhythm which he usually
does when he’s singing, he started to play lead while he was singing -- all of a sudden
there’s these guitar licks -- which of course led into a solo.
“Highway 61” was “Highway 61.”
All the encores were kept at a strong level. “Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat” had a new
trick intro; the harmonies, make “Blowin’ In The Wind;” but in the grand show-biz
tradition, Dylan saved the best for last with “Not Fade Away.” Here he was clearly
having fun and the sort of smiles he let loose the rest of the night turned into a broad one
and he looked young for the first time all night, and all the baggage of being Bob Dylan
seemed to slip away, and I felt like he was having the kind of fun he probably had with his
very first band.
All in all, it was an okay concert, not a great one. The energy level seemed to be
lagging a bit, the band never got into 5th gear. But after “Not Fade Away,” it didn’t
"I can't even remember what it was I came
here to get away from." --Bob Dylan
Peter Stone Brown
Review by Tom Ganley
This was my second Dylan show and it was flat out GREAT. The first
was back on November 5, at Cole Field House. But Back to this show. The
night opened with a wonderful opening act from Natalie Merchant. Which
included songs from both of solo albums and an added treat in a cover of
David Bowie's Space Oddity. She ended the set with "Kind and Generous"
with her encore being "These Are the Days". She was really into her set,
dancing all over the stage and conversing with the crowd a lot.
After about a 25 minute intermission, Bob and the band came out
wearing their usual attire, and started off with the usual opener:
"Gotta Serve Somebody", a pretty good version. Next was "Million Miles".
An alright version, but nothing fancy was done to the song. "Maggies
Farm" was in the third slot. A good upbeat version of the song, in which
the crowd loved. He then played "I Wan't You", which was a pleasant
surprise to me. It was great to see this classic song done so well. The
band played it great, and Bob sang this one with great emotion. To close
the first electric set was a tremendous version of "Stuck Inside of
Moble With the Memphis Blues Again". This song has been done both times
I've seen him, and they play this one really well live. You can tell
they practice this one often, and it was great to hear the solo's in
this one. I also found it interesting that "I Want You" and this one
were done in order as they were on Blonde on Blonde.
The acoustic set began with a powerful version of "Master's of
War". The crowd certainly loved this one, as there were many cheers
throughout the song. Next was another unexpected tune in, "Mama, You
Been On My Mind". He sang it beautifully, with the band playing great on
this one. In the 8 slot was a slower version of "Tangled Up In Blue",
but it didn't matter for this great song. To close the acoustic set, was
the biggest surprise of the night. "To Ramona" was played extremely
well. There were a few verses left out, but he sang it well, and I was
glad he did this classic song.
"Can't Wait" was the theme for my friend and I as we were
counting down the days till the show, and this was a magnificent
version. He didn't play it the two previous shows so we we were
wondering if was going to play it. And when we heard the first chords of
the song we went nuts. Next was the highlight of the night for me.
"Positively 4th Street" is one of my favorite songs of all time and to
see it done live was awesome. I had heard another version of the song
from a year ago, but this one was even better. The last song of the set
was "Highway 61 Revisited" and like the previous show I was at, everyone
rushed the stage and everyone was dancing.
The encore began with an amazing version of "Lovesick". Probably,
the best song all night long. The band has got the song down perfectly,
and it shows. "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" followed. A strong version,
and like the previous time I saw him, it almost sounded like "Rainy Day
Women" after the first couple of chords.
"Blowin' in the Wind" was next and the harmonies in this one were great.
I've seen this song twice and he has brought this song to a whole new
level each time. The show ended with a great cover of "Not Fade Away".
Everyone in the crowd rose to their feet and was dancing to this great
song. It was the perfect ending to an exciting night.
Bob Dylan has proved it again that he is the best. If he is playing
around your area, go see him. He is a musical legend, and he outdoes
himself each time. Thanks Bob for another great show. I 'Can't Wait' til
Review by Brian Costello
Rolling out of Baltimore around 4:30 p.m., I headed past the house of
Miss Mary Jane just tryin¹ to get to Lehigh before they closed the
doors. I stopped in Philly to pick up a friend, and we soon parked at
the Lehigh¹s campus with no Stabler Arena in sight. After walking
around for a few minutes, we accosted a young scholar (most likely a
freshman) near the library and asked for directions: ³Yes,² he had heard
of the show, but, ³No,² all he could definitively say was that we
weren¹t anywhere near it. His convoluted directions (³curve left, then
head to the top of the mountain²) quickly led us nowhere, but we
fortunately managed to find signs for the arena. Although my car¹s
brakes almost gave out during an ill-advised mountain-side ³K-turn,² it
made it safely to the show, proudly displaying its Minnesota tags. Our circuitous journey consumed most of Natalie Merchant¹s set, as she
was beginning her final song as we took our seats. I wasn¹t greatly
disappointed, for I¹ve found her post-Maniacs career excruciatingly
boring. She did treat the crowd to a bizarre interpretive dance around
the stage . . . I was half-surprised that she didn¹t return some point
during Dylan¹s set with ³Soy Bomb² emblazoned across her dress.
Stabler Arena had the ambiance and poor-ventilation of a high-school
gymnasium, but the crowd seemed in good spirits, if generally subdued.
Students wearing standard uniform-issue J. Crew sweaters, button-up
shirts, and white baseball caps comprised much of the audience, along
with many of the "mothers and fathers throughout the land." In fact, my
friend and I were completely surrounded by couples our parents¹ age.
As ³Columbia Recording Artist Bob Dylan² was announced, the crowd
seemed semi-comatose. This tour¹s standard opener, ³Gotta Serve
Somebody,² immediately reached a bluesy and efficient groove, one that
was furthered in a strong version of ³Million Miles.² Dylan¹s lyrics
were generally clear and his phrasing impassioned, perfectly matching
tone of the show¹s early songs. The guitar-work was extraordinarily
sharp the entire night, with Dylan and Campbell effortlessly trading
riffs and pushing each other to new creative heights. You could tell
the two were enjoying themselves, and we thoroughly benefited. (We
deserved this guitar renaissance, for the hallowed harmonica was never
to appear). While some of the band members sported trademark
derby-style hats and Campbell maintained his Kevin Sorbo-esque locks,
Dylan looked surprisingly understated: A simple dark suit left little
room for his typical sartorial eccentricity, although my friend did
claim she noticed a tuxedo strip running down his pant-legs. His hair
resembled a well-cultivated bird¹s nest, a far cry from the ³I just
stuck my finger in a socket² look he displayed when I last saw him at
the University of Maryland in November.
³Maggie¹s Farm² and ³Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues
Again²‹songs three and five, respectively‹rocked the arena in a country
vein, with some impressive slide-guitar notes. However, the crowd was
rather unenthusiastic except for a few silly standers attempting to
dance to the music‹I always thought this was the rudest thing one could
do at a show where everyone else was sitting. (Saturday Night Live once
did a good sketch about this phenomenon). ³I Want You² played at song
four was an enjoyable surprise, with the original woodwind section here
nicely transposed to Larry¹s guitar. The acoustic set began with a
darkened room and the show¹s requisite (but not only) protest anthem,
this time ³Masters of War.² Not my favorite song, but it marked the
first time Dylan connected with the audience as the lone spotlight
shined on just him and his guitar. He followed with delicate
arrangement ³Mama You Been On My Mind² that all seemed to enjoy.
³Tangled Up in Blue² was again the traditional crowd pleaser‹especially
for the college kids, as now everyone could stand and dance‹but the song
showed nothing new here from any of the other times I have heard him
play it. Dylan continued to alter the pronouns in the lyrics, changing
the third person back into to the original first person only in the
song¹s final verse. (I never really appreciated the significance of
these shifts in person, but they are apparently important to Dylan). As
usual, ³Truck driver¹s wives² was substituted for ³Carpenter¹s wives,²
but I didn¹t notice any other lyrical changes.
³To Ramona² was a lovely; ³Can¹t Wait,² absolutely stunning‹a haunting
blues that ultimately evoked deep pathos. While the song's original
conception on Time Out of Mind is strong, this version truly
transcended it. But the real personal treat of the show was ³Positively
4th Street,² played with striking difference from the original single,
here both mellow and gut-wrenching, beautiful and sublime. The music
finally took on it¹s own identity, no longer sounding like a lesser
version of ³Like a Rolling Stone.² Dylan exercised complete control of
the song, and all the other band members momentarily faded out of sight.
This was a rare moment for me, reminiscent of when he was concluding
with ³It Ain¹t Me Babe² a few years ago. The Stabler show itself
concluded with a strong if uninspired ³Highway 61 Revisited.² Around
this time Dylan made a few remarks before introducing the
band‹completely unintelligible, of course.
The first two encores of ³Love Sick² and ³Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat²
were proficient, although I increasingly dislike the latter song each
time I hear it. He followed with a strong arrangement of ³Blowin¹ in
the Wind,² which finally touched the majority of the audience. The song
was warmly received and there were audible responses to key verses‹plus,
the members of the older generation that had not left to go to bed
seemed to absolutely love it. I had been waiting to hear ³Not Fade
Away² ever since first hearing feedback from this tour. It was truly
remarkable: Here Dylan, the band, and the crowd fully united in
impassioned uproar. As Dylan left the stage and the lights remained
down, the once-sleepy arena now thundered like a high-school state
championship game. I thought, just for a moment, that Dylan might
acknowledge the crowd and respond with some amazing solo performance,
but it was not to be. Instead, the house lights finally came up to the
sound of light-hearted disappointment. Dylan had already melted back
into the night, and now, so did we.
Review by Carsten Wohlfeld
Last December my friend Goetz went to New York City and before he left he
asked me if I'd know of any good shows in NYC the week before x-mas. So I
looked it up and found out that, amongst others, Buffalo Tom and Helium
were playing. The shows that got me most excited though were two gigs at
the Hammersmith Ballroom by Natalie Merchant. My friend didn't go to see
either of them, but I was very upset by the fact that Natalie did play in
the US and wouldn't play any shows on mainland Europe... Oh well. So now I
am in the middle of nowhere, Allentown, PA (apart from the nice
architecture of Lehigh University there's really nothing else to see in
this old industrial town) and wait for my first Dylan show in about five
month. I was really looking forward to seeing Natalie too, as I've just
explained, but of course there was no way that she'd be only half as good
as Patti Smith supporting Bob in Australia. We we got when she and her six-
piece band took to the stage at exactly 8pm with "Ophelia (Reprise)" used
as the intro music was *much* more than just a good show. She opened with
the quiet "Ophelia" and that was quite nice, but it merely served as the
warm up to what was next. Natalie sat down at the pianio and began what
turned out to be a solo rendition of "Wonder"! By the time the band kicked
in i was already in heaven! What a great performance, and so much better
than the already quite perfect album version! Wow! She also did a couple
of 10,000 Maniacs songs, including "Stockton Gala Days" and she rocked so
much more than I'd expected. Then her guitarist starts a riff that the guy
behind me immediately identified as a "Space Oddity" rip-off. Only that
it wasn't a rip-off, as Natalie and co. actually played the Bowie song.
Wow! Again. The audience had been pretty appreciative already but
everybody was still in their seats. Then Natalie thanked the crowd and Bob
and introduced the last song, "Kind And Generous" "Everybody should get up
and exercise, especially with cold weather like this", she said (or words
to that effect.) "Don't worry about getting back to your seats in time,
there will be a long intermission between uncle Bob and myself." "Kind And
Generous" got everybody dancing and the actually returned for an encore, a
new arrangement of "These Are The Days" by 10,000 Maniacs. Natalie had
been dancing around like a pixie for most of the set, trying to escape the
spotlight that was supposed to follow her around on stage. Not only did
she do all my favourite songs, she was also tons of fun to watch. Much
more than just a support act, more like a co-headliner in fact. I could've
sworn her set didn't last longer than 30 minutes, but actually she was on
for 70 minutes. Never before I though time went by so quickly at a show...
At 9.35pm it was time to welcome our beloved Columbia recording artist
Gotta Serve Somebody
was first as expected, but I was suprised how high Bob's voice and guitar
were in the mix. I thought that was a very good sign. No need for him to
'hide' behind the band anymore. The sang the new 'featherbed' lyrics that
Ben has posted on r.m.d. before and it was really amazing to hear how much
the song has improved compared to the early versions last summer.
Followed also as expected and was actually a lot better than the Madison
Sq. Gardens performances a year ago. Had a very welcome jazzy feel to it.
Bob was very animated throughout the show and as if further proof for his
good mood was still needed he added a few extra lines here and there, like
"still a million miles from you... isn't it true?". Larry has a new
guitar, something like a semi-acoustic (don't ask me for details, i'm no
pro) that he played exclusively on the "TOOM" songs.
Very fast version, pretty similar to last year's opener, expect for the
funny "space" effect on Larry's guitar.
I Want You
Didn't expect this to be aired in this slot, but it was gorgeous as ever,
perfect song for my own mood as well. No big change there.
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
Was loud, fast & great. Sounds truer to the original every time he plays
it. (Do I have to mention that I think the "Blond On Blonde" version is
one of the best things recorded - *ever*? No, I guess you knew that
Masters Of War (acoustic)
Oh no, not again, was my initial reaction, but this was actually the
highlight of the night. They had three white spotlights on Bob that left
the band standing in the dark for most of the song. From a distant it
looked as if only Bob was on stage. It was interesting to see that he
still looks the way he did in "Don't Look Back" (if you don't see his
wrinkeles up close:-)). Staggeringly good performance too. Every words
sung clearly and very convincingly. Had a dramatic slow ending that fitted
in perfectly, too.
Mama You Been On My Mind (acoustic)
I thought this would be "Babe It Ain't No Lie" at first, but then again it
wasn't. It was played very, very fast and the crowd just loved it.
Tangled Up In Blue (acoustic)
Had longer solos than usual and Bob changed back to the orginal lyrics on
the "Delacroix" verse. Apart from that it sounded exactly how I remembered
it. So say it with Bob's line from "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" - 'just
like so many time before'.
To Ramona (acoustic)
Had a weird intro and turned out to be a pretty standard performance that
didn't differ much from past renditions. Still don't like the 90's jingle-
jangle version. Just can't help it.
was "Can't Wait"
Positively 4th Street
was the song that totally made the night. Now if there was one song I
really wanted to hear on this tour it was this one. For reasons to
complicated to explain I'd listented to the song over and over again
before I left and once again I loved it to death. There were times before
were I couldn't stand it, especially when they played it fast, but tonight
it was just perfect. Slow and not ecaxtly sung, more spoken. Awesome!
Band intros followed, started with Bucky, rather than with Larry. I think
I heard Bob say: "Here's a very kind man, Bucky Baxter." Maybe it was just
Highway 61 Revisited
rocked as usual and Tony enjoyed it so much, he even danced on the drum
was "Love Sick"
Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat
Was so much better than the versions from Europe and OZ last year! Weird
phrasing to strech the end of each line, like "leopard skin pillbox
Blowin' In The Wind (acoustic)
After having heard it in about 30 consecutive shows I really can't tell
the differences anymore. Crowd went mad for it though.
Not Fade Away
was a perfect way to end the show, so much nicer than "Rainy Day Women".
It's also the first time that Larry and Bucky get to sing along the whole
time, making it fun to watch, too as one of the three always will miss his
cue. By the way, this version doesn't bear any resemblance to either the
Buddy Holly original nor Bob's version in 1997.
Overall, one of the best shows I've seen in recent years and that was only
the beginning of my trip :-) Bob played for 95 minutes which - together
with Natalie's staggering set - made it good value for money I think. Btw,
the soundcheck included "I Don't Believe You", "I Believe In You",
"Maggie's", "Not Fade Away", "Cold Irons Bound", a few bars of
"Watchtower" and "Mama" (acoustic). Thanks to the guys who gave me a ride
back to Lehigh after the show and Joy for helping me getting the ticket.
Next up: Binghamton, NY!
"what once you called home is now a minefield" (damon & naomi)
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