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Review by Peter Stone Brown
Once upon a time in New Jersey, Bob Dylan let his backup singers do a song about a
gambling town. “There’s a gambling town around here somewhere,” he said. “What’s the name?
Reno?” Dylan was being pretty funny that night as he played a massive arena dead smack in
the middle of the mafia burying ground. Why some people even say that Jimmy Hoffa or part
of him is somewhere in that arena’s foundation. Well it wasn’t ten years later that Bob
Dylan himself was playing that gambling town. Well the first show was outside, so you
couldn’t quite say it was really a casino show. Now it took a while for him to come back,
but he did to a different place and that was sort of an arena in a casino, but you couldn’t
really say that was a casino show either. But this Sands place, and this Copa room, now
this was a casino show. All the way. The tickets cost a lot of money and you couldn’t
avoid the slot machines and the card tables and the ring ring ringing of money dropping and
yes the Sands is one intense place to see a Bob Dylan show. Kind of like walking right into
a verse from Highway 61 Revisited itself.
Now this was a show with a lot of potential. For one thing there wasn’t gonna be no
Natalie Merchant dancing barefoot or with combat boots and doing no David Bowie songs
nohow. She wasn’t gonna be having no cold nor wearing layers of upstate New York
Jamestown clothing nor whirling like a politically correct poetress nor none of that
stuff and that was a good thing too, ‘cause the only person on a Bob Dylan show doing a
David Bowie song should be Mick Ronson but that ain’t gonna happen no more no how, not on
this planet anyways. Now the Copa Room was all red kinda like the red room at the White
House but maybe even redder and there were these guys you were supposed to tip to get a good
seat and if they liked the tip it worked and you needed a pass to go to the bathroom like it
was high school or something. And since it was like a nightclub there were lots of tables
crowded together like they have in nightclubs. Now there were some people at the show who
don’t understand the concept of nightclub ’cause it’s like the ’90s and kids don’t even eat
lunch in high school anymore ’cause achieving is much more important than developing social
skills so they eat standing up between classes and most clubs where they have music aren’t
places you’d wanna see in anything close to daylight and anyway these days in clubs
everybody just like slams into each other and all kindsa other weird things and it’s what’s
happenin’ down on the floor that’s important and the music is really just kind kind of a
sideshow to what’s happening on the floor and so what if like the songs or even the music is
like moving or even meaningful because it’s much more important that I wave my arms and
dance and you see me doing it because what I want now is what I want now and that’s all
that’s important is me. And so since that’s the way it is today it’s quite possible that a
lot of people inside the Copa Room just had never seen no place like that before and didn’t
know what it was unless they’d seen it on television or something but even if they had they
probably didn’t notice ’cause television is something that you have on while you’re doing
something else like talking even if it’s a good movie or something because talking is one of
those things like dancing, you do it no matter what the situation. You do it in the movies,
you do it at a poetry reading, you probably do it while the preacher’s talking in church and
you do it while someone’s on stage singing a song because hey, you can go home and hear the
song on the record even when you’re seeing the one guy, the guy whose thing (in live
appearances anyway) is not to do the song like the record or even like he did it the night
before, well some of the time anyway. But hey someone will always tape and it and you can
Well anyway, Bob Dylan finally took the stage after an hour of drinks, waiters and
bathroom passes, and he was wearing the same grey suit (or one very similar) to the one he
wore at the Grammys and he was in his energetic comic mode and it was pretty funny watching
him do his moves which were half rock star and half Charlie Chaplin and the band was tight
and it was happening and the song was “To Be Alone With You,” and he went right from that
into a song about no longer being alone with you, “You’re A Big Girl Now,” which probably
should never be the number two song because the number two song is still kind of a warm up
song, but he was leaning into hard and heavy, and on into a kicking “Can’t Wait,” and the
thing is he’s letting Larry Campbell play, and play is just what Campbell’s doing making
that Paul Reed Smith whatever guitar sound just like a Stratocaster and tearing out a solo
not unlike what Mark Knopfler might have played if he’d been there. And then into a “She
Belongs To Me” that wasn’t all that dissimilar from other ’90s versions, but then again it
had this other thing about it to make this version more than a little bit special with
Campbell providing gorgeous guitar fills with Dylan playing his own lead, but managing to
keep it underneath what Campbell is doing and not interfering with it and into a “Memphis
Blues Again” that is the way he does it now and into the acoustic set leading off with a
sensitive rendering of “It Ain’t Me Babe,” but halfway through the first verse I realize
there’s a conversation going on. Someone has been talking through the entire song and I can
hear it from two tables away and not only that the conversation has been going on since
Memphis Blues Again, but “It Ain’t Me Babe” is quieter and I go into my best Michael
Corleone stare which scares the shit out of the guy from North Carolina at the table next to
me, but the conversationalist is too busy talking to notice so I have to get up and make him
an offer to shut up that he can’t refuse and get back in my seat in time for the last chorus
in time to calm down for a way too slow version of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Now if there’s one
song that shouldn’t be messed with this is it, and I’ve seen him mess with it quite
successfully especially in the fall of ’81, but for some reason in the ’90s he’s slowed it
down, not as slow as the hand-held microphone version he did at TLA whenever that was, but
slow enough that it should be faster. This is a song that can sing itself, but not at this
speed. “Friend of the Devil” was done at about the same pace, but it’s only “Friend of the
Devil.” Then they soared into “Highway 61” with Campbell again shining on guitar and there
was one point when he and Dylan were standing right next to each other the way guitar
players should and Campbell pulled out some riff and you could see that even Dylan was
“Lovesick” started off the encores and was okay, but nothing special and “Blowin’ In
The Wind” is the way they do it now with the cool harmonies on the last line, but I was
gearing up to hear that totally strange arrangement of “Not Fade Away” ’cause Dylan sings it
higher than anything he’s done in years, and they’re getting through the intro and it’s
kicking into 2nd then 3rd, when this blonde walks across the stage and then this other woman
jumps up and wham bam no thank you maam there’s 60 or 70 people onstage and some kid flashes
his soy bomb stomach which was the only semi-humorous thing about it because the song had
gone completely out the window and Bob Dylan was nowhere in sight and neither was his band
and just a bunch of people I didn’t pay to see on stage doing nothing except flashing hey
look at me, I’m on stage with Bob Dylan grins and it was really too bad, because this show
had the potential to be something different because it was this small room and everything
but it wasn’t, it was just another show with an annoying ending. So we beat it on out of
there and I walked in my door in time to see Steve Earle do a few songs with the Del McCoury
Band that was more satisfying than anything that happened in Atlantic City that night.
"I can't even remember what it was I came
here to get away from." --Bob Dylan
Peter Stone Brown
Review by Anon
I was fortunate enough to go to both shows, and I will start by
reviewing the late show--It was the stuff of Legends.
Bob & Co came out rockin with "To Be Alone With You".
The set went into the stratasphere with an electric "She Belongs To Me".
"It Aint Me Babe", the surprise acoustic opener, was the best I've heard
since Rolling Thunder. He treated it with the respect he usually reserves
for (b)obscure cover versions! And "Not Fade Away" was just insane.
As the songs started, about a half-dozen sexy babes from the audience
shimmed from both sides of the stage to surround Poker-faced Bob.
Next thing you know, the stage was covered with about 100 fans all
dancing to the jungle beat! One young guy even lifted up his shirt:
he wrote "SOY BOMB" on his torso. It was incredible!
the early show had Bob mugging & dancing. I think at the time the crowd
was hoping for rare songs, but got a loose & funky show.
In retrospect the looseness of the band, and the intimacy of the
club, was what made the show. You could tell
Bob was having a great time. And so did we. It was like a party.
We were all lucky to have been there.
Comments by Damian Carpenter and Rob Bonagura
First and foremost the late show was absolutely amazing. This was my
third show I'd seen in the week and I think I am a good judge on wether
it was great or not. I'm not going to discuss the songs for the main
reason that the biggest issue is what happened during "Not Fade Away". I
would just like to say that this was th greatest experience of my life.
I was one of those peole who went up on stage and I actually was singing
with Mr. Dylan. My face was two inches from his! Who could ask for more.
I believe that all the people who said that this was a disgrace were the
ones who were sitting in back or didn't have enough balls to get up
there. How can anyone say this was a disgrace when Dylan, the man
himself, was loving every minute of it. Does anyone actually think this
would have happened if Dylan was against it. He must have kissed twenty
girls and he looked like he was having the time of his life, I should
know i was right next to him. I just needed to get that off my chest.
Thank you for your time.
Damian Carpenter and Rob Bonagura
Comments by John Barber
My friend Andy and I drove from Washington, DC to Atlantic City on
Saturday afternoon equipped with a tickets to the early show at the
Sands. We arrived at around 5:00pm and immediately got in line to wait
for the 6:30 maitre'd seating. The Copa room is right in the casino so
the line stretched next to the gambling area. The usual sights and
sounds of a casino surrounded those of us waiting in line. We struck
up a conversation with a couple next to us in line who had an extra
ticket for the late show. We bought the ticket hoping we would find
another (which we did between shows). The Copa room probably holds
about 700 people and reminded me of an old theater. The folks seating
people seemed to take care of the hi rollers at the casino (many of
whom received comp tickets) rather than those of us who paid for our
tickets. Andy and I were seated in a nice booth at the back of the
room with a great view of the stage. We tried moving over one booth
closer to the middle but were quickly sent back by the Copa staff. Bob
came out a little after 7:30 looking sharp in in his black suit. It
seemed to me that he had gotten his hair cut since I last saw him in 9
days earlier. Anyway, the show was quite good and it was great seeing
him in such a small venue. Unfortunately, you pretty much had to stay
seated the whole show until the final song. Highlights of the first
show to me were Just Like a Woman, Masters of War and Not Fade Away.
All in all one of the nicer shows I saw on this tour (I saw 6).
The second show found us sitting in about the same place. Bob had
changed into his sporting gray suit and looked and sounded great.
Overall I enjoyed the song selection better in this show than the
first but both were excellent. The unequivocal highlight of this show
- and all 20 that I have seen - was Not Fade Away. I decided that I
was going to move close to the front for this last song. As I moved
up, I noticed there were people from the audience on the stage. I
wound my way to Bucky's side of the stage and climbed up. I looked out
in the crowd for Andy but couldn't see him. I then went over to the
small crowd of people around the Man. There I stood, on stage, two
feet from BOB. I patted him on the back and had direct eye contact
with the man twice for a second or two from about 18 inches away while
he was playing the end of Not Fade Away!!! Bob was wearing a good size
smile, although I'm sure it wasn't as big as mine. Unlike Bob, Larry
Campbell seemed a bit concerned with the folks on the stage. When the
song ended I found myself next to Larry so I shook his hand and
thanked him. I think I was on the stage for about the last minute of
the song. An unbelievable experience. Thanks Bob.
Review by Becky Buczynski
Hello! Here's my impression of the evening with Bob. I thoroughly enjoyed
both To be Alone and Big Girl. Bob was enthusiastic about playing. I was
slightly disappointed with his selections of Mr tamborine Man and Tangled Up
but he seems to like them. The harmonies in Friend of the Devil bordered on
terrible and there was also no harp playing whatsoever in the show. The
performance at MSG on 11/1/98 was much better. But as always the show was
a good one. The highlight (at least for me) was during Not Fade Away. Two
girls jumped up on stage and I followed them up. There were about ten of us,
all women, dancing with Bob and he had a huge smile. I was able to touch him
for at least ten seconds and then moved out of the way to let others enjoy.
All in all about fifty people got up on stage and sang and danced with Bob.
It was very spiritual. A special thanks the other 49 or so people, everyone
gave Dylan his space to play. No one wanterd him to be hurt. I've never seen
him look happier, he even gave the security guy a look like "ha ha nothing you
can do" It may even be safe to say he was as high as I was.
Review by Carsten Wohlfeld
So there I was in Atlantic City. Never thought I'd ever go there, but Bob
had made me travel to other weird places before, so why not. A had a day
off in New York City after the amazing Portland show and took one of the
pretty affordable Casino buses that depart from the New York City Bus
Terminal at 42nd Street at around noon. Arrived in Atlantic City at 2.30,
had a little something to eat, walked along the beach a little, took some
pictures and then it was time to get in line already. The Copa Room is
situated in the middle of the gigantic Sands Casino, so at least you could
wait inside though the constant noise from a million slot-machines was
alittle nerve-wrecking. It was great to meet all the people there that I
hadn't seen in ages, Joy, Moe, Christine, Larry, Janina, Carla, Dan...
everybody! So waiting in line was actually not too bad. They began seating
people at around 6pm and we got a pretty decent seat on a table close to
the stage. The place was pretty big despite the capacity of 700, cause it
was all seats at tables. Looked exactly like you remember the Casino
Ballrooms from the old Elvis Presley movies.
At 7.30 pm it was time to welcome the Columbia Recording Artist who'd have
to do twice his usual work today. Well, almost. I had my money on "Gotta
Serve Somebody" as the opener, but instead we got:
Watching The River Flow
which was a nice way to kickstart the show, pretty fast, but the song
obviously doesn't take much effort to play anymore so everybody on stage
was similing and looking around. Next up, we could've gotten "The Man In
Me" (it was listed as first choice on the cuesheet), but instead it was:
Lay Lady Lay
Now it seems that I've heard this song a million times live (which is not
true), but hardly ever I can find something in the performance that
interests me. Tonight was no exception. Bob obviously was pretty much into
the song, so much in fact that he did the guitar solo himself. It was also
at this point that the guy behind me started shouting "harmonica".
Something he didn't stop until the show was over. Bob never came even
close to picking up the harp, of course. he hadn't played it for more than
Pretty hard rocking rendition, seemed to be longer than usual as well and
featured a pretty good Larry solo.
Just Like A Woman
We could've gotten another "4th Street" in the slot according to the
cuesheet, but Bob went for the simpler song and it got the usual
treatment. Good, but far from being exciting.
Another disappointing song choice that was a 1:1 copy of the Portland
performance. At least they did the slow ending again and didn't tortue us
with the solo-part at the end.
Cocaine Blues (acoustic)
Now here's a song that doesn't change a bit every time they play it. If
that's good or bad, it up to you.
Masters Of War (acoustic)
I know I'm repeating myself, but this again was the (only) highlight of
the night. The white spotlights on Bob seemed even weirder in the small
place... "Baby Blue" was one of the songs on the cuesheet that went
unplayed in this slot.
Tangled Up In Blue (acoustic)
Alternate on the cuesheet was "Desolation Row". Do I need to say more?
Make You Feel My Love
It was at this point where I thought that the setlist was ridiculous. Now
Bob and crew must've known that at a 700 capacity show at 75 bucks a throw
they'd attract mostly people who've seen Bob play many times before. Why
would they pick a selection of the most overplayed and/or worst songs Bob
has ever written for an event like that? Sure, there's also the people
who've seen 100+ shows and will tell you how much they hate songs like
"Feel My Love" or "Silvio" and still give Bob a standing ovation when he
plays them. What is that? Faked loyalty? (I'll come back to that later)
Highway 61 Revisited
Followed the band intros and Bob enjoyed it so much, he even gave us some
kneebends and goofy facial expressions.
followed as expected. It was a pretty good version as far as I remeber
even though I don't recall what made me enjoy it more than usual.
Don't Think Twice (acoustic)
Same ole song. The guy behind me was close to tears cause Bob still hadn't
picked up the harp despite his constant yelling.
Not Fade Away
More kneebends and a good time for everybody. 75 minutes and that was it.
Then the lights came on and we were politely asked to leave the venue as
fast as possible.
Now what did I think after that show? Quite frankly, I thought it sucked.
Of course I have to compare it to the Portland show which was way above
standard, but still. I don't think I got the entertainment for my 75 bucks
that I could ask for. As I said before, this was a show for hardcore fans
only and apart from the people who think Bob is God and everything he does
is the best thing since sliced bread it was difficult to really enjoy it.
Of course it was great to see him in such a small place and so close to
the stage, but then again Bob and crew didn't seem to put too much effort
into the performance. maybe cause they knew they had another show to play,
but hey, some people only went to one and they certainly would have
appreciated a bit more exitement at the early show as well. And let's talk
about the ticket prices... Now I guess $35 bucks is alright and that's
what he charged at the gigs with Natalie. $75 bucks is okay for a small
show like this (even if it could've been better), but now at the upcoming
european show Bob charges between $50 and $60 at huge 15,000 seat venues
and he doesn't even have a (well-known) support act. How about that? Well,
before I rant on forever I better concentrate on the review of the late
show. Stay tuned!
"you wish that you were special - i'm just like you" (the cardigans)
Review by Carsten Wohlfeld
After just a few minutes rest it was time to get in line again. It was
pretty funny to see how people tried to get some more posters out of Gary.
The 150 they had sold out even before the first show had started and
*alot* of people left disappointed and without a poster... Even though the
line was much longer than before the first gig already I still mananged to
get a pretty decent seat again. Then, at 10.30pm it was showtime again.
To Be Alone With You
I can't help it, but I really like this one, even though it's only a
pretty dumb love song. Much better than the cuesheet's other choice
"Pillbox" without a doubt.
You're A Big Girl Now
Came unexpected in the number two slot, but was one of *the* highlights of
the second show. Rather slow, but beautifully sung, with long (but not
very good) Bob guitar solos. Lots of kneebends, too.
Rocked even more. It was also already the third time that Bob said "thank
you" after the song. Always a sign that he's enojoying himself.
Unfortunately it didn't stop him from chosing
She Belongs To Me
over "4th Street" and "Simple Twist Of Fate". Usual performance with nice
phrasing on the last verse and a pretty cool Larry solo that I've not
heard him play before.
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
There were a lot of alternative choices on the cuesheets for both show,
but not many different songs. Fortunately they didn't do another "Silvio".
This was a great choice too. Probably the best "Memphis" I've ever heard
them do and I saw quite a few! Everything just fell into place perfectly.
It Ain't Me Babe (acoustic)
Only the fact that he hadn't played it a gazillion times before this year
made me enjoy this one.
Mr Tambourine Man (acoustic)
was played even though "Desolation" was listed first on the cuesheet! Oh
Mercy! At least Bob did a very decent job *singing* this song.
Tangled Up In Blue (acoustic)
was "Tangled"...just like so many times before.
Friend Of The Devil (acoustic)
was - again - nice to hear and very well received. Band intros ("here's a
young man who has played with me for about 30 years... Bucky Baxter"
)followed and indicated that Bob wouldn't do more electric songs in the
main set apart from the not very surprising
Highway 61 Revisited
to end the main set after just 55 minutes.
Sounded very different. A bit tired actually, but in a good way. Of course
they could've done "Like A Rolling Stone" instead which was the other
choice on the cuesheet.
Blowin' In The Wind (acoustic)
No change there. Big crowdpleaser as always.
Not Fade Away
Now you've read it before, about 60 people stormed on stage during this
song, somebody stole Bucky's hat, there was a "soy Bomb" imitator,
somebody tried to take a picture ON STAGE (and got busted), and after the
song had ended Bucky grabbed his pedal steel (!) and ran off.
The second show (which was no longer than 75 minutes either) was a little
better than the first, but still not the kind of entertainment I'd pay $75
for. Obviously you never know what is on Bob's mind, but for this tour
(and the Las Vegas setlists) seem to confirm that the exciting part was
over once the houselights came on in Portland. Overall I was very
impressed with the last part of this US tour, it was much better than the
shows I'd seen in Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. It'll be interesting
to see what will happen in Europe. Last year he followed up the handful of
shows at the Westcoast (that all had very similar setlists) with some
pretty cool gigs in Europe. We'll have to wait and see. I'll catch up with
y'all in Zürich at the end of April again. Until then, thanks for reading
all my rants :-) So long!
"and then i realized i'm living like a trucker does although i haven't
got the belly / and even though she wanted to follow me to california all
the way i only wanna walk the telly" (luna)
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