Bob Dylan - Bob Links - Review - 04/19/97

Hartford, Connecticut

April 19, 1997

University Of Hartford
Sports Center

Review provided by  Doug Fox:

Bob Dylan in Hartford, CT.  University of Hartford Sports Center

This is the fourth time I have seen Dylan in concert and I have been a
devoted fan for about 20 years.  I saw him in Madison, Wisconsin in 1979, at
Tangelwood, MA in 1991 and in Storrs, CT in 1992.  This concert was the most
enjoyable to me because we had such good seats offering a great venue on one
of America' true and lasting icons.

The University of Hartford Sports Center has about 3,000 seats and on the
morning of the show all but 150 had been sold.  We had excellent seats in
Gallery 1, Row A, seats 4 and 5.  

Having watched the Set List on Bill Pagel's web page for a couple of weeks
prior to the concert and reading some of the reviews from Eastern Canada and
Massachusetts, we felt like we were the best prepared we have ever been for
any Dylan concert.  So it was a bit of a surprise to see him open with "Not
Fade Away" when we were all ready for Crash the Levy.  

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  This sports center was a great venue
because of its limited size.  It was almost like going to a concert at
Toad's place as we were some 50 to 60 feet away from the performers and we
had a largly undisturbed line of vision.  The scene was noticeably more
conservative than my last previous concerts 5 and 18 years ago.  One could
see professors in suits and ties, and parents with their children.  Sure you
had your occasional ZZ Top type, but this was only about 1% of the crowd.  I
would say the majority looked like young republicans who were interested in
rekindling some memories of their student activists days in the 60's.

On the way in we weren't offered any illicit drugs and there were very few
scalpers.  The thing that I would say characterized the crowd was a great
diversity.  There were teenagers not born when Dylan was cutting his first
albums, students from the university, credit analysts from the Aetna annuity
division, a Presbyterian minister and a few folks who were old enough to be
grandparents (and a few of these were males sporting pony-tails).

We were located stage right where we could see everything that was happening
on stage.  One thing we found interesting was somebody setting up three or
four pails of water with incense burning in them.  Was this to create an
effect of smoke and mystery on stage or does Bob just like the smell of
incense while he is performing?  We also noticed a B. B. King poster on one
of the amplifiers.  This reminded me of something Dylan said in a 1995
Interview with a Newspaper reporter in Florida.  Dylan was asked: "Why do
you go on the road so much?" Dylan replied, "There's a certain part of you
that becomes addicted to a live audience.  I wouldn't keep doing it if I was
tired of it. I do about 125 shows a year.  It may sound like a lot to people
who don't work that much, but it isn't. BB King is working 350 nights a
year."  So I think the poster of B.B. King is there for inspiration when the
roadin' get tough.  

The lights when down, 300 or 400 hundred people immediately rushed the stage
and the concert was underway.  I mentioned the opener was Not Fade Away and
we could tell that we were in for a workin' man's performance.  "I wanna
tell ya just how I feeeeeeeel."  When Dylan is really stretching out the
words, it is always a good sign.  He was really wrapping himself around a
lot of words throughout the concert.

He was in the white cowboy style jacket, black pants with a stripe down the
sides and the white cowboy boots.  The band was made up of three others on
guitar and one on drums, but these guys stayed in the background most of the
night but the sound was good.  After the opener, Dylan uttered his customary
two words for the evening, "Thanks everybody."

The second tune was "I Want You" in a slowed down country version.  Lots of
hemp seemed to be blowing across the stage from the front row.  Dylan was
definitely getting into this song with a long instrumental interlude.  It
sounded really good.

We were ready for Watchtower as the third number as this has been consistent
in all previous set lists and we weren't disappointed.  Dylan really went
into the classic deep knee bend here and then was rockin' back and forth on
tiptoes setting up a wall of sound.  The incense was really cookin' at this
point and it surrounded the performers and added nicely to the effect of
this powerful and mysterious song.  As he concluded with a great run
together phrasing of "thewindbegintahowl" a big cheer went up from the crowd.

I really enjoyed number four "You Ain't Going Nowhere."   "OOooh, Oh We
gonna fly, down into the easy chair."  This was a great remake of this tune
and came across real clear.  There was some more of this run together
phrasing "tommowstheday" my brides a gonna come.

Watching the River Flow was unrecognizable until we asked some seasoned
veterans after the show.  Dylan was really leaning into it here and the
crowd seemed really into it.

I have been trying to figure out the meaning of number 6 Silvo for a long
time but seeing it performed may have helped me cracked the code.  I have
always wanted to find out just what is it that only dead men know?  Tonight
I heard more clearly the penultimate verse that says, "

"One of these days and it won't be long,
going down to the valley and gonna sing my song
I will sing it loud and sing it strong
Let the echo decide if I was right or wrong.

So the thing that only dead men know is whether Dylan was right or wrong
about everything.  I mean everything.  His whole view of life.  I mean about
everything being broken, about there going to be no more water, but fire
next time, about the slow train coming round the bend, everything.  Again I
quote from the 1995 interview:

Q: In the '70s after years abroad, I remember the incredible elation I felt
coming back to the States and hearing your Christian songs, a validation of
experiences I had been through in Spain. I remember the lines, 
"You talk about Buddha
You talk about Muhammad 
But you never said a word about the one who came to die for us instead ..."
Those were fearless words. How do you feel about those words and the songs
your wrote during that period now? 

A: Just writing a song like that probably emancipated me from other kind of
illusions. I've written so many songs and so many records that I can't
address them all. I can't say that I would disagree with that line. On its
own level it was some kind of turning point for me, writing that.

So only dead men know if he was right about that and everything else he has
ever said or espoused.  When asked about his view of life he usually points
back to the songs and says its all in there.  Like go figure it out if you want.

Roving Gambler was number 7 and was another surprise.  I don't know anything
about this song, who wrote it or anything.  But the title sure fits Dylan well.

Masters of War was used to initiate the acoustic set and was done very
quietly.  I could really hear him asking, "Is your money that good?"  The
acoustic set was very tightly performed and the guitars were really humming
together well here.

A defining moment was reached in number 9, Tangled Up in Blue.  More great
run togethers, "Mama's banquetwasnt bigenough" with each refrain of "Tangled
Up in Bluuuuuue" a cheer when up.  The mandolin came out here and added to
an outstanding acoustic blend.  There was a new riff in here that was
repeated over and over again making this into almost a new song.  But after
really leaning into the guitar portions he moved to the back to pick up the
harmonica and the crowd really went wild.

The crowd then began intuitively sensing the nearly mythical power and
significance of Dylan picking up this instrument.  So as he was ready to put
his concluding touch on Tangled Up in Blue with the harp, he put his right
finger into his right ear so he could hear what he was doing with this
instrument.  And the crowd that had been putting up a deafening din though
most of the song (and most of the concert for that matter) now grew totally
quiet.  And for 30 seconds of bliss they were serenaded into submission.  He
really is "a man of the mountains, he can walk on the clouds, manipulator of
crowds, he's a dream twister."

Number 10 was "Seeing the Real you at Last" from the 1985 Empire Burlesque

Number 11 was "This Wheels on Fire" from the Band Era off the Basement Tapes
Album.  It had an ominous wind up.

Number 12 was the Leopard-skin Pill-Box hat.  Leopard Skin Pill-Box
Haaaaaaat.  Dylan was really working hard on this one.  It brought forth a
few bottles and joints flying on the stage, as the crowd was loving it.
This number brought the show to it first ending, but nobody was leaving and
we began the ritual of the usual three times encore.

After a few minutes of screaming and yelling the band was back on stage for
a great rendition of "I Shall Be Released."  I couldn't help hearing here
something sounding a bit prophetic in this song.  "Any Day Now, Any Day
Now….I shall Be Released."  How much longer can Dylan keep this up.  After
all, we were commenting on our way in that the next anniversary will
probably be his sixtieth birthday.  And even Dylan knows that "it could all
come apart right now like puttin' scissors to a string."  Well I hope not.  

After this song, he gave a polite bow, someone threw a fringe coat on stage
and they walked off again.

Still nobody leaving.  And they came back for Number 14 "Don't Think Twice
its Alright"  This again was a real crowd pleaser.  A lot more of this run
together phrasing. "somethin'youwoulddoorsay" was really just one word.
"But don't think twice Its allllllllllright."  

"I'm walkin down that long, lonesome road babe
Where I'm bound, I can't tell."

I think I'm hearing something important here.  This was an extremely
beautiful rendition with a long drawn out ending and the crowd reaching the
ballistic stage.

The band walks off the stage again here and still nobody is buying it.
What's going on?  Do they all have access to the internet and the setlists?
So they come back on the stage and the drums rumble out and set the stage
for Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.  They'll stone ya had the sense of:

"They will attack ya  when you riding in your car
They will attack ya when your playing your guitar"

Some guy got past security here and stood right next to Dylan and pretended
to be playing the guitar, trying to copy the licks that Dylan was putting
on.  Dylan looked up at him but pretty much ignored him.  Security was a
little thin but several others who tried to get on stage were turned back.
At last the guitar impersonator was corralled and put off the stage, but
just as he was sent packing two more, a guy and a girl got up.  Again
security was crawling behind the amplifiers, but when it was apparent that
these two just wanted to dance, the lead security guy indicated to leave
them alone.  They finished out the song dancing wildly.  And the girl came
over to embrace Dylan and he obliged her.  It was apparent to me from my
vantage point that we were close to things getting out of hand.  Just one or
two more attempts here and security would have broken down completely.  And
the words that Dylan was signing would come true,

They will attack ya and then say that you are brave,
They will attack ya when you are set down in your grave.

But I guess he should not feel so all alone, eveybody must get stoned.

All in all it was a great show.  And while it seems Dylan swings through New
England about once a year, maybe this was my last time to see him live and I
enjoyed it immensely.

Doug Fox

Return to Current Tour Guide page
Return to Bob Links
Go to the Set Lists (by city) page (1995 & 1996)
Go to the Set Lists (by date) page 1996 Tour , 1995 Tour, Pre 1995 Tours
Go to the Cue Sheet page