Thanks to Ken Hill for the following review: Forgive me if this rambles; it's after one, I've just seen a wonderful event and I'm happy. Here's the Reader's Digest Version, with the rabbit trails limited. I love Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Bob; if you want a negative review you'll have to go elsewhere. It was my desire going in that each artist would succeed in achieving their goals. What follows is what I believe to be a rational and acturate observation, albeit from the perspective of a (in the case of Joni) casual--in the case of Van, demonstrative--and in the case of Dylan, determined, fan. I hope what follows will be an accurate, though incomplete, chronicle of the evening. I have never been to the San Jose Arena prior to tonight's event. Skip and I went to dinner at a delightful pub--The Rose And Shark--in San Pedro Square just a couple of blocks from the arena. I mention this because the Edlis pre-show gathering was announced to happen at another venue--Patty's Inn--also a couple of blocks from the venue. Here's the comparison: R&S--beautiful wood bar, oak tables laid with linens, who-knows-how-many-ales-on-tap (I had a couple pints of a delightfully balanced and crisp and perfectly cold Lost Coast IPE Ale) and a great menu. (Skip had Fish and Chips, served with garnish and his choice of toppings; I had the Chicken with Artichoke Hearts pasta, cooked in Virgin Olive Oil and served with a lightly toasted french bread). We left just as a Dylan tape of a live show came over the sound system in order to get to Patty's. Patty's: No draft; No wine; No food (except for airline-sized bags of snack peanuts). When I asked the sole bartender (ess) if there were Polish available, she told me she couldn't serve any because she was too busy. And she was. She was the sole waiter in a typical dive bar. Ummm, this is a dive bar. If you've been in one, you know what I mean. However, the juke box did have Dylan's GH Vol. 3 on it, and we selected every tune! Was able to give a person an extra ticket for face value; that made him happy, and pissed off the scalpers who were trying to buy tickets for thirty dollars and sell them for who-knows-how-much. Bill was from Chicago. Wished I was able to visit with him, but spent my time after I got into the show going places I probably shouldn't have been. I have a friend who works the Arena; she told me about the security measures they were putting into place after a couple of near-disasters recently staged there (one of which was a WWF wrestling event just last weekend, where a patron threw a bottle into the crowd which struck a woman who had to be hospitalized as a result.) She told me that the security would be tight. "If you try and get to the stage, or start a stage rush, you will be kicked out or they will stop the show!" she said. The Arena was to have eight employees with radios for "emergencies" roaming the floor; fifty ushers; sixteen "BIG" bouncers; and eight people in the catwalks above the arena floor with video surveillance patrolling for trouble spots. "What about people with herb?" I asked. "It's a 'no-smoking' venue," she answered, "but we're not going to worry about that; there are more pressing matters at hand." Yeah. Like me trying to organize a stage rush and get onto the floor, center stage, before the night's out. San Jose Arena. Home of the Sharks. 20,000 fans. Tickets sold out in 25 minutes (if you can believe the propaganda.) Blue-jacketed $10.00 and hour pimps everywhere you look. I stopped at the merchandise venue going in. Spent too much money on not enough cool stuff. A cd holder with the Bob logo; four posters (two each of each color, with great writing on them: Bob Dylan "Sensational!"; Joni Mitchell "fantastic!"; Van Morrison "incredible!" DON'T YOU DARE MISS IT! (I just had to laugh...of course, none of these posters were available PRIOR to the event...the only people who could buy them were people who had tickets! Guess I'm a sucker, but I couldn't resist the title slug spread across the top of the glossy thick card stock: A VERY SPECIAL ENGAGEMENT! SAN JOSE ARENA TUESDAY MAY 19 - 7:30 SHARP! And the music began before 7:30, but not before I bought two patches, a "To Live Outside the Law You Must Be Honest" bumper sticker, a set of three other bumper stickers, a couple of event t-shirts, and the coolest ski hat I've ever seen. Thanks Skip! (Oh, also a Hwy 61 keychain...no Zippo lighters...) Relieved of my immense burden of $150, we went into the show; our seats sucked. So, Skip and I headed down onto the floor and spent the rest of the night there. The adventure of the evening is worthy of a film script; I'll spare the details here. Van did not appear at first, though his band opened the show. A slight man, tenor, sang a couple songs--I thought I'd remember what they were, but you know how that goes! Then he introduced Van. Now. I like Van. A lot. And he delivered tonight. Van gave a good, solid set. He played a nice mixture of the old and new (Days like These, Van Loose Stairway, and a taste of Thank You For Letting Me Be Mice Elf Again), hit the harmonica and sang through his harp mic for some nice distortion effects, and he dedicated a song to Frank Sinatra (My Life). But there was something a bit remiss in San Jose. The recent reports of Van's performances seem to be largely accurate. His routine stage routine has come to resemble a Las Vegas Show. Van hits the stage in his suit and hat and dark sunglasses. He stands rather sedate through most of his performance. The two guitars flanking him remain untouched throughout the set. The lighting is serviceable but pedestrian. His horn players take their eight bars without any necessary inspiration, and Van performs the obligatory "turn to the band and bring the hand down" signal when the songs are supposed to end. However, the most aggregious and offensive fault of his set lay not with Van, but with his Tenor Claque. The gentleman, whose name escapes me, is a brown-nosed employee of the first order. This guy has Brown 29 running from stem to stern. His posturings smack of learned gestures from the Bob Barker School of Performing Arts. Not that he wasn't a good singer; it was just that he seemed to have a priority in being servile. And therein lay the problem, if, indeed, there was one. When Van would exit the stage, the little weasel that serves Jabba the Hut would run to the lip of the stage and call out Van's name over and over and over again. Now, once, this is fine. Repeated after three different songs, ummm...And, when Van ended his closing number by calling out the name of "James Brown!" over and over, and then his lacky came to the mic after Van's exit and called out "Van Morrison! Van Morrison!" over and over...well, that was a bit too much; it was a bit over the top for a crowd that had risen to its feet over and over again in appreciation of the talent and gifts that Van delivered to the South Bay. We were all in the palm of his hand. We were there before he entered the stage. We were there when the sound op screwed up on the mixing board and sent the night's sole feedback echoing through the arena. We were there when Van, at the end of his concluding encore, picked up his mic stand and wrenched it from the stage, slung it across his back and walked off the stage trailing the cord behind. It was the only touch of Rock and Roll Anarchy the night was to see; not that such was needed to validate the performances delivered. In short, Van gave a deliberate and craftsmanlike performance. Take it or leave it. Joni's review will be much shorter (as it's now almost 2:00...) She hit the stage with a very interesting backdrop: four muslin panels suspended from a batton, each panel with a visual painted image that--with the other three pieces--formed a mural image of a Thinker sitting on a hillside overlooking a chasm, on the other side of which is a cross and land. The panels are lit variously throughout the evening to evoke different moods for the eclectic set Joni delivered. Just before the show I was warned by one patron that the Joni segment was (politely) lacking in substance. I, personally, could not disagree more. Joni received a rousing ovation (as did Van and, subsequently, Bob). At one point she even apologized for her set not "going back too far," though it went back far enough for me: Big Yellow Taxi, Woodstock...Joni sang with her heart and soul, often accompaning herself solo on the electric guitar, other times flanked by her back-up band; nevertheless, she delivered a soothing and satisfying set, perhaps a bit longer than required by her union contract in favor of the satisfying response the crowd returned. Ah, but then...Bob. (Before, Bob, though, there was the trip to the clubhouse and a sampling of the wonder fare offered there...man, this is a class joint! A full-service bar, pasta, entrees...I would bring a date here...) What can I say about Bob? He Was ON! Decked out in his basic grey-to-black pants, two-inch high heeled patent leather shoes and his dandy shirt, Bob came out looking thinner and in better shape than I've seen him in years. Push the Grammy's aside; He looked young and gentlemanly at the same time. A.J. Webberman should see Bob live sometimes; he would trash his site and erect the "Bob is the King" website instead of the tragic travesty he's propagating now. BOB ROCKED! I could tell you about the head checks, the smiles, the knowing grins, the acknowledgements of the front row's response (oh, yes, by this time I ended up third row center...BITCHIN!) Bob was on fire, but it was a controlled performance. He rocked when it was time to rock. He mellowed when it was time to mellow. I ran to the side of the house to get a different view of the master and it struck me: this is the 90's version of the mid-seventies shows...it's not Bob with the Band...it's Bob with his new band--The Jokermen--and they are able! Bucky makes the pedal steel sing and plays the mandolin with masterful accomplishment. Larry, though looking bored with playing the rote lead notes of "Just Like A Woman," did seem to not distain his duties as Bob's lead guitarist. I missed the interplay I witnessed with Bob and JJ at the '95 Warfield shows, where JJ actually egged Bob into transcendent moments of guitar virtuosity, but Larry did his job ably and with great aplomb. There were even moments of genuine electricity. I was bummed Bob skipped Blind Willie from the set list. Ahh, well. The rest of the songs you've hard before, except perhaps the rare inclusion of "Man In Me." That rocked my boat (and the free world!) 13 songs. Would have liked 14. Better than 11. Silvio still at 5. (HOw about "Lay Down Your Weary Tune instead?) Masters was great to this crowd. I hope they got the message. (Me? I'm just a poor boy that does theatre for a living...) Am I the only one who completely digs the opening of Cold Irons Bound? Man, I love the sonic quality of those opening licks. And Bob! Dancing, swaying, cutting his knees into one another, rising up on the pads of his feet, tension in his legs, energy coming from his body with his head rising and falling, his mouth in a grin, his eyes darting life and energy and joy--the joy a musician delivers when at the top of his game. I ran out back when Rainy Day Women started, hoping to get a glimpse of Bob, a pen and paper in my hand. Within a short period of time the windbreaker clad lackys of the Arena came running up from the gated loading dock at the rear of the venue crying, "Stand Back! Clear the Path!" I wondered if I should bow and scrape. I was only hoping Bob may stop and smile and say "yeah, thanks." I knew he wouldn't, but it didn't diminish my hope, nor those of the four other fans standing there, two of which brought their record albums (GH 1 and a Times), the third a beautiful woman with full, pouty lips in a long white coat, and the forth an--I don't know--Pat. The black-windowed bus came out and left. I went back in and got a set list. I'll wait until later to say "Hi" again to Tammy, Darien, Melanie, Mary, Frank, T, Kyle, Mark and the rest. It was a great show. I hope you'll be able to catch the new, adult, temperate yet still energetic "Eight Leg" Tour. It's a great event. Peace, Ken ********************************************************************************************** Thanks to Randy Hayes for the following review: Bob was in good form tonight, as he is every night at this point in his carrer. His band was even tighter than when I saw him at the El Rey in 97. Larry Cambell has gotten himself a new guitar, a maple red Paul Reed Smith, I think. The set list was slightly shortened tonight, only playing 13 songs. "Sweet Marie" opened the show with dylan yelling the song in a very passionate way. The very rare "Man In Me" was next, a way above average version, althought there was a couple of P.A. problems during this one. " Cold Irons Bound" was probably the highlight of the show, a better version than even at the El Rey, if that is possible. The vocal delievery of this song seems to change offen, as tonight Bob enfasized "Irons Bound" in a different tone. "Just Like a Women" showed how close Bob and his band could work together, the band seemed to be an extention of Bob's thoughts. "Silvio" is in a very advanced state and had the Arena up for the first dancing of the night. Exellent vocal harmonies in Stone Walls and Steel Bars. During Masters Of War, Dylan submerged himself into each word of each line, while the band churned up a great ominous beat. The crowd pleasing Tangled Up In Blue had everyone singing and dancing again. During this number dylan reached into his pocket and out came the harp! The inspired hamonica playing was another highlight. Another suprise was "To Make you Feel MyLove". I had previously thought that this song was not as good as most of the other "Time Out Of Mind" songs, but this perfomance of it has proven me wrong. Dylan's really wanted this song to come across well. And he made sure it did. The old favorite "Highway 61" gave Dlyan some time to show off his moves. Forever Young included a fine tuned jam and soft, but intense vocals. The house lights began to come on after this song and I thought that Love Sick would be left out, but the lights quickly dimed and the Echoing "Love Sick" began, A fine version. Rainy day woman included the Dylan head shake and all of his other moves. Randy ************************************************************************************************ Thanks to Gregory Pattison for the following review: Van Morrisonís band came out a couple minutes before 7:30, while people were still finding their seats. Brian Kennedy (Vanís main backup singer, with a great tenor voice) sang two songs to warm up the band, an 8 piece ensemble with 3 horn players on saxes, trumpets, and a clarinet (Pee Wee Ellis who played with James Brown, Matt Holland, and someone else), a percussionist (Liam Bradley), a drummer (Geoff Dunn), bass player (Nicky Scott), organist (Justin Carroll), and guitar (Ronnie Johnson). They used the 2 numbers to try and get the sound right. Then Van came out wearing a black hat, sunglasses, and tope suit, and launched into Burning Ground. Kennedy, the guitarist, and the percussionist sang backup, while the horn section filled in on two saxes and a trumpet. Fire in the Belly/Crazy Ďbout You was next, same backup singers plus the organist, the horn section using everything they brought. Van singing about "...breakiní my heart", and I realize this song is poignant for him. When itís over, Van gives instructions to Kennedy who relays them to the rest of the band, and they start playing It Once Was My Life. Two of the horn players sing harmony, and then provide a great horn break. Van singing about trials and tribulations, and a ship of fools. Then, "this is a tribute to Frank Sanatra" and Vanís rendition of Thatís Life, great phrasing, one hand cupping the microphone, the other holding the band back. Sax and trumpet solos, the whole band climaxing on "Roll myself up in a great big ball" Wham.... Next heís "moving it on up to higher ground" and into Raincheck, Brian Kennedy adding another dimension to the vocals. Thereís a jazzy guitar break, and they finish with "I donít fade away" Wham.... and we donít want him stop or fade away. Then, Dayís Like This, people dancing in the aisles, great sax break. And on to Cleaning Windows, "Whatís my line/Iíll take my time/Iím a working man..." pulsating Guitar break, Kennedy dancing, "Bop, Bop, Boppiní the blues". Then Vanís clicking his fingers and theyíre into Vanlose Stairway/Trans-Euro Train, Van yodeling a one point, and the organ player takes the lead break, out of his seat and hamming it up, then Van on harmonica (Blues Brothers image pops to mind). Van yells "Sing it with me" and Kennedy matches his phasing. Great performance, the whole band jelling on that one. Van looks at the set list for a few seconds and says "Hereís a song Cliff Richard had a hit with in the colonies" and theyíre doing a gospel type number "In Jesus name, heíll lift you up, puts your feet on higher ground," great song with great words, that Iíve never heard before (called Higher Ground, circa 1974). Then a song about "hold that dream...Satisfy", donít know it, but the horns are cutting it up with a Latin beat, "Are we going to jam?...", then an organ break and everyoneís dancing. Next a slow guitar intro and Van says "At this time Iíd like to do the bible, King James version...to the Godfather of Soul, the first, second, third, forth, fifth, sixth...," then "Man made the car...", and you guessed it: Itís a Manís World by James Brown. Van calls out "help us sing the song" and Kennedy comes through. Then the break "When the clock strikes 1Ö2Ö3Ö4Ö5Ö6, the percussionist ringing each one out, each followed by a line from Van Morrison. Then the song builds again, ending with a call and response of "Donít let me breakdown" between Van and Kennedy, "Itís too good to stop nowÖ" and finally "James Brown" over and over and "Big hand for the band". Van goes off and Kennedy replaces "James Brown" with "Van Morrison". Theyíve been on an hour and Van comes back for 2 encores. First up: Have I told You Lately That I love You, "take away my sadness, take away my troubles, thatís what you doÖ Ö" Vanís right arm keeping time, he lets out a "Gimmie some skinny", and starts doing scat. He goes off at the end of the song, then comes back and launches into See Me Through, "Öwhite cliffs of DoverÖ days of wine and rosesÖ", on into a dance groove. Van holds the band back, starts his vocals again, then leads them back to the groove. He picks up a microphone that makes him sound like an announcer, then plays the harp into it, wailing, harp and vocals trading off, "I gotÖ" wham, Kennedy and Van ending each line together, then quietly "I want to thank you for letting me be myself againÖ And on into a reprise of Burning Ground, "Ötake you down to the burning ground", the horns growling "on a burning ground, Wham," over and over, louder & louder, and Van picks up the mike stand, puts it across his shoulders, does a primitive dance off the stage, and throws it like a spear. An amazing 75 minute set, and this is just the opening act. After the equipment change, "Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Joni Mitchell". And Joni walks onstage in a brown and rust colored silk jacket and skirt (pieces sewn together), and is handed a guitar. She has a peddle steel guitar player, a bass player (her ex-husband Larry Klein), and a drummer that I donít notice until the third song (who turns out to be really good). I donít recognize most of the songs, because sheís not doing her early work, and I havenít seen her since í83. The style and instrumentation makes much of the set sound the same, ethereal but jazzy. She apologizes for not doing her old stuff, says the people in British Columbia seemed appalled by this, and then apologizes for apologizing. Later on she says sheís not feeling too well, having caught something at the Gorge, maybe related to the pollen. She has a couple false starts, so I know itís a difficult night for her. But she plays for about 70 minutes, and puts her heart and soul into it. She does Big Yellow Taxi by herself, during the set, and a final encore of Woodstock, again by herself. Itís an honor to see her, and sheís still as beautiful as ever, with her high cheek bones, flowing hair, and classic features. Instruments are being set up and the energy buildsÖ, then what the Dylan fans have been waiting for all night "Ladies and gentleman please welcome Columbia recording artist, Bob Dylan" And he launches into Absolutely Sweet Marie, full stride, eliminating his usual need for a warm up, during the first couple of songs. Bucky Baxterís peddle steel is soaring and I can tell Dylan is focused, serious about his performance. And I want to be focused with him, donít want to miss a thing, and take only minimal notes. "Thanks everybody", then a beautiful version of The Man In Me, Dylanís phrasing creating a new and vibrant rendition of the song. Cold Irons Bound is shear bliss. Bobís pumping his legs and the crowd is up dancing. Next up, Just Like a Woman, sung with an immediacy and passion, like it happened today. I love how they end the song, like the Blond on Blond version. Thanks to David Kemper (the drummer) for that. Then Silvio, with Larry Campbell and Bucky on backup vocals, Campbell and Dylan trading guitar leads, then coming together, incredible. Bobís blue eyes are flashing, and heís dancing as only he does, leading the band with his body moves and glances. Remarkably the best Silvio Iíve heard. At this point I must say the sound at San Jose is amazingly clear and balanced. You can hear Dylanís every word. Better than any of the í96 or í97 shows I saw. On to the acoustic set, starting with Stone Walls and Steel Bars. Again, the sound is impeccable. Bucky and Campbell are on backup, and Tony Garnier (on stand up bass) is smiling at Dylan. He seems as amazed as we all are, that this is a suburb performance. Then Masters of War with a blistering, venomous delivery by Dylan, like he just wrote it the night before. It still leaves me speechless thinking about it. "Thanks everybody", and on into Tangled Up In Blue. The album version, Dylan playing lead, Campbell filling in. I notice Larry has traded his Taylor for a Martin. Dylanís playing, goes to the back of the set up and PICKS UP A HARMONICA. He has it in his hand, comes back, starts playing lead againÖso will he play it or not?? (The last time I saw him play harmonica, he just started it on one song and then stopped, so Iím really wondering what will happen) But he goes to the mike and plays an incredible harmonica break! I canít believe what a great show this is! Back to electric guitars, Dylan walks over to the set list, looks at it for awhile, and starts a new songÖIs it? Oh God, it is! To Make You Feel My Love, what a treat! I can tell Dylan really wants to do justice on this one, but itís new for him, and heís still finding his way with it in the live format. Itís a vulnerable moment and Iím amazed how Dylan can put himself out there. Another reason heís such a great artist. Highway 61 ends the set with Bob shooting glances to the audience, sweat dripping off his nose. Then the encores. A strikingly delicate acoustic version of Forever Young. Tony smiling again at Dylanís delivery, and probably at how together they are. The lights come on and I think, shit only two encores, but they dim again and the band plays Love Sick. Wow. Finally the lights go on, they end with a kick ass performance of Rainy Day Women, and weíre all celebrating having witnessed of one of the best Dylan concerts ever. He really is the king of rock and roll (and acoustic for that matter), and tonight he was over the top, showing us the music of his soul, blazing through, undiluted.
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