Halifax, Nova Scotia

Metro Centre

May 21, 2008


Review by Annie

Nova Scotia is gorgeous, even on a misty grey day.
Particularly on a misty grey day.  The harborfront is long and feels
like Boston/Charlestown might have long ago.  The hotel room is where
Oscar Wilde stayed when he was on his North American lecture tour of 1882.
 Chive and a pub called The Press Gang and Gio, the restaurant at the
Prince George Hotel right across the street from the show, are fine places
for meals.   Barrington Street is littered with funky little shops, coffee
joints, and a labyrinth of a used bookstore, stacks of books spilling over
two floors, where I sit on the floor and read for two hours while it
rains. It's a bigger concert hall tonight; bigger city.  The average age
of the crowd is 50.  Funny to be the kid again.  The hockey plexiglass is
still up in a c curve around the back of the stage.  The stage has
consistently been set up over one of the goals for these three shows. Bob
as puck.  I am thinking of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" when Backdoor Man
comes on over the sound system and clears my head. Four men on the floor,
so far, look exactly like Greil Marcus.  None of them are.  Is this a
coincidence, or is there a plan here?  "Baby Please Don't Go (Down to New
Orleans)" comes on over the sound system and clears my head.  I'm feeling
jaggy and denied -- there's a part of me that is very sorry for gainful
employment and the high cost of airline travel, and that would love to
follow the show for awhile -- be 19 and in a car with no showers for two
weeks at the end of being responsible and working all summer vacation. The
security guards here are all huge and young.  Most seem to have
thorn-rings tattooed around their biceps.  No one is allowed to dance
along the edge of the stage.  So we stand there quietly as is possible in
front of our seats, being sedate. This is difficult when Rainy Day Women's
the first song.  The boys in the band in beige, the man in black.  And oh
my, what a gorgeous bright-yellow ascot!  Thanks, Bob, for brightening up
a dour day. Despite the security guards' immense size they are as if
ignorant on the no-photos front.  People are flashing away, recording on
cameras and cellphones and even a Handycam, and no one is even cautioned.
There should be some good footage from this show available from someone. 
Not me; they ask for no pictures, and I respect this...but have a moment's
pang as I am in such a prime place for taking a few...  The incense
burning adds considerably to this song. It Ain't Me is done as sweet
refusal, no-thank-you.  He purrs out, and delivers in an almost
Appalachian voice, the "Awwwwwwww... hit ain't me, babe"s.  Puts the harp
down, thinks about it, then picks it up for a full-force blow to end the
song. Rollin' and Tumblin' again and I like it more tonight -- Bob's got
the bob-and-weave down pat, and his shifty-shouldered dance moves are fun
to watch.  Security guards, pah -- I'm dancing too. The tune-up to the
next song includes some goofing on the harp, name that tune, written in
the stars (ah ah ah), ohmigosh, it's Positively 4th Street.  Done not as a
screw-you but as almost a ballad:  he lingers over the shooooooow it,
meeeeeeean it, screeeeeam its, and the middle of the line rises, on the
"hurt" for instance.  A really interesting arrangement and I like it; I
feel soothed, mellow almost, and then suddenly his intensity hits --
during the savage instrumental his thin body rippling with the melody, his
mouth twisting as he worked the keyboards made me surprised by tears.
Tweedledum/dee has a Summer-in-Siam-ish beginning and a Pride (in the Name
of Love) pulse to it, these both detoxed for me by Denny's frenetic
guitar.  High Water had Donnie's fine banjo, but when the full-on drums
set in you can't hear a word Bob's singing.  Bob and the banjo are sorta
all you need on this one. During Beyond the Horizon much of the rest of
the front row past us left to buy beer.  They didn't come back for five or
six songs. Levee's Gonna Break starts in before poor Donnie has his
mandolin on, but it doesn't phase him.  More people leave.  Compared to
Moncton, and particularly Saint John, this is a night-of-the-living-dead
crowd.  The 1-2-3 arrangement of Levee isn't helping at this point in the
show, though:  woohoo, we can play three chords, garage-band style rules. 
I yawn but I have the grace, I hope, to turn my head to do it. Nettie
Moore remakes my evening when it's needed most.  Donnie's fiddle is silky
and sad.  The first lines of the song are almost spoken, quietly and
clearly.  The hurdy-gurdy riffs of the keyboards guide this number, and
Bob's voice is great on it, rising in midline -- "Oh I MISS ya Nettie
Moore."  Once he hesitates, then repeats, the personal pronoun a string of
times:  "I  I  I I'm ridin with you ..." This one number would have been
worth ticket price. Highway 61 is a carnival tonight, and he delivers it
almost like a carnival barker:  come and see the show.  After, he goes to
talk with George and Tony, and they launch into Workingman's Blues --
Donnie great on this one.  Bob seems to be looking forward to Newfoundland
already, very conscious of where he is, when he sings so clearly a line
about being tossed by the winds, the seas.  He punches out that beautiful
qualifier of "continual" crime.  He sings the line brand new wife with a
touch of something, It's Alright Ma is funked up, words not as clear. 
Muddy sound from the band.  He tumble-falls at the end of the long lines:
"dyyyyyyyyyyyying,"  "naaaaaaaaaaked."  It's hard to make out the other
words except from close by.  The rest of the front row return, and a tall
man in Rem Koolhaas glasses demands stridently, "is he picking it up?"  I
play dumb out of contentiousness and smile brightly and stupidly at him. 
Bob answers him for me by launching into Spirit on the Water, which makes
me laugh.  He's got another smile for Donnie, who has entirely inherited
the Bob head-move while playing. Wrong harp.  Roadie flies up with the
right one, sets it behind Oscar.  Bob puts a sweet coda to the song with
it.  Suddenly I realize he's the only one on stage who never sips water
despite the heat, and the sweat rolling down them all by the end. No one
dances to Summer Days.  This is a seaport.  Don't sailors DANCE?  Ah. 
People DO dance to All Along the Watchtower. Encore:  Thunder on the
Mountain, Rolling Stone.  The walking eye crowned in flame curtain
attempts to fall and gets hung up, twisted in the middle.  The logo looks
pleasantly like a giant butterfly.  The band introductions are interesting
-- Bob introduces Denny while he's having a drink of water and comments on
this, then gets to Donnie and announces, "Donnie's from Brazil.  Doesn't
speak a word of English, but he communicates" -- does he say -- "without
havin to" or "with his hands"?  A new debate for the ages.  Donnie grins. 
Rolling Stone is somehow fresh on the umpteenth time tonight, and
strangely intimate -- not grand and ponderous and marching as it sometimes
seems.  I don't realize until the end that my eyes are wet.  We walk out
of the terribly designed stadium, all the way up stairs, then back down,
into a chilly windy night.  Everyone starts to smoke, and no one wants to
go home.  It's before 10.  Soon the bars on the hillside are full.  A
56-year-old father and his 19-year-old son have both just heard Dylan for
the first time, and stand together in the street, talking, for a long
time.  The son wants to take the ferry to Newfoundland, and they're
discussing the feasibility. What a fine three days.  A birthday I'll
always remember and for which I'm most grateful -- in a lovely part of the
world, too, where I had a lot of fun and saw some beautiful places.  Put
Atlantic Canada on your vacation list if you like the open sea with whales
and iceberg shards in it, wide open places, hiding out in the woods,
excellent seafood, and every 6 or 10 years or so, a little night music.


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