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Review by Douglas Gertner
The PROPHET & The PRIEST: Bob Dylan & Paul Simon's "Two Wandering Jews" tour
Monday, June 7, 1999, McNichols Arena, Denver Colorado
Mr. Tambourine Man met Mrs. Robinson for just the third time last evening in a
memorable performance that highlighted the contrasts of these two kindred yet
very different survivors of the American Folk Music Revival.
Bob Dylan brought a lean, tight Nashville-style ensemble to the stage, including
Charlie Sexton on guitar and National steel, and Larry Campbell on guitar,
mandolin, pedal steel, and fiddle, plus a double bass player who was quite fun
to watch. Their set began as it had the past two nights with a cover song, in
this case it was Cocaine Blues, by Rev. Gary Davis, that shows up on an early
Dylan bootleg titles "The Great White Wonder." After Mr. Tambourine Man,
Bob offered Masters of War which remains timely in light of the Kosovo crisis.
Lyrics to Tangled Up in Blue had reversed person from the lp version,
beginning "…he was laying in bed..," and switched to first person at the
"Montague Street" verse. Bob used to introduce Watchtower as his
"Hendrix version" but tonight we heard a reading a la the late Grateful Dead.
Memphis Blues had new phrasing, and many numbers, such as It ain't me
babe, had new melodies and arrangements as Dylan keeps things interesting
by reinventing himself with each performance. I will admit that the Like a
Rolling Stone encore, while brilliant in its intensity, still lacks for the
absence of Al Kooper's swelling Hammond parts. Clad in a C & W suit
complete with polka-dot shirt and the usual tuxedo pants and Beatle boots,
Dylan shuffled and mugged as he led the band with effective guitar leads and
fills, his musicianship a solid complement to his songwriting.
The magic really took hold when Paul Simon joined Dylan and the band,
strapped on an unusal looking electric guitar, and worked into a poignant
Sounds of Silence. That piece is certainly one of his most poetic
compositions from the S & G era, and as such it was fitting for this meeting
with this generation's poet laureate. The duet was dominated by Simon yet
Dylan's low-end vocals gave the song a dark, meaningful tone. Tributes to
Johnny Cash and Bill Monroe followed, rendered with a bluegrass jump that
honored the forefathers. And Heaven's Door replaced the Forever Young of
the previous evenings and brought home a rare and memorable pairing of
Simon's solo set featured a full, ten-piece group with Steve Gadd on drum kit
and 2-3 additional percussionists plus a horn section, a couple of keyboardists,
guitar and bass. The "little guy" dressed down in Levi's, T-shirt, and a ball cap.
After the slow, sweet starter, Troubled Water, Simon swung the band into a
shimmering Can't Run But from "Rhythm of the Saints" and revisited that
release during his 75 minute set with The Coast, The Cool, Cool River, and
Further to Fly. He went way back for Mrs. Robinson (but without the "do,
do, do, do, doot, dos") and gave us a taste of his most recent, poorly received
CD "Capeman," a pleasing composition called Trailways Bus. Me and Julio
got the crowd on its feet, a piccolo replacing the whistling part, and the three
selections from "Graceland" nearly brought down the house. With the encore,
Late in the Evening, Simon truly "blew the room away," and his final
commentary confirmed what we all realized at 11:20 at night, that we're
Rav Aqua pointed out to me after the show how these two performers embody
the distinct Jewish archetypes of the Prophet (Dylan) and the Priest (Simon).
The wise one of words, enigmatic, understated; both heralded and scorned,
elusive and omnipresent, I've long applied the label of Prophet to Dylan. And
Simon, like the Priests of old, remains visible, accessible, a consummate
showman offering near studio versions of our favorite tunes for singalong the
way a Priest teaches and leads prayers and songs. Although neither actively
embraces his Jewish roots, both artists reflect their common heritage in their
work and in their personas.
With a good pair of binoculars, from the vantagepoint of a visit to the Coors
Corporate box (thanks to the Goodwins), I could make out the symbol on the
front of Paul's ball cap, a character from an Asian alphabet. And when he
turned away I could see the meaning of that character spelled out on the
back of the cap, it read "DREAM." As the lights abruptly came on at Big
Mac, and I glanced at the smiling, satisfied faces of our posse of "wandering
Jews" - Maggie, Reb Steve, Hal, Barry, Dan, Joan, Abbott, (and Rabbi Jack) -
the sensation was indeed like waking, returning again from a magical musical
event that was most certainly, very truly a dream.
Review by Miles Ray
I am 18, and saw Dylan for the first time at the Fillmore in Denver. I am not old enough to
fully understand what the hell happened that night, but it was awesome. I have seen Neil
Young, the Stones, John Fogerty and Paul Simon in concert before, and Dylan was much much
better. Despite his lack of showmanship, the variations in lyrics and musical form from his
recordings made up for it. Maggies Farm was killer. The energy from the crowd is unlike
energy I have seen at any other concert. With only 4000 people there, all Dylan fanatics,
the feeling was intense.
I like the concert so much, I got tickets to mondays show at mcnichols. It was
dissapointing, because I got cheap seats, but still good. He didn't mumble as much on monday
though. Tangled up in blue stands out, so does like a rolling stone. Dylan put some energy
into this show, unlike Saturday. Most of the people there were there to see Simon, which is
sad because Dylan was much better. Dylan and Simon didn't play together much on Monday. It
was mainly Dylan songs they played, and Simon contributed little. I was expecting to see
some unique harmonization. All of the people there to see Paul Simon were really rude.
During Dylans performance they were getting up to grab alchoholic beverages, and talking
loudly. The tour could have done without Paul Simon.
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