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Review by Gurl Randolph
Sat. June 17, 2000. The Gorge at George, WA.: terraced amphitheater
sloping toward stage that seems to hang over the cliff a mile above
wide-winding Columbia River. It’s 90 degrees here in the high desert
wilderness. Sun’s so fierce I’m burned through my 45 SPF sunblock,
wide-brimmed hat and white tee shirt by sundown, even though I don’t
arrive until 4 p.m. My companion & I seek shelter from the heat beneath a
ripening cherry tree, inside the open-air mist shack, in narrow shade
created by fast-food stalls and the tall wood fence that separates
concert-goers from entertainers.
A pretty guard at the empty “media tent” tells me that the previous night
(“Blink-182” headlined) was “Wild! Capacity crowd. After the show we had
to hose the blood off the mosh pit. But Dylan and Lesh attract a mellower
crowd. And we’re only expecting 10,000 today. 8,000 tomorrow.”
Looking around I see a mix of yuppies, red necks, Grateful Dead refugees
and neo hippies, mostly white. We’re lounging in low beach chairs on the
pavement halfway between the sound box and center stage. Fragrant
marijuana smoke mingles with barbecue aromas. The slobby one-legged guy on
my left shares a pipe and bagfull of mushrooms with his dishy red-haired
girl and a small flock of friends. Dreadlocked white kids in patchwork,
velvet, tie-dye and billowing skirts spastically boogie to every
note--even the sound check.
The opening act is called “String Cheese Incident,” a band in shorts and
tee shirts. It sounds like a fusion of pop/jazz/Caribbean. Long jams, a
few words sung here and there. I catch the lyrics: “I been spinning around
the wheel of life” and “Make a joyful sound.” Obsessive dancers on all
sides spin and sing along joyfully. At one point the lead says “Now we’re
gonna play some bluegrass.” Dozens of corn tortillas flip through the air
above us like Frisbees.
It’s so loud my companion & I write notes to each other.
He: Good blues guitar for a white boy Grateful Dead sound a-like. I have a
new name for these guys “Bluegrass White Rap Incident.” Me: It’s fun to
look around at the dancers. He: Yes, I think I saw all of them at
FolkLife. Ready for Bob? What about Bob? Bob? Me: We could wander a bit.
(Sometime along in here I notice a swank black luxury bus with huge, dark
privacy windows--like a CEO’s office on wheels--slowly descending into the
entertainer’s lot behind the tall wood fence. I wonder if Bob Dylan is
peering out behind that black glass.)
We hike up to the Coors Beer Garden where a beer is $5.25. My friend
raises his plastic cup of Coors, “Rocky Mountain goat piss!” he toasts. I
raise my Hefeweizen, “Eastern Washington wheat piss!” At our picnic table
in the tall-fenced beer corral a 50ish goodtime drunk lurches over,
introduces himself and announces he saw Dylan yesterday at an Ephrata
Washington golf course. “But wasn’t he down in Portland Meadows last
night?” I ask. “Well, maybe he flew down after a round of golf,” he
counters. “Hmm. What’d he look like?” “A lot of curly hair and a ponytail
in back!” I push away my half-full cup, quipping “I want to stay clean and
sober for Bob!” A woman at the table offers a tin that’s labeled
“Aphrodisiac Mints” and we all take one.
There’s applause from the amphitheater. I check my watch: 7:20. A male
voice is announcing “Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome Columbia
recording artist Bob Dylan!” Racing to my spot on the floor, I hear a fast
rendition of the gospel-like “Somebody Touched Me” and feel like I’m
arriving late for church. Dylan launches into “Long Black Veil” (a
traditional that always transports me to the hills of Tennessee). I hand
the binoculars to my companion saying, “I’m gonna try to get closer.”
As I slither through the crowd, some are friendly others hiss “Keep
moving!” A stranger dances so tight against me it feels like I’m being
humped from behind. I end up four rows from stage front, directly facing
Dylan. He’s wearing a black suit suggestive of a 19th century gambler:
long jacket, white piping up trousers edge, dark gray shirt with oversized
lapels and knotted, matching gray tie. I’m too close to see his shoes but
later hear they’re black & white cowboy boots. His flanking bandmembers
are dressed in black suits and gray shirts, too, sans ties. (And what
handsome lads they are! Tony Garnier looks like a young Carlos Santana.
Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton are 20ish and movie-star cute. But it’s
the ancient mariner at center mike who holds us with his glittering eye
and musical rhymes.)
If Bobbie D were to ask me “What was it you wanted?” I’d maybe say “One
More Cup of Coffee,” “Dark Eyes,” “Born in Time,” “Visions of Johanna,”
“When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky,” “Blind Willie,” “I & I,”
“Lord Protect My Child,” “Angelina,” “Highlands.” I’d ask for the obscure
and rarely sung. Still, it’s wonderful to hear great ones like “Desolation
Row,” “Baby Blue,” “Tangled up in Blue,” and “Leopard Skin Pillbox” live.
He does sing the rarity “Tough Mama” tonight, not a personal favorite, but
funky-fun. I would never scream out requests like the guy at my back who
loutishly bellows “Bob, Precious Angel! Precious Angel, Bob!” after every
song right up to the encores--or maybe he’s shouting a compliment at
Up here, we all seem to be worshipping this god with the body of a boy and
the head of a mutable beast. The man in front of me holds up his arms and
bows from the waist, praise Allah style. The woman on my left ululates
like a harem girl. I’m pointing my compact telephoto lens like a hard-on
at him (I’m being a real naughty girl tonight: no pictures allowed). His
face mutates: it’s mean, it’s soft, it’s haughty, it’s impish, wizen,
simian, it’s the face of my dandy, hyperactive grandpa, a gent who was
always driving his Cadillacs into ditches. (I flash on this when Dylan
sings “Crash on the Levee.”) Under the white floods he appears ghoulish;
but haloed in blue light, angelic. Dylan dips into quick guitar-hero
knee-bend poses, then beams at the audience with a mixture of pride, glee
and surprise. A “How’s this for a 59-year-old codger!” look. He rears back
tensely, convulses and lets loose with guitar licks like a man emptying
himself. He’s a bundle of ticks at times, his grin a rictus. Like great
actors his delivery communicates conflicting emotions, implications,
dichotomies and double entendres. When he sings “Tonight I’ll be Staying
Here with You” there’s a look and a phrasing that says it’s not only a
love song tonight. He really will be staying here because he’ll be on this
stage again tomorrow. We all “get this” and laugh.
When he sings “Drifter’s Escape” he conveys that he is the drifter, in a
state of free-floating sin and anxiety; other people are the judge and
jury, quick to squelch and condemn; God is the lightning bolt, the means
of escape. As Dylan sings this song, some rogue clouds roll over the
amphitheater and lightning becomes a possibility. One of his musicians
glances up at the sky and smiles. In that instant I have a vision that a
man’s (or woman’s) brilliant ideas and lightning strokes of genius, the
lyrics and melodies of one’s life work, can be an escape, can even
exonerate and elevate us to something like a state of grace. And though
the man on stage tonight is delivering a solid, tight performance: clear
singing, little mumbling, lyrics recalled accurately (or improvised
transparently), it is a somewhat dispassionate, bloodless, unadventurous
performance and setlist. I wanted to criticize him for this. But my
personal insight becomes the bolt of lightning that cancels my
condemnation. How can I judge and dismiss someone who’s life has brought
such depth to mine, is the catalyst of merciful wisdom at this very
moment? And so my disappointment turns.
Encores. The crowd tries to sing along with “Ballad of a Thin Man” and
“Rolling Stone.” Very irritating. We’ve paid to hear Dylan tonight. And,
with his famously unique phrasing, no one’s able to synchronize. It’s like
hearing chaotic delayed playback. But “Rainy Day Women” works as a
singalong, a drunken party song that’s actually best when not harmonized.
It’s the final number. Dylan stands in the spotlight for a few minutes as
we hoot, whistle and clap. I think he might say something but how can he
in this din? I’d like to run up and give him “Tambourine Man Variations”
my hand-made booklet of humorous photos and captions. But security is
fascistic. A burly guard crosses below stage carrying a supine woman.
After a while Dylan’s “man” takes his guitar, hands him his hat and Bob
melts away with band into the darkening night. It’s 9 p.m. Ten minutes
later my companion and I see the sleekly elegant, all-black bus creep up
the hill followed by a “sibling” bus of black with silver whiplash
detailing. I hope he spends the rest of this balmy evening peacefully
beside the river, is visited by his muse and kneels to write a new song in
the light of the waning full moon.
Review by Ross Kurzer
Dylan gave a very relaxed, intense performance. Although a bit short, the
show was tight and well-paced. "Somebody Touched Me" reappeared following
its enthusiastic reception the day before, and Dylan rewarded the ovation
with a surprising, searing, and heavenly "Long Black Veil." As opening act
to Phil Lesh and Friends, Dylan tipped a hat to the crowd, performing a
triangle of "Desolation Row," "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and "Tangled
Up In Blue." Dylan then veered into "Searching For A Soldier's Grave" to
bring the acoustic portion to an end.
The "Country Pie" electric opener was quickly overshadowed by a surprise
reading of "Tough Mama." A favorite of many Deadheads for years, this was
a welcome treat. A charged "Crash On The Levee" sparked with energy. Dylan
then let down his guard with a sincere "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With
You," before tapping out another fine "Drifter's Escape" and "Leopard-Skin
The encores included "Ballad Of A Thin Man" and "Like A Rolling Stone." A
nice "Blowin' In The Wind," as the sun thankfully set, gave way to the
well-received "Not Fade Away" and "Rainy Day Women #12 & #35".
Observations by Charles Sampson
There will be others who are able to recall and describe each detail of
the two shows at The Gorge. I merely want to share some impressions. Bob
and the band played skillfully, crisply and with vigor, but not emotion.
The set lists included some terrific surprises and the performances
rocked, rolled, stung and soothed. Everything there is to love and admire
about Bob was evident. For me, I heard him say in "Don't Think Twice..."
that he deeply regretted not being able to give her his soul. I had never
heard it before in years of listening. Amazing to me how a simple
infliction on one word can change the essence of the message. Worrisome to
me is the absence of anything but a glimpse that he was having fun. Based
on his history, he is overdue for a change in direction and I hope that is
not what is unfolding......
Review by Craig Grant
This was the 8th time I've seen Bob in concert. It wasn't the best
concert of his I've seen - that would have to be a couple months back in
Missoula - but it was certainly the most memorable venue (for contrast,
the worst would have to be the Metrodome, during the Grateful Dead/ Tom
Petty tour, on both counts).
There really is nothing quite like watching the sun set beyond the
distant river hills after a sweltering day while Bob sings Leopard Skin
Pillbox Hat. There were more than a few people in the crowd who really
could've made use of one of those.
We arrived, C & I, around five, directed to a parking lot, snip, snap, by
an army of arms, no hassles getting in, security was tight but friendly.
After buying some sunblock and shades and deciding, after giving String
Cheese Incident their due, to retreat to the beer gardens and the misting
shed, where we passed our bottle of sunblock around to some people who
looked like they really needed it.
I thought Phil Lesh would be on first - thanks to some info on
bobdylan.com - but then, with still half a Blue Moon beer to go, there's
those notes that I heard not that long ago, in an gymnasium in an agro
college in Pullman (which had fine acoustics), SOMEBODY TOUCHED ME, and it
was time to chug-a-lug that beer in sixteen nano-seconds and boogie. Bob
was singing LONG BLACK VEIL by the time we made it through the gyrating
throng on the walkway above the blistering concrete floor in front of the
stage. Wish I could've paid full attention to every note, it's an old
favourite - and those Columbia river hills do look haunted, when that deep
cowboy buddha blue takes over the skies, about a half hour after sunset.
Finally get settled down about the time our hero gets hanged, and then
it's DESOLATION ROW. Nice version. We're sitting up on the sloping lawn,
on grass, right between the huge speakers. Can't be too bad a sound,
because there's a taper off to our side who I'm sure I saw in Missoula -
skinny young kid with shades who looks like he's conducting an orchestra,
he's always right into it, a true blue dylanhead. IAONBaby Blue is a
favourite, a classic tear-jerking ballad, and it's starting to feel like
a concert of favourites, but then came TUIP, which I tend to tune out,
somewhat, but this time, I dunno, it sounded really fine, something about
the beat and the harp got a lot of people in our neck of the woods (where
the view was fine, lots of room to spread out the quilt, it really looked
like a zoo below us) up and dancing. Best version I've ever heard.
And then came the number six slot. My favourite slot in a Dylan
concert. In Missoula, I was up in the rafters, trying to stay out of the
way of the flailing arms of the drugged up teeny-bopper next to me as TUIB
concluded and then came notes I didn't recognize. A lightly loping gospel
melody. And then came the words: "This world can't stand too long - " and
I couldn't make out the second line, the Neptune girl let out a little
yelp, something like, 'the time, it's getting late?' and then, "You should
know it can't stand long, because it is too full of hate."
This song made me go to the Internet, about a week after the concert, to
hunt down somebody who had this song on tape, and I finally found a tape
of the concert at the Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware
in Newark, where the song may well have been debuted.
Listened to the tape but be darned if I can make out that second line.
Anyone help me out? As for the rest of the song, and this will be
relevant to all those dylanheads out there who are into the whole 'dylan
as prophet' scenario, it goes like this....."A long time this world has
stood/ It's getting older every day/ The Creator who created it/ Surely
won't let it stand this way/ This world can't stand long/ da da Da da way
too late/ This world can't stand long/ For it is too full of hate/ This
world's been destroyed before/ Because it was too full of sin/ For that
very reason/ It will be destroyed again/" repeat chorus, with the
obstinate, indecipherable second line, and then "Let us give our hearts to
God/ Let Him lead us by the hand/ Nothing in this world to fear/ He'll
lead you 'cross the burning sand".
Strangely enough, I'd just been to a shaman's workshop that dwelt on the
end of the Mayan calendar, possible pole shifts, and the fact that the
Hopi Indians believe that the safest place on the planet is 'the
Stronghold', an area of mountains, valleys and granite that stretches from
Jasper, Alta, down to Spokane WA and over to Missoula, MT. Pullman, of
course, is just a stone's throw away from Spokane. Coincidence? Probably.
But the song still raised some major goose flesh.
Just like hearing "Searching for a Soldier's Grave" did, in the number 6
slot, at the Gorge last Saturday night.
I don't know anything about these two songs, can anybody help me out? I
noticed in the set list that SFASG was written by Johnnie Wright, Jim
Anglin, Jack Anglin. These names have a resonance of 50s era Nashville
for some reason.....Did Bob write TWCSL? It's a slot reserved for covers,
it seems to me. Anyone know where I can find the lyrics?
Anyway, in a perfect world, I could go to bobdylan.com and cough up a
couple shekels, download all the songs in the # 6 slot that Bob has sung
in the last couple years, what an album that would be.
Slot 6 is the top of the mountain for me. From there it's a downhill
slide, in country pie, towards one tough mama and a thin man, hey, don't
fade away, and rainy day women blowin' in the wind..... not to mention a
sudden change in the sound, halfway through the encore set, that had the
taper maestro fumbling frantically in his waist pouch.
I see from the set list for the Sunday night concert at the Gorge that Bob
put THIS WORLD CAN'T STAND LONG in the 6th slot. Wish I could've been
there. Instead of in Seattle, watching von Trier's THE IDIOTS.
I noticed that he hadn't sang it once in Europe.
I think it's a very powerful message for this world, this world where
we're knocking down rainforests, what the planet uses for lungs, polluting
its waters, poisoning its air.....
According to the ancient Mayans, every twenty-six thousand years, the
solar system, in its voyage around the centre of the galaxy, goes through
an area where there's lots of bolides and asteroids. The last vestiges of
a giant comet's tail that passed through shortly after the Big Bang. The
solar system, basically, tries to cross a very busy LA free way. All
those asteroids and bolides hitting the sun cause major solar flares. If
you go to the NASA web site, you'll see that there was a major solar flare
happening last weekend. All you had to do was look at the sunburnt
walking zombies at the Dylan concert to see the evidence.
The Mayans believe that all this carnage hitting the sun causes it to
undergo a pole shift. As goes the sun, say the quantum physicists, so
goes not only the earth but all the planets in the solar system.
Something to think about, each time you hear Bob sing ALL ALONG THE
WATCHTOWER or CHANGING OF THE GUARDS or A HARD RAIN'S GONNA FALL or THIS
WORLD CAN'T STAND LONG, between now and the year 2012.
Sure is a pretty world, at least from a vantage point high on the grass,
at the Gorge, during a Dylan concert, as an angry sun goes down.
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