Ventura, California

June 30, 2000

Ventura County Fairgrounds

[Tim Whittome], [Jim Bartoo] [Eli Ellison]

Review by Tim Whittome

As with nearly all the Dylan shows that I have seen in recent years, the
getting there or out can often be the hardest part and this time proved to
be no exception to that. Having stupidly decided to by-pass what I had
thought would be a very heavily traffic-strewn 101 Freeway leading out of
Los Angeles by using what I had imagined would be a quieter 118 Freeway, I
thereafter spent the remainder of the journey regretting my folly. The 118
petered out into a two-lane affair of long lorries, farm vehicles and
other stupid people who like me had probably tried to do the same thing.
Anyway, I got to Ventura and parked about a mile and-a-half away from the
County Fairgrounds - this I decided would be better than parking any
nearer in the more crowded lots. On this occasion I was right - it was
both cheaper and, for those of us escaping after Dylan's set, that much
easier to hit the return freeway. Could Dylan have decided to play any
close to the sea, then they would have had to have erected a stage out at
the end of the pier or maybe on some floating stage out to sea where the
lovely mermaids flow perhaps. This was definitely close to the sea! Only
the fairground and a beach boulevard separated the stage from the Pacific,
and in the other direction, little seemed to separate the stage from the
Amtrak railway lines judging by the noise made by passing trains as we
waited for Bob to appear. Perhaps, I wondered, Dylan would be able to use
them as appropriate sound effects for Highway 61. Behind the stage a
couple of ubiquitous Southern California palm trees could be seen -almost
sprouting from the stage along with the heat lamps. For June in Southern
California, it was a surprisingly chilly night - or had I just been too
used to the excessive heat of Simi Valley in the month that had elapsed
since I had had to move back from my beloved Seattle? This thing of Dylan
opening these shows had troubled me and even more so when I saw that in
the Simi Valley Star newspaper, under the 'What's On' section, they had
actually listed this as a Phil Lesh show and then in smaller type had
mentioned, almost as a casual afterthought, that 'Bob Dylan would be
opening'. Does this bode well for Bob? A support act? Just like the many
groups that down the years he has had supporting him. It doesn't look good
does it when a relative unknown steals the headlines and the notice from a
legend? It certainly infuriated me as lacking a due respect. Speaking of
Phil Lesh, Deadheads are a strange lot I thought to myself as I tried to
get through them as they were trying to sell themselves with beads and
beards and immersing everyone with the sickly whiff of their weed and
other druggy medicines and concoctions. The Vietnam War could still have
been on, JFK or RFK just been shot or the rage surrounding the Kent State
massacre to be just about to brew into a riot. The only ways one could
have told that this was NOT 1963, 1968 or 1970 was by noting the presence
of children milling around and the sound of cell phones ringing away to
presumably keep their owners informed of the next best deal..? Anyway, to
the show itself: Dylan came on around 7:10 or 7:15 and immediately
launched into a remarkably sprightly and entertaining Roving Gambler that
one could actually sing along to and enjoy. Bob was wonderful on this one
and very lively indeed. To Ramona was beautiful and Desolation Row
stunning. I hadn't heard Ramona sung this well since the 1987 version from
Wembley Arena in London. It was really nice, thoughtful and slow. This
World Can't Stand Long was similarly a great performance and Bob made this
his own song (even if it wasn't). This was clearly going to be a good
night we figured, but then most shows seem to be these days judging by
what others say on the happenings in other towns and cities. Tangled was
good also and no visible sign that Bob is bored by having sung this at
every show since - when? 1994? earlier than that? I forget but babies have
grown a lot older and are now in junior schools probably since Bob last
didn't play this song for more than one night at a time. It wasn't a fresh
performance but it's still holding up there as the link in these shows and
if the musicians are bored by playing it and Dylan bored by singing it,
everyone was professional enough not to show it.  Dylan actually started
singing it quite some way from the mike! Frankie Lee was wonderful and
quite refreshing to hear. Not played since one or two of the earlier 1988
shows I don't think (apart from the June, 2000 shows). I loved this one
and Dylan brought out both the humour and the message of this song to full
effect. The crowd may have been baffled but whatever.... Country Pie was
over almost before one realized it had begun but it was fun and very much
like those performances of Wiggle Wiggle that graced the dire 1991 shows
in London with their only moments of humour. Maggies Farm - again an
appropriate song at this venue - was sung with a venom and clarity not
often associated with this song in recent years. Dylan gave it real
meaning and such purpose that it was quite frightening and all the more
remarkable given its age (35). However the real highlight of the electric
set had to be the blistering Cold Iron's Bound with the stage lighting
playing a not insignificant part in this - unique in all of the Dylan
shows that I have seen down the years. Hard to convey in print as it was
so visual but lights would flash to punctuate Dylan's vocals and
remarkably he was in synch with this or, I should say, some stage lighting
technician was very alert. These lights had clearly rehearsed their part
and it was great, but I worry for Bob in this song because he puts so much
energy and fire into it that you can almost see every nerve in his body
trying to break as he appears to throw or hurl the words at the microphone
and then watch gleefully as they would smash on impact into a angry
splinters of sound and fury. He did not look like a 59-year old.  Very
reminiscent in energy to those performances of ISIS in the Renaldo and
Clara days and Rolling Thunder days. After a loud closing Leopard Skin, it
was time for Dylan to do perhaps the most curious thing of the whole
evening - namely to walk to the front of the stage and just stare at the
cheering audience. I mean that - he just walked with his band - I thought
they would all link hands - and they all just looked at the audience. No
bows this time, just stares. Whether with an inward pride of exhilaration
or a feeling that we were all a bunch of misguided fools, who knows. Then
Dylan was off only to return to launch into another of the evening's
highlights - a truly great performance of Things Have Changed. Wow, this
one was electric and I loved it. It was fresh and incisive and great to
hear. Rolling Stone was Rolling Stone but still had some wonderful fresh
phrasing to keep this war-horse alive. Times was well sung and was
finished off with some great improvised harmonica - the first (and last)
of the evening. Another stellar performance and if followed by a loud and
pointless Rainy Day Women, nothing should detach from the fact that this
was a great night for Dylan fans. Those who had come to see just Bob would
not have been disappointed. I could only feel sorry for those who hadn't
expected Dylan to be on first and therefore arrived late. I was leaving
just as hundreds more were arriving. It was then a short drive back to
Simi Valley - probably not much longer or shorter than Dylan's own drive
back to presumably his Malibu home just over the hills from Simi Valley.
In fact, last night for one of those rare moments when he is in Los
Angeles, we were probably only 15 miles apart. What a frightening thought,
or then again, maybe quite a good one. Of course he could have been
whisked away to Del Mar - to another seaside resort down the road....
Enjoy and apologies for holding too much of everyone's attention for so

Tim Whittome


Review by Jim Bartoo

Having seen the Irvine Meadows show the previous evening, I was more
than curious to see what changes Bob would make to his set list and as
suspected, no one was to be disappointed. While Irvine was a great show,
the setting was certainly more traditional than the makeshift stage put
together in the midst of the Ventura Fairgrounds’ sprint car track
tonight. And while the Irvine show attracted a good deal of casual Dylan
fans (as well as a fair share of Deadheads), Ventura seemed very far
removed from the corporate yuppie atmosphere of Orange County. It truly
felt like a Dead show – with more tie died shirts and VW busses per square
foot than anywhere this side of a Phish show.

As one writer has already pointed out, the very warm reception Phil
Lesh’s fan gave Bob may come from the fact that Dylan’s work was so
widely covered by Garcia and Co. over the years. Whatever the reason,
while it seemed that Phil was the man the majority came to see, they were
very, very happy to have Bob in the house. Opening with “Roving Gambler”
and “To Ramona,” Bob seemed a bit more at ease than the previous evening.
Launching into “Desolation Row,” I cheered loud enough to get more than a
few weird looks (but that’s just fine with me – it’s one of my all-time
favs and I’ve never seen him do it live before so…). Smiling broadly, Bob
was clearly enjoying the weird venue and the overall happy/party
atmosphere. Hitting a host of eclectic (though widely played during this
tour) tunes – including “This World Can’t Stand Long” and (Wow!) “The
Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” – Dylan continued to prove why he
really is among the world’s greatest writers and performers. The hard that
proved so prolific the previous evening had to wait for the encore of “The
Times they Are a Changin’” before being unleashed but the applause was
well worth the wait. Closing with “Rainy Day Women” proved wise with the
wildly stoned crowd enjoying every second.

All in all, it was a very, very good show. I’m still hoping to be lucky
enough to hit Bobby on a night he decides to bust out “Blind Willie
McTell” but who knows…I’m going to round out the trifecta tonight in Del
Mar and you never, ever know…


Review by Eli Ellison

Dust Bowl Poet
By Eli Ellison

We're home now.  Just lit a burner on the stove and offered myself a pipe.
Joni and I didn't win Bob's Southern California Triple Crown, but we
nabbed two out of three - and that ain't bad (we missed the Del Mar show
on Saturday, July 1st).  Sat in excellent Orchestra/Row M seats in Irvine
on Thrusday (a great show, but I'll leave it to other reviewers).
Groveling in the dirt at King Bob's feet on Friday at the Ventura County
Fairgrounds will be my focus.

The (Dead) heads wandered Sea-Side Park and the Ventura pier in the early
afternoon sun, while we enjoyed cocktails at "Eric Erricson's" on the
pier. Read a nice Bob article in the local rag.  Joni's friend, Jennifer,
had never been to a Dylan concert, so I spent some time telling her about
Bob's life and trying to describe his current state of mind (I can only
guess).  It was 4:00pm, so we decided to head for the "Will Call" window
and pick-up our tickets.  Listened to Bob wrap up his sound-check.

At 5:10pm, the gates broke loose!  We rushed the stage, threw down our
blanket and claimed a perfect spot about 25ft. from Bob's mic.  The stage
was high (maybe 20ft).  The arena is a rodeo-rink / race-track oval,
complete with dirt floor.  The faint aroma of horse-shit danced on the
cool ocean breeze.   Spent two hours drinking, smoking and chatting-up our
neighbors.  The Bob-Cat directly behind me was a fellow "Bob Dates"
reader. We discussed recent set-lists and traded old concert stories. His
wife wore a genuine Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.

Bob & the boys hit the stage shortly after 7:00pm.  "The Mighty Zim"
looked cool in his black suit with blue shirt and red tie. "Roving
Gambler" was a nice opener.  "To Ramona" and "Desolation Row" followed. 
Both songs stirred up deep emotions.  Was glad to hear these tunes.  Have
never heard "Ramona" live.  Heard "Desolation Row" at the Sun Theatre in
March, but it took on new meaning as Bob sang to a sea of dusty misfits. 
TUIB was a crowd pleaser.  Bob-Cats danced. Dead-Heads pinwheeled.  A
couple of seagulls provided a perfectly timed fly-by on the "like a bird
that flew" line. "Frankie Lee & Judas Priest" was a highlight.  The crowd
didn't seem familiar with it and that was fine with me.  No attempts at a

"Country Pie" was fucking great!  I love that Bob is playing some "John
Wesley Harding" material on this west-coast swing ("Drifter's Escape" in
Irvine was also excellent).  A slowed-down/blusey "Tom Thumb's Blues"
followed.  I don't think many of the Phil Lesh faithful recognized it,
even though it was a Grateful Dead concert favorite.  "Maggie's Farm"
rocked and had the crowd kicking-up more dirt.  Joni and I swayed under
Bob's spell on a beautifully done "Tonight I'll Be Stayin' Here With You."

The band really showed their muscle on "Cold Irons Bound" and "Pill-Box
Hat" capped off the set. The encores began with a powerful "Things Have
Changed" (I never tire of hearing this great new song live or on record). 
The Ventura-Dust-Bowl was packed by this time and "Rolling Stone" whipped
the crowd into a frenzy. Bob finally blew his harp for us on "The Times
They Are A-Changin."  He danced and dipped and looked like he was having a

I was stoned.  The audience was stoned.  Everybody must get stoned!  RDW
#12# finished off the show with a bang (or should I say bong?).  Before
leaving the stage, Bob and the boys stood facing the  crowd, soaking up
the applause and genuine affection.  Who is behind this new practice? 
Bob?  The band?  I don't know, but I like it.


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