page by Bill Pagel
Review by Thad Williamson
Beautiful warm day in Newport....I think the proper way to evaluate this
is not as a Dylan concert but as an event. It was interesting to me that
Bob was so heavy on ‘60s material for this show...I doubt it was a
coincidence. Bob didn’t say anything at all other than introduce the
bands..thought he might say something about Alan Lomax or something like
that but nothing. Anyway, the atmosphere did change very markedly in the
build-up to Bob’s appearance, from people sitting in lawn chairs listening
(or not) to the acts and trying to stay cool to a concert-type feel.
Probably many Festival regulars will feel that Bob overshadowed the
festival per se and I think that’s right. Hopefully they will also feel it
was worth it. I was disappointed a bit in that people (at least in my
area, about 15 rows of lawn chairs on the back) weren’t listening too
intently to either John Gorka or Shawn Colvin earlier in the afternoon;
the Waifs, Rosie Ledet, and especially the fantastic Jonatha Brooke got a
much better reception. In Brooke’s case at least it was because she most
emphatically deserved it, but what this seemed to show is that even at a
folk festival it’s hard for solo acts with just a guitar and no backing
band to command attention of a large crowd. Different story on the other
stages however, at the Borders stage the audiences were appropriately rapt
as singer-songwriter solo acts played, and I was glad to catch Bob Hillman
do a catchy, likeable tune called “Valentine’s Day.”
Anyway, back to Bob, I think a success overall though probably not one of
the best or even one of the better Dylan shows I’ve seen in the last 10
years. The main thing that struck you at first of course was Dylan’s new
beard, which on closer inspection also includes a pony-tail and a couple
of dreadlocks hanging down on either side of his face. Thing I could best
compare it to is what he looked like in “The Last Waltz” film. I was too
far away to have any firm opinions about the new look....
Roving Gambler–Solid warmup.
The Times They Are a Changing–Interesting choice here, not especially
well-delivered. Last verse lacked much conviction. Not bad overall though.
Desolation Row–Bob put more into this one but I think this failed to
really grab the audience.
Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind–Things finally started to pick up here, Bob
played the harmonica to open the song (nice change of pace that) and it’s
hard to mess up this great song.
Crash on the Levee–Well, an okay start to the electric set but I’m not
thrilled with this arrangement.
Positively 4th Street–Excellent, excellent, nice slow arrangement, Dylan
fully engaged all the way through. Not sure if Bob was trying to something
or not by playing this here but he got the most out of it.
Subterranean Homesick Blues–What a terrific surprise! Always fun to have a
few opening bars played where you don’t know what is going on, and then to
play this of all things. The arrangement works well, alternating between
the band being quiet while Bob spits the words out, and then jamming in
the second half of each verse..I think Dylan messed up or got tongue
twisted on half of a line but I can’t remember which one. He made real
sure to get the last line of each verse out there real loud, except when
he sang “Don’t follow leaders...” the “Don’t” sort of got swallowed which
of course is a very important word! Anyway folks going to see this tour
should hope Bob keeps this one in there–he hasn’t played this regularly
since ‘88 I think-- and if it was a one-off or a rarity I’m thrilled to
have seen it.
Cry Awhile–Good performance, no need for much comment.
Girl of the North Country–Good but not great performance.
Tangled Up in Blue–I forced myself to give this a chance when it started
and am glad I did, better than usual rendering, the phrasing was well
executed in most of the verses, very credible performance.
Tambourine Man–I’d say about average. Perhaps like the rest of the crowd
these acoustic numbers without a lot of rhythmic forward motion had a
harder time inspiring me in the sun.
Summer Days–First song to really grab hold of the entire audience, folks
were just enthralled in this. No song from Love and Theft sounds better
live than this, all the lyrics were perfectly delivered
(characteristically, Bob’s enunciation improved markedly as the show went
on), people were just in a glow when this one wound down.
You Ain’t Going Nowhere–I liked this one quite a bit. During the first
couple of refrains Bob dispensed with the “ooh” and went straight into the
“whee!”, but it was back in by the end.
Wicked Messenger–I hate this arrangement which I think renders the meaning
of the song obtuse to people who don’t know it already.
Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat–Not bad, but another case where Bob didn’t put a
huge amount of conviction into the last verse. No sense of delivering a
punch line...instead just another verse before going back to jamming.
Not Fade Away–Crowd loved it and rightly so.
Like a Rolling Stone–Will we ever hear the 3rd verse again? Really, really
strong I thought.
Blowin’ in the Wind–I’m sure everyone was grateful to hear this on this
occasion, I know I was. Same arrangement as 2001 tour, which works very
well. Found myself looking as much back at the crowd and the boats as at
the stage, taking the whole scene in.
All Along the Watchtower–Bob sent people home on a high note, very good
performance of this, vocally and otherwise. I love that Dylan re-sang the
first verse at the end slowing it down for “None of them along the line
know what any of it is worth.”
And so everyone went home happy (until they got to the parking lot....big
time backup and disastrously poor or non-existent exit management, worst
I’ve ever seen at a concert. We didn’t get out of there for nearly 2
A memorable day, if not a memorable (with some important exceptions)
Review by John Piurek
The last time I had seen Bob was at the new Mohegan Sun Casino Arena in
Connecticut last fall......was weird seeing Bob dressed in his Western
finery singing in a casino as slot machines scalped their customers!
Anyhow having a sister & sister-in-law living in Newport I thought this
would be fun to see.Even my wife decided to go....never having seen Bob
and wondering why my son & I "must" always get to his shows. We got to
Newport,about a 90 mile drive,at 8am......already under a red sky &
sun.....another hot & humid one had dawned. We decided to take the ferry
from downtown to Fort Adams,a huge fort with 60' walls & openings for
cannon built AFTER the British had occupied Newport in 1770's & again in
1812.....the fort was never really necessary after that. it was sweltering
waiting in line but the sponsers of the show,Adam&Eve Juices,gave out
buckets of cold fruit drinks.....the 15 minute boat trip was beautiful,my
wife already enjoying the added sights,including the huge Noregian cruise
ship in the harbor.The festival was set up with a main stage in front of
the fort with a backdrop of the harbor & the huge Newport Bridge...there
were 2 other smaller stages too.Numerous food booths were set up...pizza,
stuffed claims,roasted corn...a veritable New England clam bake....while
other booths featured tie dye stuff,henna tattos,jewelery etc etc.My big
mistake was not realizing coolers WERE allowed but NO alcohol,glass or
pets.....with the temp near 90-95 the no booze law probably saved many
from passing out.The water looked inviting but fences were set up & the
police made sure no one went in....but numerous small craft anchored in
view of the stage to hear the show and NOT have to pay the $55 ticket
price....it was frustrating seeing people floating on their rafts &
chugging down ice-cold brews!.......well Bob was set for 5pm....the
Copeland fanfare started,people rose to their feet.....but Bob didn't come
on stage until 5:25......just before he did the huge cruise ship pulled
anchor & set sail out of the harbor leading many to say "Bob wanted the
ship moved so he had a better view if the harbor area"!!!! When I first
saw Bob I said "is that him"???White shirt,white tie,black vest,black
pants trimmed down the leg in white,great black boots with small red
diamonds,and to top it off....a huge white cowboy hat on his
head!!.....BUT was it really Bob??? long hair flowing down his back&sides
of his face,beard too(see photos) he looked totally different from last
years scary Vincent Price mustache! The show was great....my fav still
being the acoustic done Desolation Row......a great Wicked
Messenger.....the reggae sounding Watchtower.....the boppin'
Summerdays/nights that had the folks up&dancing the bop.......Not Fade
Away with everyone huddled together jammin'&playing full speed ahead in
Newport nautical speak.......my wife by the time was dancing and becoming
a Bob convert!!....the sound system was terrific....Bob's voice was
fine...the lyrics understandable...by the end of the show at 7:40 Bob's
and Larry's shirts were no longer brilliant white but gray...soaked in
perspiration from the sun that beat down in their faces for most of the
set.........we left pleased that Bob had meet the wicked heat with his own
heat......37 years after the mythic "electric"day when he & the Paul
Butterfield Blues Band played 3 tunes to the dismay of the "folkies" and
had changed the course of rock/folk/music history, Bob had returned
triumphantly....not a word was said about it from the stage...there was no
reason too.....we all knew why when we saw him...........John Piurek
Review by Stephen David Walter
After a night at the glamorous Hampton Inn in Worcester, where
the evening’s clientele seemed evenly divided between Dylan-goers
and some kind of Asian tour group, and where we woke to the
cheerful sound of overflow diners chomping down the free
continental breakfast right outside our door, it was time to head
for Newport for what we were informed by most major media outlets
was to be a Significant Event. We wouldn’t want to miss one of
those, now would we? We could even be Part of History. After
all, we had seen it right there on CNN, the TV news, in a
black-and-white video. Do you know what blood looks like in a
black-and-white video? Shadows. SHADOWS!
Yes indeed, a lot of blood on the tracks since then, with all
due credit to John Prine (oh-wah-oh-wah-oh). And really I had no
idea what to expect, although the previous night’s proceedings
had put something of a damper on any wilder expectations, as no
doubt they well should have. Such were my musings as we slid
into Newport by the back door from the north, disembarking at
Fort Adams under a flat, hot sky.
I don’t hate music festivals. I just don’t like them very much.
I’m not a feel-the-love type of person, and I’ve always taken
serious music as a pleasure and challenge distinctly for adults
(such as we are). So I really don’t understand the carnival
atmosphere, with toddlers frolicking about, balloons, bubbles,
tie-dye and face-painting, people lolling about on their
mile-wide blankets and state-of-the art chairs just like at the
beach, in various states of embarrassing dishabille, gnawing on
corn cobs, reading USA Today, babbling on about nothing again
nothing. Surely all that has its place on any given summer’s
day, but my question is, what about the music? For much of the
day, at least at the main stage, it was nothing but a
more-or-less pleasant diversion or a sort of background noise,
like a radio turned on low. Which leads me to wonder, what’s the
point of having it at all?
There was certainly enough down-time between sets for people to
devote at least a tiny bit of energy to listening to quietly
powerful, elegant performances by John Gorka and Shawn Colvin ...
although, I must say, they could have shouted and whooped all
they wanted, or even played volleyball for all I cared, during
what seemed an endless set by the hideously cloying Jonatha
But those may well be merely the cantankerous thoughts of
someone who’s hot as hell, cowering on a meager blanket with his
head beneath a linen shirt because the sunscreen has all sweated
off his face; someone who is counting down the clock for Dylan to
get on and be done with it already, historical significance be
damned; someone who can’t seem to stop kicking himself for not
smuggling in any cocktails and cursing Apple & Eve for making him
drink their foul juices instead; someone who thought the naked
baby dancing near the free water hose was cute at first but that
they sould really take him away now ‘cause it AIN’T CUTE ANYMORE.
Someone, in other words, not particularly enamored of the music
festival culture as a whole. Someone not feeling the love.
Strange though how the breeze began to pick up in earnest not
long before Dylan’s set, and the sun grew less fierce as it sank
down in the sky, with the boats massed in a splendid array in the
radiant water behind us and the seagulls wheeling up above the
old fort walls and over the tremendous crowd. All right--I was
forced to admit to myself--this is pretty amazing.
Didn’t the emcee sound a little coy when he came out the second
time to warn against photography, which this artist feels very
strongly about? Maybe, maybe not. I had to wonder if he was in
on the joke, however, when at 5:30 Dylan hit the stage with ...
weird things dangling from his face.
From where I was, far back, at first all I could see were what
looked to be flaps of some kind beneath the big white hat, like
dog ears or mud flaps on a truck. I literally had no idea what
they could be. Training my binoculars through the glare, I began
to understand that Bob Dylan would never play Newport again. If
he was going to return, it would have to be as someone else.
Speculations will abound about the hair, about the ponytail and
beard, all of which I can 100% confirm were not in evidence at
Worcester. A stolen movie prop? Or one still somehow in use?
All I can advise is to enjoy the absurdity of the best joke he’s
pulled in years. It made my day yesterday, and it hasn’t even
quite sunk in _yet_, the sheer, grand absurdity of it all.
The show was pretty grand, too. Nothing spectacular in itself,
perhaps, though with some genuinely fine performances, and
definitely taking on a certain grandeur from the setting. Much,
much better than the night before, and boding extremely well, I
think, for the tour that lies ahead.
Nothing he could conceivably have played, however, would have
lived up to what the Newport mythographers, or, more accurately,
hype-mongers, anticipated, fixated wholly on a moment entombed in
the past; nor could anything he played have stopped the “Dylan
exodus” of those poor casualties of History who bought the
mongers’ hype only to find themselves stranded on this shore with
someone who looked like Tom Hanks in _Castaway_, spitting out
verities in a voice they always despised (yet were somehow
deceived into thinking they did not), in a language they could
never understand. They panicked, these people who had been so
hard at work relaxing. They cut and ran, in a steady stream
beginning from a few songs in and lasting throughout the
performance: not a drastic emptying, but a very perceptible
So much for the populist card dealt by the folk festivals and
many folk performers--ingenuously or not. Dylan may be
grudgingly accorded “significance” but will never be loved by the
“Roving Gambler”: my apologies to those who had argued in favor
of this one returning as an encore. Turns out you were right.
Crisply paced, and beautiful work on the harmonies.
“Times a-Changin’”: delivered with such a keening vocal on the
refrain as to frighten even the most hardened of nostalgists.
“Desolation Row”: vocals lubed up and less creaky now; some
excellent, vicious phrasing here, Dylan--surrounded, as he well
knows, by summer soldiers and sunshine patriots--clearly showing
no mercy either to foe or self-styled friend.
“Mama, on My Mind”: perhaps marred by some of the
singy-song?--but elsewhere featuring some very delicate, soft
vocals that I wish I’d been closer to hear.
“Down in the Flood”: great surprise, and perfect choice for an
electric opener in its current sinuous, snaky incarnation ...
close cousin to the “Drifter’s”-“Wicked Messenger” arrangements.
“Positively 4th St.”: oh so boring. I love those slow
arrangements from the mid-nineties. but damn is it time for a
change. Crowd, most of whom have been (impressively)
standing--if not (dismayingly) leaving--begin to revert to
“beach/carnival mode”, but
“Subterranean Homesick”: stops ‘em in their tracks. Don’t know
the correct lyric ratio but it struck me as rather on the high
side, and the song rolled by on eight carburetors driven jointly
by Dylan and Campbell. Wicked good, as they say up here.
“Cry A While”: the Grammy version that should have been; but
ample evidence that even a great version there wouldn’t have had
much different an impact on the mob.
Increasingly, however, the ships were voicing their approval by
horn and the widely dispersed remaining audience was being drawn
under Dylan’s spell, to the harvests of pleasure and meaning that
only patience and attentiveness can yield.
The second acoustic set was again slightly on the yawny side for
me, although “Tangled” was tighter than in Worcester and both
“North Country” and “Tambourine Man” had their sweet moments.
Besides, it was starting to grow a little dusky now and it
seemed to me that Dylan was setting up quite a lovely
counterpoint to the progress of a summer evening.
“Summer Days”: they _will_ be gone soon enough, won’t they? So
wake up out of that reverie, why don’t you, and shake it around a
little. See last night’s comments. More of same. Can’t get
enough. Anyone else hear Sexton’s little doggie yaps on the
guitar at the line “My dogs are barking, there must be someone
“You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”: absolutely the perfect choice to
follow this particular song, in this particular mood, on this
particular night. One can almost hear Dylan laughing at the
endlessly-recycled Newport controversies through this song which
positions him so squarely in what he would call “Burlesque” or
“light entertainment”; but _laughing_, at this point, not
mocking. And such a delightful rendition, with wonderfully sweet
harmonies, that one could almost viscerally sense a pulse of joy
shoot through the crowd
And the rest was fine, too: more than enough, I think, for the
non-initiates who decided to hold out until the end to be happy
that they did. It isn’t every day, it isn’t every show, that one
gets to hear a powerhouse version of “Watchtower” with the sea
wind on one’s face and the sun beginning to set over the
Narragansett Bay, with the crowd truly enraptured and the boatmen
voicing their approval with a final peal of horns. As usual, I
guess, it’s the things one never expects, and that one could
never predict, that make the event most memorable in the end. I
don’t know if I became a Part of History last night, but Newport
‘02 will always be a part of mine.
P.S.: the linen was too gauzy, so I got burned anyway and have
goggle-eyes from my sunglasses. And who thinks to put sunscreen
on their _feet_, for God’s sake? A word to the wise.
P.P.S.: was extremely disappointed to learn that Dylan, or his
stand-in, would not be signing CDs in the Borders tent after the
Review by Adam Selzer
A total of nearly 50 hours on buses. Many more hours in cars.
Very little sleep over four days. A few hundred bucks.
Lousy food at bus stations. Nearly killing the drunks in Worcestor.
Getting into a traffic jam that spanned all of Connecticut.
Seeing an ad in Hartford for Cabaret starring Tony Orlando.
Worth it. More than worth it. Newport was unbelievable.
Worcestor was a disappointing show. Maybe it was the lack of air
conditioning, or the annoying drunks who NEVER STOPPED TALKING, but
I never found myself able to get into the show. I expected Newport to be
Then he come on, wearing that vest. Then Andrew, looking through
binoculars, noticed the fake beard and the wig. Flabbergasted, we
strode toward the stage. I still can't believe how he looked!
Peter Stone Brown looked over at me and said "this is the weirdest
thing he's ever done!" All this time we'd wondered if he'd do
anything to commemorate Newport, and this wasn't even on the list of
My first thought upon seeing the beard was that he was going for a
Soggy Bottom Boys thing, as if to say "okay, I'm an old folkie now.
Then, as I got closer, I noticed how much he looked like an Amish
fellow, which was also a hilarious possibility. Going Amish is the
exact polar opposite of going electric.
One impression everyone seemed to get was that this has something to
do with Masked and Anonymous. They could've been filming; Fort Adams
looks like a prison, and you could cram one of those digital cameras
anywhere. They could've been filming from one of the boats! Remember
that shot in The Graduate that starts out a closeup of Ben in his car,
then zooms out clear to a helicopter? They could do that in the late
sixties, think what they can do now!
I'd personally bet heavily that, filming or not, Bob was playing
Jack Fate at Newport. Who would have guessed that Jack Fate
would be the new Tony Clifton? They finally get Bob to play Newport
again, and he doesn't even show up. He just sends Jack Fate. How
the band ever kept a straight face is beyond me. The sound man just
went ahead and cracked up.
Once the shock of the costume wore off a little, it became
apparent that Bob happened to be ON. From the first note, the
show was unbelievably superior to Worcester, and, frankly, to
just about every other show I've seen. SHB was delivered
perfectly. The band found just the right way to play it, and
Bob didn't miss a line. The phrasing on "Cry Awhile" was to
die for; the "can't you see I'm a Union man" line stands out
in my mind.
The setlist was very well thought out for the occasion.
"Positively Fourth Street," the song many believe was a
reaction to Newport. "SHB," the first electric single. And
"Desolation Row" with the electric violin verse (and a lot of
emphasis on the word "joke.")
After the show, we hung around the bus a bit. A couple of cops went
onboard to get an autograph for a fan who was on the force, and I
asked if he still had the fake beard on. "Nope," they said. "He's
As the bus, stuck in traffic like everyone else, made its way out of
the grounds, we stood alongside shouting "Jack Fate rules!" near the
I'll write a much longer review for "Jewels and Binoculars"
(http://www.geocities.com/adam1117/bobbook.html ). For
now, I'd just like to make it perfectly clear that, no matter what
anyone else says, Newport was a fabulous performance, Bob at his best.
This was, quite possibly, the greatest rock concert I've ever seen.
We never quite got over that beard. About once every hour on the
long drive back, someone would suddenly shout "I can't believe he
And I still can't.
Review by Dave Colin Read
Dylan Plugs Traficant At Newport
Lenox, MA Aug. 5, 2002
by Dave Conlin Read
© 1996 - 2002 newberkshire.com
It was no musical masterpiece that Bob Dylan presented to the audience at
Newport this time around, but the silly-looking sight of himself wearing a
hairpiece that could have been styled by ex-congressman Jim Traficant
using his weedwacker.
Was this an indication that Dylan has a new cause to champion, having found
something redeeming about Traficant unseen by the public and the press? Or
was it just a goof to see how much palaver the wig (and fake beard) will
generate in the media and elsewhere, his Newport '65 performance having
established the gold standard for much ado about nothing much?
The Newport '65 story percolated along through the decades without Dylan's
input, got a big boost after the recent death of Alan Lomax, and culminated
Saturday on the op-ed page of the New York Times with a piece by festival
founder George Wein. Our 2 cents worth: If Mr. Lomax and Pete Seeger had been
more polite and composed that day, we probably would have been spared the
hysterical story that wouldn't die.
So unless there's some significance to the applied hair, for Dylan it was
just another gig on his "neverending tour," rather than his triumphal return
to the Newport Folk Festival.
Indeed, his seemed to be an extra-festival set, as before he came onstage
the Apple and Eve Newport Folk Festival backdrop was removed and the press
area near the stage was evacuated.
Today's was a typically generous 2 hour show of 19 songs, the second gig
after a 12 week touring hiatus, which left an overall impression of being
under-rehearsed. It lacked the seamless brilliance of last November's tour
finale in Boston, which was a masterpiece.
The setlist itself was a highlight, including "Subterranean Homesick Blues,"
"Desolation Row," "Positively 4th Street," and "The Wicked Messenger;" plus
two of the five songs he played here in 1965, "Like A Rolling Stone" and
"Mr. Tambourine Man." Anyone looking for special significance could sift
through those lyrics, playful, querulous, and redolent as they are, cut and
paste a bit, and posit "Dylan's nod to Newport."
That his setlists are built around songs written decades ago is testament to
the fact that what Dylan created then is as fresh and welcome today as a sea
breeze. But over the past several years, he has displayed a genius for
performance, adding to his own incomparable song catalogue the works of other
artists, blending the old and the new, his songs and others,' cool costumes,
crazy choreography, grimaces and grins, to present concerts that amount to
fresh pieces of art. Today, however, there were only artful segments, such
as the electric, rollicking "Summer Days," which followed the acoustic "Mr.
Tambourine Man." On the latter, Dylan's delivery seemed narrational, which
may have seemed apt to him as his audience at that moment actually was "...
Silhouetted by the sea" and if not exactly "...circled by the circus sands,"
then surely circled by the carnival tents of falafel and t-shirt endors.
After a swig of water and strapping on his Stratocaster, Dylan then cut
loose on a searing rendition of "Summer Days," nodding his head and looking
quizzically at his flanking guitar mates, Charlie Sexton and Larry Campbell.
This is an infectiously swinging tune, with a wild pastiche of lyrics,
including an excerpt from The Great Gatsby, "She says, "You can't repeat the
past." I say, "You can't? What do you mean, you can't? Of course you can.""
Bob Dylan has never seemed interested in repeating the past; and it doesn't
seem likely there'll be a repeat of all the Newport '65 malarkey in the wake
of Dylan Newport '02. One thing for certain about it: there were no boos,
but there were plenty of fruit juice.
Review by Greg Geist
It seems like the appearance of Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival was
a major happening for some, a disappointment for others and still just
another "Dylan show" for some others. I have read some of the reviews in
the papers and online and also compared my experience there to some of the
other shows I have seen in the past few years. For me, it was just one
hell of a great time! I am looking forward to the next opportunity to
catch Bob and his band. He has come as close as Bethlehem, PA and
Philadelphia on previous tours, but the dates are too few and far between
for my liking. Newport was a bit of a distance to travel but it was very
much worth it.
On Friday morning we (my wife and I) set out from Allentown, Pa.,
headed for Newport, RI for what we hoped would be a memorable experience.
With little obstruction, except for maybe the NJ state trooper who
insisted on adding us to his partially fulfilled quota, we were determined
to make it there with enough time to enjoy a nice dinner before hitting
the sheets in anticipation of the following day's festivities. As it
turned out, only the occasional "slowing" of all three lanes of traffic on
I-95 caused any more impedance of our trip.
Arriving in Newport late in the afternoon, we quickly proceeded to our
accommodations and deposited our belongings. Then we took a "dry run" to
the end of the Island to find a convenient route to Fort Adams. This
accomplished, we set out to eat something and enjoy the town. I wanted it
to be the next day. I wanted it to be 5:00 pm. I wanted to be at the
festival site already enjoying Bob!
During the remainder of the night, I couldn't help but laugh at all the
different hype surrounding Dylan's appearance at the folk festival. It was
in the papers, on TV, on the streets, and on the lips of the many
seemingly fervent fans (much like we've become) that could be heard
talking in little gatherings throughout the town. It seemed like some
people wanted to put cardboard cut-outs of Joan Baez or the Butterfield
Blues Band up on the stage and have Dylan come out and pose and play all
for the sake of contrast, comparison and nostalgia. Old myths die hard.
Thankfully, we weren't buying into any of that. While I thought it was
to be an historical event none the less, I still realized that so much had
changed since the last time Bob had appeared on the bill of the Newport
Folk Festival. I was in pre-school the last time he had appeared at the
fest! That was only one small difference. In fact, so much had changed
just in the time since we first saw Bob perform.
I am only a somewhat recent "convert". I've only been truly enjoying
Dylan's music for about 7 years or so. The first time I saw and heard Bob
live was standing in a field in Stanhope, NJ in 2000. We were so close we
could see the sweat dripping off of Bob's face! My wife had come along (to
humor me, I think) and definitely earned her concert wings and had become
a Dylan fan by the end of the night. She told me that when Dylan came on
stage she could hear the breath leave me in one big awestruck huff. I have
to admit, it was almost like a religious experience for me. I understood
at that moment how some of the fans I had spoken with could be soâ€¦well,
fanatical! The man just has an awesome presence.
Meanwhile, back in Newport, the day had come! It was Saturday. We got to
the festival around ten. While the other acts on the main stage were
great, we were there for Bob! Slaid Cleaves was very enjoyable. The Waifs
were outstanding. Rosie Ledet was pretty high energy. Jonatha Burke
sounded like Alanis Morrissette on a bad day. Shawn Colvin should've taken
a tip from Bob and talked a lot less between her songs.
We wound up with our own little piece of real estate right by the sound
board. That would do for the afternoon, but when five o'clock came it was
time to move up as close as possible. We did. We stood dead center, about
ten people away from the front of the crowd (If all those chairs weren't
thereâ€¦..). The stage crew took the big Apple & Eve backdrop down from
the wall behind the stage. A man came out to make a plea to the crowd
about taking pictures and/or recording the show, twice! The Copland music
started and stopped several times.
"Ladies and gentlemen, would you please welcome Columbia recording
artist, Bob Dylan!" There he was, with some kind of wig and stage beard
on! Who cares?! He and the band launched into "Roving Gambler". All was
well. The man never does things the same way twice. "Mama, You've Been On
My Mind", all was better! He will most likely keep playing live until he
"goes senile"! "Positively 4th Street", all was even better!" I was
wondering what else he might play that I hadn't heard him do live yet.
Down In The Flood"! Yeah! "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere"! For me, that was a
thrill. "Summer Days"! If you stand still while this song is being played
you must be deaf or dead! Those were just some of the standouts for me
personally. Everyone has their favorites. We were dancing as much as
possible within our three square feet of space. The encore songs were
great as well. "Not Fade Away" was very refreshing. While it is a Buddy
Holly song, their version was very reminiscent of the Dead.
As always, the show ended too soon for us. For some, history was
made. The location was irrelevant. The set list was great. The folks who
expected the polka dotted shirt and the leather jacket and sunglasses had
long since gone, or come to their senses.
My wife and I started to make our way out of the crowd. The guy who was
MC-ing most of the day came out on stage and asked everyone who was coming
back tomorrow to raise their hands. I thought to myself, "Tomorrow?"
Review by Alex Leik
In mid-May, when my wife suggested we take our summer vacation to Newport,
RI and see Bob, I almost fell over. My wife is not the biggest Bob fan,
and has only seen him once because he played with Paul Simon - one of her
favs. Yet, as much of a surprise as she dropped on me those few months
ago, nothing could prepare either of us for the bomb Bob was to drop in
terms of physical appearance for "his" return to Newport.
The local press was a buzz by Friday, with an article about a local fan
who swears Bob was not booed off stage in '65. Ahh, the myth will forever
be debated; but as we arrived to the state park Saturday at around 11AM,
it was clear that, booed or not in '65, no one was going to miss this
performance. Most of the good spots were taken and we ended up about 3/4
of the way back on our blanket - this is only 1 HOUR after the gates had
opened!!! The morning heat and sun had a good 2 hours before they reached
the sweltering point, and the festival made a very smart move by banning
alcohol on the premises. The cases requiring medical attention were bad
enough without it, although I know many of them snuck in a wee nip or 2.
While the 6 or so acts that performed on the main stage before Bob were
foreign to me (with the exception of Sean Colvin & Jonathan Gorka,) I must
give much praise to Slaid Cleaves for opening the show with 'Wanted Man',
and even throwing in a verse about being put on the main stage at Newport
with some old guy named Bob. Very nicely done, and the rest of his
abbreviated set was spectacular - the best 'previously unheard' music of
the day, IMO, followed closely by The Waifs. The flip side was Jonath
Brooke, who belonged at Lilith Fair. She did not come across well to me,
or many others from what I could tell.
5PM came and went, along with the theme from 2001 A Space Odessey. Bob was
no where to be seen, but former VP AL Gore made his way to the stage
around 5:15, taking a spot slightly off the stage right (by the way, my
wife is convinced she saw Tom Waits earlier in the day just walking around
in long black sleeve button down, long black pants, and shades - anyone
else notice this?).
Finally, Copeland's 'Rodeo" kicked into high gear arond 5:30 (longest wait
I have ever experienced) and we were off with 'Roving Gambler'. From where
we were, the sound came and went, as it had all afternoon. Very poor
system, as I find to often be the case at festivalse where several bands
are playing. Bob was quick into 'Times', and I believe he nailed all of
the words for the first time in my concert going experiences. But, the
performance had yet to really take off. Desoaltion slumbered along until
the first guitar solo, then things picked up nicely. Larry's solo played
behind Bob's noodling in this song has always sounded wonderful to me, and
this was no exception. Bob was ruthless with the Einstein verse - no
hesitation at "he was famous long ago!" - and the bitterness extended to
all the folks whose faces he plans on rearranging, even after 37 years.
Wow, it was really nice. 'Mama' was a little rough, and I have not heard
a good version of this since Japan 2000 - a one shot. But, not
consistently good since '98???
Onto the electric set, and why, after 30+ shows, I expected 'Maggie's
Farm', I cannot say. You're right, I should know the man better than that.
We got 'Down in the Flood', and the show was at a new level. However, my
wife and I had yet to notice the real surprise of the evening - Bob's
physical appearance. Many around us had binoculars. I did not bring any.
I've been several ft. away from the man, and all the way at the back of
the auditorium. As long as I am hearing things well (which continued to be
a problem during the solos of DITF), I am a happy camper. '4th Street' was
a welcomed song, especially considering the circumstances. The delivery
was not as scornful as the final verse of 'Desolation', but the point was
Subterranean & Cry A While were simply nailed, 2 of the best performances
I have witnessed in all of my Dylan shows. SDW described the latter as the
one the Grammy performance should have been, and I must agree. Bob REALLY
likes this song, and it shows. As for Subterranean, well, my wife LOVED
it. All you need to know about that one. The arrangement is great, and
everyone is right on it now, not like when they first started playing it
earlier this spring. I get the feeling that this may have been George's
suggestion during rehearsals earlier in the year - just by the way he
The return to acoustic was a let down - an unemotional 'Girl Of the North
Country' , followed by a very lackluster TUIB - the crowd loved it, but I
have certainly heard better. The return to electric was welcomed by me,
and the band, it seemed. Summer Days smoked, one of the best I have heard,
and then my surprise of the evening and the song that made it all
worthwhile - 'You Ain't Goin' Nowhere'!! WOW. That was pure magic with
Larry playing a beautiful pedal steel. When it was over, the boats in the
water blasted their horns in approval - I was surprised how many people
recognized it. The harmonies are incredible, and combined with
'Desolation' & '4th street' (and perhaps even Cry A While), it got me
thinkin' that while Newport was ready for Bob's return, perhaps Bob was
not ready to return.
'Messenger' and LSPBH closed out the main set, and when Bob failed to make
any remark about his return to Newport during band introductions, a good
amount of people packed up and left. They could not believe they came to
this historic event and did not get so much as a " 'kyooooooooooooooooo,
ladies & gentleman. It's great to be back!" I was smiling all along, not
even aware of the real joke yet. NFA rocked as the first encore, one of
the best versions I have heard, and a "new" ending (from the last time I
heard it) where they repeat the "fade away" almost like the Dead, which
brings along an entirely different point. Why do Dead Heads (not all of
them, mind you), the people who are supposed to be the symbol of the
"hippie generation" and peace, luv, etc. always show up at Bob's shows,
proceed to ingest enough (food, drugs, booze) for everyone in the place,
then become belligerent towards anyone who gets upset with them for
ruining the main attraction??? This is not a rhetorical question!
LARS was nothing special, which ended his run of scornful lyrics receiving
proper delivery. As BITW started, my wife and I headed for the buses,
hoping to catch a glimpse of Bob and the boys as they headed out of town.
We could hear the final chords of AATW, and the final blast of approval
from the boat horns (very cool). Then, a RI State Police car made its way
down from the rear of the fort, followed by a white van carrying the band
and Bob. The van unloaded in between the 2 buses, and Bob appears
in....??? A WIG!! And, I would later learn, a fake beard????? Was that the
clincher? Had he pulled off the biggest stunner of all. Bob Dylan was in
fact not ready for the open arms of Newport, even after 37 years? So, he
wears a disguise, knowing full well that the media presence will be huge,
and photos will be abundant afterwards. 37 years from now, we will have a
handful of people who are convinced it was not Bob Dylan at Newport in
2002?? Nah! It was most certainly Bob. In fact, as I looked at George and
Larry, who were standing a mere couple of feet away from me, I noticed an
unusually large amount of make-up on their faces. I have been face to face
with the band memebers on several occasions, and have never noticed this
before. I immediately thought of the movie, and wondered if some last
minute filming was not taking place at Newport, although I was not close
enough to see if any video equipment was present.
All in all, a great time was had, despite the dehydration. If, tomorrow,
you told me Bob was going to play Newport next year, I'd probably stay
home and let somebody else have my spot. But, if you told me this year's
performance @ Newport would be the only time Bob would adorn the wig and
fake beard, as appears to be the case? Well, my wheels are still turning
trying to figure this one out. I think Chronicles should have a whole
chapter devoted to "The Newport Disguise"
Until Baltimore and the Harley Festival (Ahhhhh! Another Festival???) Alex
Review by Michael Perlin
So was it worth the 37 year wait? Absolutely. A hot, deep blue sky
day, sailboats and cruise ships in the bay behind us, and the Newport Folk
Festival stage in front of us. And 2 solid hours, 19 songs, of Bob and the
boys.. wow! (This was the culmination of a full folk festival day: for those
interested in The Waifs, Rosie Ledet, John Gorka, Jonatha Brooke and Shawn
Colvin, will be glad to post on any/all separately).
But, the main attraction: from 5:30-7:30, a blistering concert,
featuring Bob at his gravelly finest (and yeah yeah to all those who don't
believe it; you could understand EVERY word on the acoustic numbers, and
more than enough on the electric ones), and his band (that gets better every
year) providing the kind of accompaniment that the Heartbreakers do for Petty
or, in a much pared down way, the E Street Band does for Bruce). Set
was sposed to start at 5, but didn't til 5:30. Was Bo chillin w Al Gore?
Richard Gere & Carey Lowell? Was he waiting for the sun to move so it
wdn't be in his eyes? Your guess is as good as mine). And what a set list!
So, here goes.
1. Roving Gambler (acoustic). The first song is sometimes little more
than a glorified soundcheck; often it gives a hint as to how the entire concert
will be. This passed all tests with flying colors. From the band's joining in
on the last line of each verse (starting with "lay my body DOWN"), to
Bob's enunciation, to the tight guitar playing, it was clear this was
going to be a GOOD night. Also, the first of 4 "first-timers" for me (Bob
has, for the past several yrs, been opening w/ a standard blues,
bluegrass, gospel or Americana song (e.g., Duncan and Brady, Hummingbird,
I am the Man, Thomas), and this is the first time I've heard him do RG
(only available on boots and on one of the 4-cut live promotional CDs that
came out after Time Out of Mind (I think Love Sick was the first cut on that).
An excellent start. Bob, btw, is resplendent in western suit and cowboy hat
(all except the drummer are behatted, as has been their wont lately .. I
2. The Times They Are a-Changing (acoustic): The last time I heard
this in person, I was with my daughter Julie, when she was 17 and about to
be a senior in HS. Julie, and one of her roommates, met us in Newport for
the concert; she's now 21 and about to be a senior in college." Your sons
and your daughters are beyond your command." As I did in Paris, 4 yrs ago,
when I heard the line, by eyes filled.. Wow. Back to the music: This made
me wonder if Bob were gonna commemorate his Newport anniversary w/ an
overtly "political" set (as it turned out, there was NO overt commemoration
of the 8/65 appearance, but more on that later). Listening to this one --
and thinking about the pathetic excuse for a President currently occupying
the White -- House -- was more than deja vue all over again. The band
quieted down on the "Congressman, Senators" verse and that made Bob's
craggy vocals stand out more prominently. It seemed to me that Bob's
emphasis was greatest on the "rattle your walls" line. I wonder.
3. Desolation Row (acoustic): The best version I've ever heard live
of this song. Charlie's solo on uke/banjo/mandolin/cittern /whatever was
exceptional. For the last verse, the band reduced its sound level to
triple pianissimo (much more exaggeratedly than they had done on Times),
and that worked wonderfully. For those who don't know: one of my conceits
as a law professor is to use Dylan lyrics for titles of many of the papers
and law review articles I write. I'll be giving a talk this fall the title
of which begins, "Cinderella sweeping up/ On Desolation Row." Just in case
you were wondering.... One note here: Dylan opened the tour the nite before
in Worcester, MA, and played Tombstone Blues. I've always "twinned" TB w DR
(along w/ lots of others, as I've posted about in the past). This was just
one of four twinnings that connected this setlist w the one last nite
(something that I haven't seen mentioned yet in any other reviews (he types
w a smile....)
4. Mama, You Been on My Mind (acoustic). Begins with Bob on harmonica,
playing what appeared to be the first 16 bars of Don't Think Twice It's All
Right. So, no sooner do I put DTT/IAR on to my set list pad, than I hear
"Perhaps it's the color of the sun cut flat/ An' cov'rin' the crossroads I'm
standing at,/Or maybe it's the weather or something like that,/But mama, you
been on my mind." Ooops! At this point, it is clear that the band is not
just good this afternoon, it is PHENOMENAL. I have watched this group go
through so many iterations (Tony is the only one left standing from the 94
quartet that reintroduced me into Bobworld, and, though I still really miss
Bucky and Winston, the band has never sounded this good. Tight, rocking,
sophisticatedly harmonic, and having as much fun as the audience. And for
those keeping score, this is the first time I heard this one since Roseland,
on my return to Bobworld in fall 94.
5. Down in the Flood (Crash on the Levee). This opens the electric
set, and a good percentage of us had been expecting to hear Maggie's Farm
here as an homage to 65. Wrong, of course (and no Maggie's at all this
day).More on this later. For a couple of years (post-Jokerman, and
pre-Absolutely Sweet Marie), DitF opened the set each night (this back
pre-99 when he opened w/ an electric set, then switched to acoustic), so
it's one of the ones that I've heard the most in person over the years.
Part of The Bootleg Tapes collection, and a great rocker w/ lyrics that
veer between totally straightforward ("Crash on the levee, mama,/Water's
gonna overflow,/Swamp's gonna rise,/No boat's gonna row"), and totally
impenetrable ("Well, it's sugar for sugar/ And salt for salt"). Like I
care.. this is a great song. If you can't dance to this, see a
chiropractor..... Oh yeah, I've twinned this w/ Watching the River Flow.
He played that the nite before too....
6. Positively 4th Street. I'm a slow learner. 4½ yrs ago Madison
Sq. Garden, sitting w my friend Michael (my main Dylanista). Intro comes
on, and he says to me, So what is it? I reply, "It's gotta be `I Shall Be
Released,' but he only does that acoustic." A few more languid guitar
verses, and then I hear, "You gotta lotta nerve..." I respond, "OMG!, and
a few more utterances." Turns out the guy sitting on the other side of us
was taping it, and my sidebar comments are now audibly part of the "official"
boot release from that concert (it was one of the Van Morrison nites, 1/98).
So, fastforward to Saturday. I hear the intro and say to Linda and Julie,
"It's gotta be `I Shall Be Released,' but he only does that acoustic." And
of course, the first words are "You gotta lotta nerve." Duh. Was this his
Newport comment? Was this - - the ultimate putdown to the ex-girlfriend --
his response to the folkies of the 60's who scorned him (some for a while,
some forever) for plugging in? Will we ever know? Of course not. But at
this point I realized that, even if there were a slight chance that we
might hear Maggie's, there was zero that we were gonna hear his acoustic
farewell in 65, It's All Over Now Baby Blue. And yeah.. it was great to
7. Subterranean Homesick Blues: Our son Alex is a camp
counselor, and thus wasn't w/ us at this concert. He has 3 favorite Dylan
songs: If Dogs Run Free (!), Hurricane, and SHB. I had told him a few yrs
ago that his chances of hearing any were near zero. And then Bob started
doing If Dogs as an occasional acoustic encore (tho neither of us have
heard that live yet). And then last April, Bob started singing SHB (tho
not in our time zone). Was it finally possible? (Hurricane hasn't been
played live since 76, so...). Anyway, as soon as I heard the first words
(NB: The title of an article I wrote last year begins, "Johnny's in the
basement/mixing up his medicine..."), I exploded (Julie was with a
girlfriend who had never been to a concert w us before; I don't even want
to speculate on what she was thinking...¦), and screamed. My 2d
first-timer of the day, and what a one! On line the day before, I was
asked for a dream set list, and I had responded this way: A dream set?
OMG >>> It wd include songs I've never heard in person (but have a decent
chance based on last tour's list) (SHB), those that I've never heard that
he hasnt played for over a decade (Hurricane, Idiot Wind, One More Cup
of Coffee), those he's never played (Farewell, Angelina), those I havent
heard since pre-8/65 (All I Really Want to Do), those I've only heard
once (Blind Willie McTell, Visions of Johanna) and SO MUCH MORE......
So, success! Just two nites before, we had taken the DVD of Don't Look
Back out of the local library, and I again saw the "Burma Shave" sequence
. And wondered... what are the odds? It was great. Beyond great.
Oh yeah: I emailed Alex to tell him the good/bad news. He responded
that he's never talking to me again, I think he'll get over it...
8. Cry a While. Keen observers will note that this is the first song
of the concert to have been written since 1967 (only three in all post-dated
1970). Is there some Newport-esque significance in this? I doubt it. This
was another first-ever for me, and the 6th song from the extraordinary
(and growing even more so w/ every listening) Love and Theft from '01 that
I've heard live. Good solid, hard rocking reading, tho nothing
particularly different than the CD studio cut.
9. Girl From the North Country (acoustic). Bob intro's this on the
harmonica with two verses, sounding maddeningly like he's playing Mama,
You Been on my Mind (which, of course, he couldn't be), and then, clearly,
it becomes North Country. One of my very favorites.. soft, evocative,
bittersweet performance... if this didn't make u wanna hug whomever u were
with, that wd be *your* problem...
10. Tangled up in Blue (acoustic)" Up until this point, there had
been *no* repeats from the prior nigh, and I wondered fleetingly if this
was gonna be his Newport homage: by doing a totally different 19. When the
roadies handed Larry a different guitar, and Larry, maybe unconsciously,
hit the D as he was strapping it on, I knew, of course, that this was the
next song, I never tire of it. Never. Bob skipped the "laces of my shoes"
verse (a small price to pay for the continued inclusion of the "Italian
poet" verse). Guitar solos both before and after the "Montague Street"
verse. A harmonica solo by Bob after the last verse. Sublime. And my
article beginning, "They're An Illusion To Me Now..." is about to go
11. Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man (acoustic): He had done Masters of War
the nite before, and here is its twin (3d time of the concert). One of the
songs that I heard Bob do before he ever plugged in (confession: I used
lyrics from this as chapter headings for my college senior thesis, which
shd suggest that I really haven't changed too much since 1965-66...), and
one I've heard countless times since. Nothing particularly new in this
version, but phrase fragments ("ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming";
"cast your dancing spell my way," and especially, given the context of where
we were, "to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
/Silhouetted by the sea") resonated in new ways (as they always do).
12. Summer Days : Back to the electric instruments, and now it's
pretty clear that there will be no Maggie's tonite (although the first
encore slot was still a possible). This, along with Honest With Me, is the
Love & Theft song he plays most (I heard him do it Philly in November).
When he described the process of putting together L&T, he said it was all
12 bar blues as a "grid" for all varieties of American music. Listening to
this buoyant rocker again, I think I finally began to grasp what he meant.
This was written by the part of Bob that idolizes Ralph Stanley and
Charley Patton, and shd be enuf reason for "Oh Brother" fans to go buy L&T
before the sun sets tonite. Tony played stand-up bass on this
otherwise-electric number, and that really added texture to it (his 2d
repeat from the nite before).
13. You Ain't Going Nowhere. Larry put down his electric guitar,
and headed for the pedal steel (always a great moment). One chord on that
instrument, and it was clear what this was going to be. Only the 2d time I
had heard this in person (Wayne NJ, 97, the other), and what a treat! The
perfect example of how Bob has fused country and rock and Americana and
folk into a blend of music that we never could have conceptualized had he
not been Bob. Great vocal harmonies from Charlie and Larry. Still hoping
to hear him sing the "McGuinn" line in person (don't know if he ever has?),
but notwithstanding that minor cavil, a great performance.
14. The Wicked Messenger. Confession time; I had NO idea what this
was. Was totally clueless until the 3d verse until I picked up some
fragmented phrases (I wrote "?WM?" *so lightly on my set list pad ), and
then figured that, since he did Drifter's Escape the night before (here,
I've tripletted those two and Restless Farewell in my own Bobography of
the mind), I was probably right. The arrangement was not unlike that he
did when I head him sing I & I in Dec. 97; stentorian guitars, extreme
backbeat (this is the first time I've heard Ricelli, his latest drummer,
in person; again, I still miss Winston, but this was really excellent drum
work), and power. On the other hand, I'd much rather hear an acoustic
version of this John Wesley Harding favorite... But a bonus: Bob played
harmonica, which he almost NEVER does on the electric numbers. This was,
btw, my 4th "first-ever" of the day.
15. Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat: The house that we're renting on Cape
Cod has all sorts of old time clothes (probably so little kids can play dress
up games and not be terminally bored in bad weather), including a full hat
rack, including, u guessed it, a leopard skin pillbox hat. Linda was gonna
bring it to the concert (tho changed her mind when (1) it was clear the
temperature was gonna hit 98, and (2) chances were, we wd be sufficiently far
back that there was no way Bob wd ever see it (we were dead center just to the
left of the soundboard; GREAT acoustics but fairly far away), and (3)
others have been-there-done-that (a woman next to us in Philly (Nov. 01),
4 rows from the stage the most recent example) to little avail. So, he played
it anyway... another one I've heard countless times, and now often the end of
his pre-encore sets. The band, which as I've said several times, was excellent
all nite, was beyond the top of its game on this one.. great guitar playing by
all (including by Bob, whose guitar work has gotten consistently better over
the years and is now really outstanding), but more: a sense of unity and
togetherness that can only come from a group (be it rock, classical or jazz)
in which each member intuitively knows what the other is thinking at any
musical moment. Outstanding.
16. Not Fade Away. This was the last chance for a 65-Maggie's-linkage.
So: are we gonna hear it? Nope. Instead, the Buddy Holly classic, w/ Larry
and Charlie joining in on the chorus lines in an almost call-and-response
mode. Love the song, love the version (and ANYTIME the encore set dsnt
start w RDW 12/35, I breathe a sigh of relief...)
17. Like a Rolling Stone: Well, he *did* do this in 65, but then
again, he does it just abt every nite, so I don't think it counts. But if
he didn't sing it, I wd certainly go home w/ a partially-unfulfilled
feeling. Still can't figure out why he's stopped singing the 3d verse
("chrome horse"), but why bother? On "secrets to con-cealllllllll", the
audience noise was shattering. Wow.
18. Blowin' in the Wind (acoustic): Same arrangement as he's stuck
to for last 3 yrs, and I guess I've finally gotten used to it. Especially
poignant this year, tho in lite of all the wars surrounding us. I heard
him sing this in NYC in 64 when the antiwar movement was just beginning,
at the MLK I Have a Dream rally in 65, and many times since. It's all part
of the same fabric to me, I guess. Not only can't I imagine a world w/o
Bob, I can't imagine a world w/o this song.
19. All Along the Watchtower. Time to start packing up. Like last
year, it begins with the chords to Exodus (not the Marley version, but the
61 movie version), and then, remarkably, segues into a reggae beat. Yeah,
I still miss this as the reliable #3 from the old days, but, perhaps, the
heightened anticipation of waiting for it to end the show is worth it.
Powerful, simplistically profound, visionary, apocalyptic and more.. what
a way to end the concert.
So a day to remember, and more proof, if any were needed, that this
grizzled song-and-dance man, this Rabbinical heretic, this confounding 61
yr old kid from Hibbing remains the most important and greatest figure in
American popular culture, as well as - -along w Gershwin and Ellington --
one of the 3 greatest American songwriters in history. Gd bless u, Bob...
Review by Eben Hensby
This was the show that had brought Dylan fans from all over
together. This was the show.
Who knew what Bob would do at the Newport Folk Festival: he
hadn't been here since 1965 when he first publicly plugged in and shook
up the music world. Thirty-seven years later, he returns to Newport.
Was the acoustic Maggie's Farm he had done twice on
the past Euro 2002 tour warm-up for Newport (since Maggie's Farm had been
the opening electric song in '65)? Would he play the '65 set again?
Would he talk about it? Would he acknowledge it at all or would it just
be another show for Bob? Many questions running around and no one knew
what would happen.
The night before, our group of Bob fans decided we'd just show up
in the afternoon and see Bob instead of showing up early and sitting through
all the other acts. We headed over to Newport, which took a lot longer than
we had expected, and finally got to the park. We parked our car on a grassy
hill then took a school-shuttle bus from the parking lot to the festival.
Upon arriving at the Fort Adams stage, Kait and I rushed to
somewhere near the soundboard and sat down in an aisle. Shawn Colvin was
performing solo acoustic and Bob's equipment decorated the stage. I must
try to describe the scene:
The stage was between two towers of a grey brick fort. Then there
was an area in front of the stage in which one could go up and take photos.
After that, there was a long stretch of grass over which was scattered
people, mostly sitting on lawn chairs or blankets in the nice sunny weather.
At the end of the grass was water, where several boats were - no doubt an
interesting way to enjoy a festival.
Unlike at Worcester, this GA was great: it was nice out, a gentle
breeze kept us at a comfortable temperature, we weren't crammed in because
there were chairs and it felt more casual, and we had our cameras. Cameras
were allowed in for the festival but then Bob requested no photos (he closed
off the area that had been used for photos for other acts): as if we were
going to pass up this opportunity!
Anyway, after Shawn Colvin ended her set, Kait and I hurried up to
the front, where we found an empty spot from someone leaving. A bunch of
others we had travelled with then found us. We were probably 10th or so row,
I guess. We noticed the people in front of us were all cramming up close to
the rail and that there was no way they were going to sit down. Some people
behind us started yelling "Sit down!" and we were just like "That ain't gonna
happen!". We stood the whole show. Also, we moved up as the show went on.
Some people didn't seem to like Bob's volume (one woman was covering her
ears!) and I guess it must've been odd to hear this rock and roll at a folk
festival, so anyway they left early. We ended up 3rd or so row, taking
The band came out late, as usual, and we were all getting excited,
but for some reason I couldn't spot Bob. Then I suddenly noticed him: there
he was with long hair and a beard which he had not had the previous night at
Worcester! Our reaction was one of being completely stunned. We were all
like, "What the fuck!?" and we all broke out into laughter. What was Bob
doing? Either he could grow hair extremely quickly or he was wearing a
hillarious wig! Someone quickly pointed out that this was Jack Fate! Maybe
it was. After the show, someone else pointed out that we had seen the only
Jack Fate concert (most likely) and that Bob had never returned to Newport!
It was all quite funny. That Bob's a weird and intriguing fellow, I'd say.;)
The rest of the band was very styling. Charlie and Larry both had
sunglasses on. This was a great way to enjoy a show: I hadn't seen an
outdoors Bob show until this one. There are no lights to dim between songs
and the sun shined on them throughout, which was all very cool.
Throughout the show, various things were yelled up at Bob. Someone
yelled "Welcome back Bob!". Ryan, who I was with, yelled out at the start
of the first electric set (see below for details). I, at one point, yelled
out "Take off your hat, Bob!" since we all knew he wouldn't (maybe it held
the wig in place) - once he was taking the guitar off and it got stuck on
his hat so he had to get the crew to help him get it over the hat!
Roving Gambler: I hadn't heard this opener before this show, and it's a
great one. It also works very well for Bob and for Jack Fate, whoever he
was this night!
The Times They Are A-Changin': This song started up and it immediately
made me nervous as Bob has a tendency to forget the first verse, sometimes
the first line, to this song. However I must have forgotten this was Jack
Fate, and I guess he doesn't forget lyrics as easily as Bob does. ;)
Desolation Row: This was a great break from It's Alright Ma, which seems
to be the song Bob likes playing in the 3rd slot. This started off very
strongly with some very well phrased verses. I thought it fell apart a
little as the song progressed. It was, nonetheless, very good and I had
hoped to hear this one.
Mama, You Been On My Mind: This was a good end to the opening acoustic set
but I don't have much to say about it. It was well done.
Down In The Flood: Back in the hotel room, our Bob group had decided that
we'd start a chant before the first electric set. The chant was to be
"Play fucking loud! Play fucking loud!" as an obvious tip of the hat to
the past. (We had toyed with playfully booing or throwing harmonicas on
stage but decided those ideas were both pretty silly!) When the time
came, no one broke into the chant. However, Ryan, whom I was near, yelled
out very loudly "Play fucking loud!" just before the band jumped into Down
In The Flood. And, wow, this was awesome! I had been saying before this
trip that I wished Bob would play this song because it rocked so well in
June of 2000. So when I got to hear it today, I was very pleased. And it
rocked again today! Charlie spiced it up with some awesome riffs. Bob
indeed did play fucking loud.
Positively 4th Street: I thought this was an interesting song to play at
Newport, probably something he could've sung at the original Newport '65,
but it didn't have the anger it would've back then. It was well done.
Subterranean Homesick Blues: I really really love this song live. I got
to see it on the UK 2002 tour and it was just as great now as it was then.
Bob got most all of the words right although he seemed to leave out a
verse. It rocked real hard and was amazing. I love the slide guitar on
Cry A While: I didn't used to care too much for this song, but the more I
hear it the more I enjoy it. The way it changes tempo is intriguing and
I, again, love the slide guitar. This brought the opening electric set,
full of heavy rockers, all well-performed, to a conclusion.
Girl From The North Country: Wow, this was very tenderly sung. George
played the cymbals very interestingly on this song, in a way that made me
think it was chimes at first. The song had that indescribable warm feel
to it. Bob graced it with some very nice low notes, which are great to
hear after his emphasis on high notes on the Euro 2002 tour.
Tangled Up In Blue: Today's Tangled was a hundred times better than last
night's Tangled. The end harp is really such a nice touch to this (or
most any) song.
Mr. Tambourine Man: I don't think I care too much for the current
arrangement of this song, but
it was nicely performed nonetheless.
Summer Days: Now this just rocked unbelievably well! The instrumental jam
was again tons of fun to dance away to. And Charlie just kept throwing in
more and more interesting riffs after Bob's lines. The shows on this tour
have brought me to realize just how great Charlie is to the band,
something I hadn't noticed before.
You Ain't Goin' Nowhere: I've heard this once before in Dallas, and it was
probably better here. It really is such a treat to hear live, and Bob sung
it the way I'd imagine it should be sung with this arrangement. And, if
you know me, you know I love the pedal steel.
The Wicked Messenger: In this song, Ryan tapped me on the shoulder and
told me to note that the drums were very well done. I agree: George was
really adding to the songs tonight.
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat: Just like yesterday, they closed the regular
set with Leopard-Skin and, just like yesterday, I didn't care much for it.
There are much better ending songs or, at least, they should jam more on
this, in my humble opinion.
Not Fade Away: This was my first time seeing the new arrangement of this
song. It was a fun, well-performed rocker.
Like A Rolling Stone
Blowin' In The Wind: Both are standard encore songs and were well sung
tonight, as everything seemed to be, but I don't have anything in
particular to say about either.
All Along The Watchtower: Again, this song was a highlight. The guitars
and drums were great. George throws in these drum fills occasionally that
just make you suddenly think, "Wow, that was very cool". He did it once
in here where he suddenly hit the drums real hard four times or so in a
row after Bob sung a line. The guitars were also going for this kind of
effect at times with riffs and licks after a Bob line.
And with that Newport 2002 came to an end. Bob hadn't really
acknowledged Newport '65 at all, but it didn't matter really. Bob came
(or was it Jack Fate?) and delivered a phenomenal show. I was later
discussing the show with Peter Stone Brown (to read about my meeting him,
see my "East Coast Tales") and I told him I thought the show was "good"
and he couldn't believe me, saying it was "great". Again, for the second
night in a row, I didn't seem to rank the show as highly as others had.
Don't get me wrong here: I loved both of these shows, but I just didn't
think they were as good as some of the other shows I've seen and heard.
They were still very worthwhile seeing and were both unbelievably good.
However, that was to change the next night in Augusta...
- Eben Hensby
page by Bill Pagel
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