Wallingford, Connecticut

August 18, 1997

Oakdale Theater

Thanks to Matt Fulco for the following review:

Tonight's show at the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford, CT has to be
the finest Dylan show I have been to, possibly the best concert I have ever
seen.  Perhaps because of the intimacy of the venue, (just 4800 capacity)
Dylan played extraordinarly well, and the chemistry between he and his band
was superb.  The entire show was charged with energy, from the opening
notes of "Absolutely Sweet Marie" to the blistering, rocking "Alabama
Getaway" that closed the show.

This show had a somewhat unusual setlist, including a beautiful "Pretty
Peggy-O" in the second slot, making its first appearance on this tour.
Dylan sang it eloquently, and his band backed him beautifully, as Larry and
Bob traded him some delicate leads.  A strong "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight"
followed, featuring Bucky Baxter's wizardry on the pedal steel.  Next up
was "Tough Mama," which had to appear somewhere in the show, and it was
solid.  I never seem to get sick of "Silvio," no matter how many times I
hear it, and this time was no exception. Dylan almost blew the roof off the
place as he dug in his heels and delivered some blistering leads.  The
entire band sounded much tighter on this tune than at Tanglewood several
weeks ago.  Instead of being an all-out boogie in no direction, the jamming
was precise and focused; Bob and the boys knew exactly where they were
going in "Silvio," and they were able to explore the song in a new way,
unlike I have ever heard it before.  At this point, I knew this show was
going to special.

Much to my utter delight, they decided to open the acoustic set with "Baby
Blue."  Bucky Baxter provided a chilling yet delicate background with his
pedal steel, while Dylan delivered the bitter lyrics with astonishing
poignancy.  An interesting "Tangled Up In Blue" was next, in which Dylan
botched some of the lyrics in the opening lines.  But, to his credit, he
recovered swiftly and re-directed his energy into an inspired version of
the song.  Again, he played excellent lead guitar.  I was not at all
surprised to hear "Cocaine Blues," since Dylan seems to really like to sing
this one.  He easily slipped into the guise of a battered blues singer,
unable to focus himself on anything but getting his fix.

Bob and the boys surprised me again by playing "I'll Remember You" next.  I
had heard of the song, but it is not on any of my 24 Dylan albums and I had
never listened to it until tonight.  Dylan sang it with inspiration, and
this inspiration carried over in a big way for the next song, "This Wheel's
On Fire," for which Rick Danko of The Band joined Dylan on guitar and
vocals.  I have often joked with my friends about the possiblity of guests
showing up at concerts to jam with whoever you are there to see,and in
retrospect, what makes for a better show?  Well, Danko didn't disappoint,
as he added soulful vocals to an incredible version of "This Wheel's On
Fire."  Egged on by Danko's presence, Bob put in an extra burst of energy
into his vocals on this song, culminating in the final line in which he
sang "This wheel will explooooode."

For a show with so many surprises, it seemed appropriate that Dylan closed
with "Cat's In the Well," an all-out rocker from "Under the Red Sky" that
one does not hear too often these days.  Bob and his band really cooked on
this number, and they managed to really jam the song out, exploring some
musical spaces that bordered on pyschedelia.  I wondered what the encores
would be.

"Like a Rolling Stone" kicked off the encores.  Really strong version
featuring some inspired phrasing, but I would have preferred "One of Must
Know (Sooner or Later)"  Then Danko came back for an outstanding acoustic
version of "I Shall Be Released."  Not the rarest song, to but to hear it
acoustically with Danko joining Dylan on vocals and guitar was a treat to
savor.  They played it beautifully and afterwards Bob shook hands with
Danko.  I wish I had had my camera.

  If you have been to a few Dylan concerts and you are a fan, then you
obviously know that "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" has been the closer for 99%
of the shows since the first 1995 tour.  And if for some reason he does not
close with it, it is because he is not playing a show featuring a triple
encore.  Consequently, I prepared myself for the thundering drums that
would signal the beginning of the ultimate stoner's anthem.  As Dylan and
his band were walking back onto stage, I noticed Bob was wearing what
appeared to be a cowboy hat.  Why the hell would he wear that for "RD
Women?"  Then the opening notes of "Alabama Getaway" hit my ears.  I almost
doubled over in joy and laughter, partly because I am a deadhead and love
the song, and partly because Dylan chsoe to don a cowboy hat specifically
for the song.  He could not have chosen a better closer, and they rocked
out hard, continuously bringing the song to a higher and higher crescendo
with more intense and more sizzling leads, until finally after an
especially hot jam they ended "Alabama," leaving me gasping for more and
trying to comprehend how a guy who just had surgery on his heart 2 months
ago and who is pushing 56 can still play with the kind of fire and
inspiration that most musicians half his age cannot achieve.


Thanks to Christine Consolvo for the following review:

Well, there I found myself in Wallingford, Connecticut and my last
show of the run...a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

Happy that the weather had finally cooled down and looking forward 
to an indoor venue (this was the one day that rain was not threatening
wouldn't you know?) I stood outside chatting with new friends and old.
Conversation ran toward what the setlist might be like tonight since
the three previous shows had been all but identical. Funny, but even
though they were so similar, their mood, tone and spirit differed so
greatly that it insured each and every show was set apart from the
others. (Some disagreed with this assessment and after the show in
Jones Beach I felt I had to remind a few of them that it could have
been a moment of silence.) There was speculation that what had
happened was just a kind of "dress rehearsal" for Jones Beach...that
show being in an important location...and this makes so much sense I
tend to believe it is on the mark. But I digress...

Bob came out at the Oakdale looking great (just as he had the other
nights...only once looking very tired toward the end of the show
...Holmdel?...and actually leaving the stage hunched over. It was easy
to envision what he will look like thirty years from now as he leaves
the stage :-) He was dressed in the usual black. This night his pants
had irregularly shaped (mostly three-sided) buttons made of
mother-of-pearl running down the sides. Black jacket, white satiny
shirt, black patent leather shoes....and a sparkling turquoise string
tie done up in a bow topped it all off. Was this the night he wore the
new hat through the entire show? Now I can't remember. I believe it
was beginning in Hershey that he took to donning a hat for the last
song. The hat was white and almost as tall as his ten-gallon. It had a
large, very rounded crease in the center and a wide black band. The
brim was short and rolled up on the sides. And it was about 1/2 size
too small. My first impression was that it reminded me of something
from an old gangster movie. Of course, being white, one of the "good
guys" would have worn it...

When Bob started into Peggy-O, I am surely projecting, but I think he
was as glad to have a change in setlist as we were. At all these shows
he would choose a verse in some songs (at random? NO!) and really 
bite into it. Tonight he really spat out the line about "your guineas
are too FEW!!!" with a quick turning up of his nose and a sneer and
adding in a short two-step dance away from the mic and then back for
"I'm af*RAID* my mother would *BE* (then very gently) soooooo angry-o"
with the slightest shake of his head. For quite some time now he has
taken to adding these little pieces of acting/drama to his
performances, but on this run it was even more constant and more
exacting than in the past. 

On to Tough Mama... Planet Waves has always been one of my favorites
perhaps because it was the first released after I became a fan of
Bob's and the same year I saw my first Dylan concert (late-comer). 
I was thrilled to see it showing up on the setlists before I went out
and selfishly hoped against hope he would see fit to continue playing least until I got to see it once. The first couple of  times I
got to witness it in Scranton & Hershey he appeared to be unsure of
himself and the lyrics. He was getting them right, but not enunciating
them properly. Yes, he was mumbling. Then in Holmdel he began to gain
confidence and the song took on the grandeur it deserves. I think
documentation will bear me out when I say that even on the "mumbling"
outings he was shouting out the lines in the song that always stick
with me..."I gained some recognition, but I lost my appetite!" I spoke
to another "fan" about this who thought she might have been imagining
this, but we decided between us that he *was* emphasizing these lines
and what a gutsy, Boblike thing to do it was. 

On to Cocaine Blues... What a choice. What a guy. What wonderful
renditions..... In retrospect, I wonder what Rick Danko thought about
this choice as he stood next to the onstage soundboard at the Oakdale
taking in the performance. Could his situation have been the catalyst
for Bob playing it on this leg? Who knows.... I do know that night
Cocaine built to a crescendo...verse by verse....until on the last one
Bob was shouting/whimpering/begging as he sang the lines "Hey 
there Mama, come here QUICK, this old cocaine's 'bout to make me
SICK". He was taking tiny breaths between each word and wore a 
look on his face like I've never seen before. A look you might have
when your life is truly threatened as you passionately implore someone
to please spare you. A totally amazing and moving little slice of
blood and thunder...beginning and ending in a very few seconds.

When he finished crooning I'll Remember You, I knew it must be time 
to bring out Rick Danko since he had moved from his spot on stage
right during the song. I'll have to paraphrase how Bob introduced him,
but it was something like, "And now I wanna bring out a friend of mine
who's had some trouble lately...but I think he's better than ever
now." Rick walked out absolutely beaming with obvious pride and
delight. He was grinning from ear to ear as he donned an acoustic
guitar. Bob said (again paraphrasing) "This is a song we used to do."
and they went right into This Wheel's On Fire. They traded verses 
with Bob taking the first (I think) and I know that Mr. Danko sang 
the "confiscate your lace" verse. He put every ounce of himself into
the phrasing and emoting of his lines and when they would share 
the mic for the chorus, Bob gave him more than his share of it
...encouraging him to give it his all. Rick looked into Bob's eyes
through the entire song not wanting to miss even the most fleeting
exchange of intimacy.  When Bob would take his turns, Rick stood back
(that wide grin never leaving his face for an instant) and watched
with what seemed to be a reverence that could not be matched. 
What a beautiful picture they made...

I Shall Be Released went down in much the same fashion and when it 
was over, Rick went for a high five from Bob, which kind of turned
into a low five/hand shake then a most friendly pat on the shoulder.
As they left the stage, it seemed to me nothing had changed that much
since that first concert I saw...way back in 1974...........

Just thought I'd mention it...


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