October 25, 2016
Review by Tom Palaima
"Have you ever seen a ghost? No.
But you have surely heard of them."
Ghosts are not forgotten in Shreveport. They are still alive in the
downtown of low office, county and municipal stone buildings mainly from
the the period of and between our two World Wars. The Caddo Parish
Courthouse with its stately and weighty classical Ionic columns out front
signifying a serious devotion to the justice of the status quo hymns the
ghosts of the Civil War. Four busts of Confederate Civil War generals
stand guard around a column surmounted by a statue of a musket-holding
Confederate soldier. The statue's bloom of youth conveys an innocent
androgyny akin to Kate Blanchet's as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. The
ghosts of such southern soldiers are monumentalized, as the inscription
reminds us, "memorializing the deeds and valor of the men who so
gallantly, nobly and conscientiously defended the cause of 1861-65.”
Walk the streets of Shreveport and Leadbelly will stand before you, in
bronze, life size. Hank Williams, Sr. 1923-1953—was his life really so
short?—will appear beneath your feet, remembered with a star and a
blackened bronze plaque laid into the sidewalk. As will another departed
‘native son’, OJ’s lawyer Johnny Cochran, with a star and his two
footprints. My foot doesn’t fit into his print, so I literally stand
The streets are quiet. The day is breezy, mid-seventies, perfect to soak
in the atmosphere. Walking down Texas Street toward the venue, we passed a
couple in their 60’s sitting on a bench at a bus stop. Noticing the now
schematic images on my old 1989 G.E. Smith period Dylan t-shirt, the man,
who we later learned was one Donald Henson, called out, “Is that Bob
Dylan?” I said yes. Thus began a spontaneous 10-minute discussion. He was
originally from northern Illinois, west of Chicago. Had done a tour in
Vietnam. In the 60’s he did a pilgrimage to Hibbing, MN. He said, “I just
had to see where he came from, you know? Was he really from there? I saw
the house and the big open iron pit.” Mr. Henson then launched into
crooning a cappella “Lay Lady Lay.” His partner Carolyn admitted that she,
too, was a Dylan fan and had songs that meant a lot to her. Totally
random. Neither Don nor Carolyn was attending the concert. Both were stone
cold sober and compos mentis spirituique. I genuinely wished we had had a
camera to get this fortuitous ‘persons on the street’ take on Dylan’s
impact. As a wise man once said, “You can’t make this shit up!"
Gavin and Lesly, who had seen and heard Bob and his band in Tulsa, and I
arrive at 5PM at 705 Elvis Presley Avenue, site of the truly venerable
Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium (built 1929).
http://scottymoore.net/shreveport.html Bob’s distinctive touring buses are
parked at the rear of the building.
The building is dedicated, as the inscription on its entablature
proclaims, to “THOSE WHO SERVED IN THE [italics mine] WORLD WAR.” The
Slow Train of the next big war would arrive a decade later. John Browns
around the world went off to that war, too.
The podium for the bronze statue of Elvis Presley out front of the
Auditorium bears an inscription reminding us that in October sixty-two
years ago (1954) an announcer for the famous Louisiana Hayride program
broadcast from the building announced: “Ladies and gentleman, you’ve never
heard of this young man before, but one day you’ll be able to tell your
children and grandchildren that you heard musical history made tonight.”
The performer being introduced was Elvis Presley.
Later Johnny Cash, Bob Wills, Hank Williams Sr and a host of other
notables would get their first exposure in this auditorium. In its front
foyer small glassed-in alcove rooms serve as mini-museums exhibiting
artifacts for Presley and Williams and other stars. On the upper level,
balcony sections 204 and 210 have the original seating from 1929 still
intact. We sit there and let our souls hear the ghosts performing. The
upstairs halls have what look to be very, very old linoleum tile flooring,
the material invented by accident and first factory produced at the start
and end of our Civil War—as the wise man said, you cannot make this shit
up. The men’s room there has an original pissoir.
Dylan and band took the stage at 8 sharp. No announcement. And Bob never
introduced the band members. So only the sounds of Bob’s voice and the
instrumentation emanated from the stage. At stage right, right of the
piano and its bench, stood the Oscar statuette for “Things Have Changed”
and (from the Tempest cover, partial image left) what looks like a free
standing copy pf the classical stylized bust of a river goddess from the
Pallas Athene statue grouping outside the Parliament Building in Vienna.
(Note: it is not the goddess Athena herself. She, as a virgin warrior and
city protectress goddess, surmounts a central column pedestal, like the
delicate civil war soldier boy outside the courthouse building in
Bob’s voice was strong. He moved energetically and made the most of
histrionic gestures to emphasize the contents of the songs. Gavin reported
that in Tulsa Bob had clearly been dissatisfied early in the set with how
Tony Garnier was playing and made necessary corrections. The band seemed
in synch tonight throughout as Bob shifted from singing at the mike, to
using the mike on a stand as a prop for solo singing, to the piano where
again his playing seemed forceful and energized, to playing guitar on
“High Water Rising.”
Incredible, Gavin and I agreed, that Bob, with 75 and 1/2 full years
behind him, uses no prompter in singing his amazingly full and complex
lyrics. I am reminded that the etymology of Muse (Greek Mousa) goes back
to the root for memory and mindfulness. The goddess is still working her
magic on this greatest of American songsters and publicly announced Nobel
laureate. He realizes the songs and makes them new.
The set had brown backcurtains and larger and smaller “motion picture set
spotlights,” unobtrusive but seeming right for the covers of the period
masterpieces by Jimmy Oliver, Cy Coleman (aka Seymour Kaufman and Joe A.
McCarthy, Arthur Altman and Jack Lawrence, and Vick R. Knight, Sr. and
The audience was remarkably respectful and attentive, bordering on
reverent. Really there to listen. The best listening experience of any
Dylan concert I have ever attended.
“Things Have Changed” Bob at central standing mike.
“Don’t Think Twice” Bob on piano.
“Highway 61” Bob on Piano.
“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” Bob on piano played with a slight calypso
cha cha feel.
“High Water Rising” Bob on guitar.
“I Could Have Told You” Bob on mike
“Early Roman Kings” Bob on piano Guitar work by Sexton and Kimball
producing a “Mannish Boy” impulse to the whole song.
“Love Sick” Bob on vocals, center stage. Standing holding microphone
stand. Slow delivery, almost like a poem recited. Beautiful delicate
guitar licks by Sexton.
“Tangled Up in Blue” Bob at mike, harp in hand. Then at piano.
ALTERNATIVE LYRICS (corrections gratefully accepted):
….soon to be divorced / helped her out of a jam I guess / but I must have
used the wrong recourse
…breaking up on a dark sad night / somewhere in the wilderness
…we’ll meet again some day / stepping down the avenue
…she put? moved? a picture? pitcher on the stove / and swept away the
dust / you look like someone I used to know she said / someone I used to
trust she opened up a book of poems / and said it to me just so you’ll
know memorize these rhymes / and remember these lines when you’re out
there / moving to and fro
have to get to them somehow /
yesterday’s dead and gone /
tomorrow might as well be now
some of them live on the mountain
some of them down on the ground
some of their names are still the same
some of them have just left town
…we always did feel the same / depending on your point of view
“Lonesome Day Blues” Bob on piano
“Make You feel My Love” Bob on piano
Put your hand in mine / and come with me
“Pay in Blood” Bob on vocals does some conducting with hand gestures
during finishing flourish
“Melancholy Mood” Bob as a crooning songster
“Desolation Row” Bob at piano looking to Donnie Herron at points
standing at piano, a tour de force
“Soon After Midnight” Bob on piano
“All or Nothing at All” Bob at mike
“Long and Wasted Years” Bob belting out lyrics on mike
“Blowing in the Wind” Bob on piano
“Why Try to Change Me Now?”
ERUPTING APPLAUSE at 9:58 PM.
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