New Orleans, Louisiana
Saenger Theatre

April 1, 2024

[Sergi Fabregat]

Review by Sergi Fabregat

New Orleans has been always my genuine favourite city in the US, even
before I ever visited it. I prefer to be in New York or Chicago, 
because the european heritage is more palpable so you don't feel so 
stranged. But, to feel in the deepest possible way, New Orleans is 
the place. Two years ago, 2-3 days sufficed to fall in love with the
city, with the jazz blowin' through the streets, with the least 
american urban planning around Jackson Square, with the river flowing
that gives so much things so much sense, though on an unconscious 
level. I fell in love with the wrought iron balconies/galleries, 
framing your gaze wherever you looked; I fell in love with the 
tramways, with Garden District, even with the pounding heat, that 
burn your brains from the inside out.

Two years later, after bidding farewell to the Mississippi thinking 
that I'd may never set foot there again, at least with my mum, we're
arriving from Memphis, in the exact opposite direction as we did in 
2022. In the morning, we visit the farthest cemeteries at the north;
two of them hit me really strong: Holt Cemetery and specially Cypress
Grove Cemetery. First one is a bit of a potter's field, many unmarked
or reused graves, wooden handmade markings and mostly 
african-american buried there; I'm not sensitive, but the place has a
real eerie feeling, with some live oaks scattered, one of them with a
wooden cross that suggest a burying next to it and a crow saluting us
at our entrance. Cypress Grove is nearby, next to the more famous 
Greenwood Cemetery, but it is such an example of time at work. Some 
rundown mauseoleums, from a chinese one to many french or even one 
that suggested catalan heritage, but the most impressive thing about
it are the niches at the sides: most of them are unmarked and I 
suppose empty, but some of them have still the stone placed, and you
can read the name of the person, the age and the procedence.

What shocked me the most about Cypress Grove is how many of the 
buried in the niches were people in their early thirties, like me, 
and that they had been lying there for about 200 years in some cases,
all that fuelled by the silence of the place, gave me the shivers. I
took pictures of many of those stones and their names, and specially
of some inscriptions engraved in them, one of those expressing so 
eloquently the love of the parents for the son they had lost. It 
pierced me how the words we use today when remembering are not so 
different from those used two centuries ago, neither are the 

With all that in my mind, we went back to the French Quarter, and 
just some hours there were enough to again fall in love with it, the
air was also a bit cooler, and Jackson Square was quite full of 
carefree people. Some 'kids' (on their early twenties I'd say) were 
goofing on the banks of the Mississippi. With the right mood in me, 
sensing it would be an special night, I headed to the Saenger. New 
Orleans was the show I was most happy about those announced in the 
second phase of the tour, as this time I could fulfill the dream of 
seeing Bob there. I had a nice left seat very close to the stage, 
everything was meant to be turned out right.

"Hey! Where are you from?!", a man to my left inquires. "Barcelona!",
I answer with a friendly smile. Usually this answer enhances the 
conversation (not acting proud, I say it's normal it does), yet he is
already so full of himself that he only says something about how he 
has seen Bob "about 150 times" and that as he's from New Orleans this
will likely be his last time meeting the man. "Never say never!", I 
go again friendly. He seems quite OK to be honest, he's with a friend
at his left, and a couple of minutes before showtime he moves one 
seat that is free to his right, so then he's sitting next to me. The
guy has BAD mobility issues, so much that both his friend and me have
to help him to move. Band cames out, and as soon as it's obvious that
Bob is not joining yet, he keeps talking to me, inviting me to a 
place he owns afterwards or something, which I kind of ignore, trying
to focus on what it means the most to me. At one point I remember the
ghost guitar playing and try to guess who's playing what, and then at
one point a plonky three note riff makes your head explode. I look at
the only electric guitar on stage, Bob Britt's, and he's obviously 
not the one playing that, and also he's grinning big time looking at
his left to the backstage. There's not doubt about what's happening 
here: Bob Dylan is playing guitar just a few feet away from us, it's
unmistakable and just the idea is the coolest thing imaginable, I get
my first pump moment of a night that will have plenty of them. I 
notice also that the curtain is lifted up, a ladder is back there 
against a wall, and that the classical intro before the band takes 
the stage is not anymore Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring', but something
different. The guitar stops and Bob Dylan enters the stage. Act 1.

As a man that has seen Bob Dylan "about 150 times" I assume my 
neighbour may be interested in what's going on so I excitedly tell 
him that "Bob is playing guitar backstage!", something that doesn't 
seem to provoke in him the slightiest effect. The show commences, and
I could go on on many deetailz, but let me just say that the first 
half of the New Orleans 2024 show is, I'd say by a mile away (not in
quality itself but in the determination with which I'm saying it), 
the best first half of a show I've ever seen. CRA-ZY stuff, the songs
have a profound power within that turns them into witchy experiences,
creativity of all members on stage feels off the charts, the sound is
so well bodied yet all the instruments clearly audible. 'Multitudes',
which in some shows felt a bit taken for granted, has meaningful 
textures, as for example a way of saying "Anne Frank, Indiana Jones"
and some pauses in the "them British bad boys, the Rolling Stones" 
that are worth any hardship. 'Most Likely' carries on a guitar riff 
and a piano melody inherited from the back-and-forth piano approach 
from Bob in 'River Flow', and 'False Prophet' is a true one of a kind
with, again, a piano ritornello that turns the song into a chant, 
hence 'Masterpiece' is driven more like a voodoo dance than like a 
rumba. I tell, you the stuff dreams are made of.

'Black Rider' gives us a bit of air, though with also an extremely 
powerful wisdom in it, another song that slowly burns towards a human
sacrifice in the aim of getting transformed. Whatever it was going 
on, it was quintessentially 'neworleanesque'. From here on, 
regardless if maybe from another point of view than the one I was in
New Orleans I would still feel that other second halves of the 
concerts have been a tad more meaningful than last night, something 
happened that turned the night into the most intense, wild and 
probably unforgettable ride of my life following Bob.

My dear voisin had been talking here and there and singing along, 
really bad and cranky way, during some lines, but there's one crucial
detail I have not mentioned yet: he was holding this huge cane that 
from time to time he would move up and down to, I assume, make 
himself visible to Bob. In case you have seen the Tarantino's movie 
'Inglourious Basterds', you may remember the big, exaggeratedly sized
smoking pipe that nazi Col. Hans Landa takes out in the first scene 
of the movie. Well, we are talking about this kind of oversized 
object, a truly character building accessory that, to be honest, 
makes to whole thing a bit amusing.

This mister decides that 'Baby Tonight' is the perfect occasion to do
a full sing-along, except he sings each and every line out of tempo,
REALLY out of tempo and with an insufferable voice, which makes for a
perfect occasion to realize how a hell of a singer Bob Dylan and how
amazing is to be in his presence enjoying his craft while the world 
outside keeps spinning in such pathetic ways. The next thinking of my
dear companion is next level stuff: I guess that realizing I'm 
ignoring him, he decides to do something with his hand in front of my
face, like he was trying to catch some child's attention. I can only
exclame a "Come on!", to which he answers an "Excuse me" that makes 
me think, mistakenly, that I'm seated next to a normal human being.

Pissed by my reaction or not, he spends the whole amount of 'My Own 
Version of You' talking with his friend, which strangely pisses me 
off a lot as the approach to the song is more somber and reflective 
than usual but not to the point that I don't enjoy how great of a 
rendition it is. I'm indeed between heaven and hell. 'Crossing the 
Rubicon' is, how it could be otherwise, the pivotal moment of the 
show: our friends keep talking. I had to say that during a previous 
song I already told the crippled guy that "we have to focus" so it 
was already two polite warnings to leave me the f**k alone. They just
talk and talk and, mind you during an spectacular rendition, it comes
the first heavy piano attack by Bob, and I lose my mind. I get up, 
jump, cheer their energy, channel it and, while going back to my 
seat, I fold my hands and pray: "Can you please STOP talking?!". It's
an angry request, a pissed off command better put, so even with how 
really annoying they were and how right I was to make them shut up, I
get that it can trigger someone's balls, but what followed was truly

I sit down, still nervous about the whole situation, and the cane guy
grabs my arm and quietly says this: "You've f***ed it up, man. You 
don't know who I am. You're not leaving New Orleans." He went along 
with similar stuff for a couple of minutes to my complete bemuse, 
first suspecting he was heavily bluffing but then being overcome by 
my inner sense of self-protection, cowardness and, specially, the 
'what if' doctrine that usually it's something so double sided. I 
won't go on about the innumerable scenarios that keep popping in my 
mind during the rest of 'Rubicon' and a crazy 'To Be Alone With You'
that sees me cheering like a man on a mission the "I'll hound you to
death" and "I know you're alive" lines, stupidly carefree and 
realising that my biggest worry is that, in case it's true I'm not 
leaving New Orleans, I'll enjoy the last Bob Dylan show of my life.

I kind of give a look to the friend and he's quite undecipherable, I
don't know if his eyes are also threatening or not. They are not 
scary looking guys 'per se', and as I say the cane boss is heavily 
disabled, but we all know that these people do not take care of the 
garbage themselves. Out of selfishness because I start to feel that 
if the status quo stays the same the arguably best concert of my 
rough and rowdy life will go down the gutter I offer my hand to the 
cane guy and apologise for "being rude". He says again that I've 
f***d up badly and that I'm not leaving NOLA but that since I 
apologised it's OK but that I have to come with them after the show 
to that place they invited me before. I let him know I'm not alone in
the city, which seems to take him by surprise. Mind you, all this 
thing is of course during the show and the craziest part of it all is
how not only it did not deter me from enjoying the show but it 
enhanced the experience to an insane degree, I was feeling so much, 
sweating, cheering, grooving, an intensity very few times felt 

As Moses, his fate was sealed because of a cane. The idiot kept 
waving the cane heavily, and an usher, a black woman, came to tell 
him to stop. "You stop, you move", he said to her pointing his finger
at her, "you don't know who I am". I guess a 'younger' foreign guy 
and then a black woman scolding him was too much for our macho mob 
boss. A bit later, she cames again, with a similar outcome. 'Gotta 
Serve Somebody' is performed in an incredibly crude and stripped 
fashion that gives it pure rocky groove and feels like my mind is 
trying to break up. The guy grabs my arm again during the "you may be
on a run, you may be on the borderline" lines, which is a bit 
worrying again. 'Made Up My Mind' is beautifully performed, specially
the last part of the song is Bob channeling his voice within him, the
man's, not the performer's.

Then it all happens so quickly. A violin warns us something is about
to happen, that can't be 'Big River'. The whole thing is utmost 
beautiful, is like time travelling, I only catch words here and 
there, but I do catch one verse in full:

Then one day, a man put his hand on my arm
And said I must go west again
I left her alone without saying goodbye
On the banks of the old Pontchartrain

Many lyrics last night hit me pretty hard with the whole cane-gate 
going on, but that one, figuring by myself what the words were, sung
for the first time live by Bob Dylan, that was something, because 
that was the plan: leaving without saying goodbye. I can't wait to 
hear it again, but in a way I feel it will never be that special to 
me as in New Orleans. It puzzles me how much the cover blends into 
'Mother of Muses', to the extent that I think they're still playing 
the Hank Williams song, and those two songs merging is such a 
beautiful way of expression the magical currents running below all 
the music.

It happened so quickly, so quick by surprise, right there in front of
everyone's eyes (including Bob Dylan's!): my right eye is looking on
Bob goodbying Jimmy Reed, while my left eye realizes four police 
officers are in front of me. "Sir, you need to come with us", they 
told my caned-armed friend. He seems truly surprised. I fold my hands
again to the officers and utter the most heartfelt "THANK YOU" of my
life. Bob is killing 'Jimmy Reed', it is trance-inducing, I sense 
while I try to relish on both situations at the same time. The guy 
has REALLY BAD problems to stand up, and for the first time in my 
life I enjoy seeing a disabled person suffering, I must confess. The
officers don't help him, the only one lending him a hand is his 
'friend', which I enjoy even more. Both Bob and I wave goodbye at the
same time, I yell a "x FINALLY" at the guy, and a smirky "bye bye" 
while he's taken out. I stretch my legs, put my left arm where this 
sorry old man, this pathetic thug was seating and I lose myself 
within the music, thinking about something he said at the beginning:
that this most likely would be his last Bob Dylan concert. I'm not 
ashamed to say that I truly hope it was, that his last memory of Bob
Dylan, who he told me saw for the first time in 1986, is him being 
kicked out for disturbing everyone's experience and for f***ing 
threatening my life.

'Every Grain of Sand' featured two outstanding instants: the middle 
harp solo was really shining, but then Bob took a turn in the rhythm
and the whole thing suddenly rose above the reality of men and 
entered into the realm of the eternal questions, the mysteries of our
deepest selfs. And then, while ending the last line, he pierced the 
last "grain of sand" in an unfathomable way, he made it sound 100% 
musical, and I was there, alive, to spread the word, as I could swear
he gave me a couple of affirmative looks during those last compasses
of his concert.

I rushed to the stage, still shaking and sweating about the 
undoubtedly roughest and rowdiest show ever experienced, a degree of
intensity that just kept rising and rising, fever pitch. While I was
cheering all that was flowing at the same time, I sensed a quick look
by Bob, and then, for the first time in my life, I was positive that
I needed a drink, something strong to distract my mind. In the end, 
it could've been my funeral his trial.

To cap it off, I want to share the last paragraph I've written on my
twitter recollection of the night, I think it sums it up quite well 
how it all feels:
New Orleans was rough, was rowdy, was exactly as it was meant to be,
unforgettable, swampy and magical.
So I also like a lot of places, but I like New Orleans better, though
now my head has a price back there.


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