Allentown, Pennsylvania

Coca-Cola Park

July 14, 2009

[Stephen Trageser], [Howard Weiner], [Matthew Jacobson]

Review by Stephen Trageser

So far this summer, the weather in this part of the country has been mild,
with low humidity. Last night was no exception, with only a few clouds,
and thank God, no rain. 

Coca-Cola Stadium is only in its second year of existence, and is home to
the Philadelphia Phillies’ AAA farm team, the Iron Pigs (a jargon term
tied to the Allentown/Bethlehem area’s mill-town heritage.)   Although
structurally much like any modern minor league park, it is easily
accessible to major highways, and within a 1 to 2 hour drive from perhaps
20 million people. Luckily, most of them stayed home to watch the All-Star
Game (ha-ha), but the show was sold out, nevertheless. 

The Wiyos were the first band, an appropriate warm-up act for what was to
follow. Unlike the working conditions for support acts in the bad old days
of ‘70s arenarock, the sound was crisp and cranked up. 

Next was Willie, who did his predictable collection of favorites. I never
tire of it, but a lot of Dylan people don’t agree. Tough. I consider it
a thrill that I saw “The Bus” roll in before the show. By the way, if
he wasn’t on such a tight schedule, Willie could’ve taken
“Trigger” to the nearby Martin guitar factory to see about getting
that hole fixed!   (I strongly recommend a visit to anyone who loves
music. Something beautiful actually made in America – go figure.) 

Next came John Mellencamp. Another guy people love to hate. Maybe it’s
the haircut. My opinion has changed over the years. First saw him nearly
30 years ago as “John Cougar” opening for the Kinks (aaah!) and
thought he was gay (in both the “not that there’s anything wrong
with…” and the post-modern-Jon Stewart-type-disparagment ways.) Maybe
it was the clothes he wore back then (really loud colors.)  Had a great
band, but the songs (a Pat Benatar cover? Please. Oh, he wrote that!)
weren’t so hot.   Now he has a really great band, and has written
songs that in my opinion, rank right up with those of “The Boss” (and
I mean no disrespect to either of them when I say that their best are
still not in Bob Dylan’s league. Great rock songs, but hey!)
Mellencamp’s newer songs are interesting, but focused on death, so they
probably won’t turn up Chevy commercials, what with the recent
restructuring and all. Love his band, and the song arrangements with
accordion, fiddle, guitars and crack rhythm section. Their very tight
playing is a nice contrast to the looseness of Willie’s and the ups and
downs of Bob’s. Not a clinker in the set, it builds to a knockout
combination finale of Crumblin’ Down and Authority Song. 

Waiting for Bob, as daylight fades, I was reminded of being a kid at the
drive-in movies, waiting for it to be dark enough for the show to begin,
and thinking that it was just taking forever. Then lights out, cue theme
music, spoken intro, but instead of a movie, off we go on the Bob Dylan
Rollercoaster Ride©. A bumpy start is what I’m used to, with dips
aplenty, and the start of this show follows form. Bob begins with electric
guitar on Pill-Box Hat, that you could actually hear him playing. Neat.
The Voice, froggy as all get out, not-so-neat. Next song is Don’t Think
Twice, and it sounds like 2 parts Tom Waits plus one part Levi Stubbs.
About this time, I’m imagining a wife in the seats attending a Bob Dylan
concert for the first time saying to her husband “This guy’s a fraud,
Walter, let’s go home.”   Hopefully, Walter tells her “ We ain’t
leaving, not until we get our $67.50 per ticket’s worth.”   And he
will, or should, because it did get much, much better and soon. Rollin’
and Tumblin’ started the come back. Bob is now on keyboard, and yes, on
this tour you can hear it distinctly. He played what I think are
‘vamps’ on Spirit On The Water; a nice touch, and clearly heard, no
matter what they’re called. About this time he also settled into a
better voice that was clearer and not so rough, that he kept up for the
rest of the show. Next came Tweedle Dee which is always a good showcase
for the band. An okay version of Workingman’s Blues followed, but my
preference is for the faster, rocking, numbers like Honest With Me which
was next. Great performance, although people in my area in front of the
stage were distracted by some poor soul’s medical emergency, that
thankfully seemed to get quick response from the medics on hand. Hope he
or she is okay. By the way my overall impression of the crowd – out to
enjoy the show, but respectful of others. (And remarkably, considering my
luck, and that I changed viewing positions at several points, I didn’t
encounter even one overbearing loudmouth expounding about every concert
he’s ever been to in a can–you-top-this fashion.) 

The new If You Ever Go To Houston, was a treat for me to hear live for the
first time, but Highway 61, as usual, kicked major league ass. Suffice to
say that Ain’t Talkin ain’t one of my favorites, but Thunder On The
Mountain more than lived up to its name, with lots of dancing in the
crowd.   The encore I graded   LARS: B , Jolene: A and Watchtower: A. 

As someone remarked a few shows ago, Jolene has much more jump performed
live. It seems destined to be a show staple, hopefully for years to come.
And may I never become so jaded that I don’t enjoy hearing Watchtower
close a show.   One of the things that keeps me coming back is that Dylan
has the balls to take risks. Some things work, others don’t, but he’s
not as predictable as many artists are content to be. True, we get a lot
of the same songs from show to show, but he mixes it up as much as anyone
else out there. Quality may vary, but he can’t be accused of taking the
path of least resistance, staying within, but not pushing, his limits, or
worst of all, being uninteresting. God bless him. 

Stephen Trageser 


Review by Howard Weiner

Reading David Foster Wallace’s Consider The Lobster as I sipped
Australian white wine from a paper cup at a table for one, I was oblivious
to the stressed commuters pouring into the into the Port Authority at
9:15. I glanced up at the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings. The
senate was grilling her, she had a pained expression. Feeling extremely
content and anticipating adventure, I headed for terminal 69,destination:
Allentown - off to see Bob Dylan and his Cowboy Band. The white wine I had
for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I grabbed one more mini bottle for dessert.
  It was a gorgeous day and my Greyhound journey flowed smoothly until we
were abut ten miles from Easton, Pennsylvania, home to former Heavyweight
Champ, Larry Holmes. A shadowy character in a pork pie hat, dark clothing
and sunglasses, grabbed his large duffel bag and moved to the back of the
bus. Talking to himself , he began spraying aerosol cans that released
vile odors. Strange got stranger. Around the time we reached Easton, two
pretty girls, exchange students from Romania on their way to Harrisburg,
struck up a friendly conversation with me, asking me 99 questions about
America. I suggested that if they rally wanted to learn about America,
they should join me and see Willie, Mellencamp, and Dylan at Coca Cola
Ballpark. Alas, they had never heard of baseball or Dylan. Allentown was
just minutes away, but I was stuck in the middle of madness. I had two
Romanian angels in front of me and a hallucinating hell cat behind me on
the verge of passing out from inhaling mystery fumes. Ain’t that America?
I bought a ticket for the sold out concert at the box office for $73. A
reliable source informed me that David Bromberg and his Angel Band were
seen entering Coca Cola Park as spectators. Willie had just taken the
stage as I joined the festivities. Willie did his thang, briskly unloading
his greatest hits and paying homage to Hank Williams with a medley that
included Jambalaya, Hey Good Lookin’ and Move It On Over. My favorite
tune from the Willie set was Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.   Last Minor
League Ballpark tour, I didn’t fully soak in how lucky I was to be on a
baseball diamond for the Bob Dylan Show. Coca Cola Park was a glorious
vision. The infield was barricaded, but I got as close as possible to home
plate and wondered if I could still rip one down the line and clear the
left field fence, 336 feey away, or if I’d launch one straight up, about
250 feet away, a can of corn for the centerfielder who would be positioned
where the stage was. I squatted in the visitor’s dugout by myself for
ten minutes before I was evicted by a stunned yet pleasant security guard.
We bonded over some Minor League chatter. I was pleased to learn that
Shelly Duncan had a great first half for the Yankee’s triple affiliate
in Scranton. Shelly at the All-Star break: 22 Dingers 68 RBIs.   JC
Mellencamp followed Willie in the line-up. The locals dug his groove, but
JCM is too Plain Jane for my taste - a poor man’s Tom Petty. I enjoyed a
chicken taco and a couple two, three more beers. Everybody in Coca Cola
Park seemed to be in great spirits as the sun set over the Lehigh Valley.
  At 9:15 PM the lights went out. Standing next to the barricade by the
side of the stage, I saw security lead the Cowboy Band across the neatly
manicured outfield grass to the stage. Shuffling behind them like a toy
soldier was Bob Dylan - red striped black pants, black coat with silver
buttons, red tie and black hat. I scurried closer to the left side of the
stage. From my vantage point, I could only see Dylan. He looked like the
Jack of Hearts standing there with his electric guitar singing Leopard
Skin Pillbox Hat. A phenomenal version of Don’t Think Twice with three
solid guitar solos followed. This was the best Dylan has sounded on guitar
since the late ‘90s and the Maestro’s voice was a rumbling force to be
reckoned with. The music thundered and a subtle echo added ambiance to
Dylan’s voice, or was my mind just playing tricks on me?   The Cowboy
Band blazed through Rolled and Tumbled kicking off a slew of successive
songs featuring Dylan’s latest and greatest. Spirit on the Water worked
in the clean-up spot and Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum ripped on its heels. By
this time, I was prancing on the dirt in foul territory by between home
and first. Children and parents were dancing by their picnic blankets.
Tweedle might be Dylan’s most underrated song and it was proceeded by
the crème de la crème, Working Man’s Blues #2. Dylan voice was pesky
and poignant - a tip of the hat to the industrious laborers of Allentown,
a city that’s seen better days. Sensational Performance. ‘Nuff said.
  After stranding us in the city that never sleeps with women who give us
the creeps, Dylan warned us about travel to Houston. Dylan then led the
charge down Highway 61, firing up His band and His crowd. Serving up
“hog-eyed grease in a hog eyed town” Ain’t Talkin’ mystified.
Masterpiece after Masterpiece, Dylan never had to retreat to his past as
the most important musical figure of the 20th Century, because he’s the
king in Modern Times. Even for a legend like Willie Nelson, opening for
Bob’s gotta be a humbling experience.   The effusive praise continues.
Thunder on the Mountain was crazed - each jam long and adventurous, each
delectable syllable crooned with meaningful inflection. Like a Rolling
Stone was encore #1. Bob proclaimed he’s the king during a maximum
impact Jolene - hotter than the studio track. Watchtower closed the night
out in deafening fashion. The crowd went berserk, relishing the
maestro’s mojo and begging for more, but Bob gave it all he had. I
departed the same way I came, by foot, a two mile walk down the lonesome
Airport Road listening to Planet Waves on my CD walkman. I retired to room
216 at the Red Roof Inn, but didn’t get much sleep. I had a restless
fever burning in my brain.  

Howard Weiner


Review by Matthew Jacobson

I was at the Allentown show the other day and I must say it was an
exceptional experiance.  This was my 16th time seeing Dylan, my wifes 
3rd, and my 8 month old sons first.

I entered the venue and walked all the way to the left where there were
picnic tables, and we werer able to wheel the stroler and claim one as

The Wiyos started a fun and enjoyable happy go lucky evening.

Willie Nelson rocked, and I got great video footage from my phone of my
son rocking out.

John Mellencamp came on and the crowd erupted.

His blue collar songs were perfect for this blue collar community.

My son and I decided to go down onto the field of this sold out minor
league ballpark.

We sat on the tarp near the beer stand and danced for a few minutes and
then made our way through the crowd when the song blood on the 
scarecrow erupted.

I held my son tight and danced with him as we walked through legions of
rocking fans.

This show had a very friendly laid back atmosphere, almost like a dead
show.  The Baby was very laid back, mellow and enjoyed the motley 
crue of an audiance.

Many people smiled at, began to talk to and even took pictures of a baby
at a rock concert wearing a tie dyed onesie.

My son and I then proceeded to make our way past the dugouts and entire
stadium several times waving at hundreads of adoring fans.

I was amazed at home much joy a  baby brought to the fans enjoying this
great show.

After the Mellencamp set we all went down to the field, where during the
setbreak Elijah drew dozens of smiles from passerbys, and at one time
even had a crowd of half a dozen people stoped.

As for Dylans setlist every song besides the opening 2 and Highway 61
and the encore were from the past 10 years, but only 2 were from the 
new album.

A lot of these songs were sporting new versions and I had diffuculty
reconizing a rockin Rollin & Tumblin.

By the time Jolene rolled around I was in the parking lot, as the baby
was exhausted from his night at a rock concert.

Great Atmosphere, Great Show and a Great Time for a Babys first concert. 


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