Lakewood, New Jersey

FirstEnergy Park

July 23, 2009

[Stephen Goldberg], [Jim Rawbylaw], [Craig Stolow], [Howard Weiner], [Anton Tibbe]

Review by Stephen Goldberg

After 4 miserable hours of driving in the rain we made it to First  
Energy Park and decided to wait out the rain during Willie's set. The  
rain abated into a light drizzle and fine mist so we headed on in for  
Mellencamp.  Mellencamp essentially played the same set as at Bethel, with  
the same between song patter. He was extremely loud, which had people  
crowding into the Lakewood BlueClaws gift shop for a little sonic  
relief. A fun set as always. After the set we wandered over to an area  
overlooking Bob's tour buses, and saw the band tumble out of a bus  
into a white van which then drove them the few hundred fet to the  
stage. The band and Bob emerged, resplendent in white hat, and bounded  
up the stairs to the stage. The sound was not as loud or as punishing  
as for Mellencamp, Bob's voice and organ way up in the mix. Again,  
Bob's voice was clear, anyone who says they couldn't understand a  
word, and believe me there were plenty of those judging by the folks  
making the early exodus, weren't even paying attention. Lucky for us,  
he only repeated 6 songs from Bethel, so we were treated to 16  
different songs over two nights. Not bad, anyone want to name an  
artists who can match that  Highlights, once again were the slower  
tunes, Workingman's Blues and an awe inspiring Ain't Talking, sung  
with the utmost care and wonderful instrumental backing. If Bob ever  
puts out  live album again, tonights performance of Aint Talking  
should be on th short list. What would a rainy night be without Hard  
Rain  Another great performance with outstanding vocals. No upsinging  
or barking tonight, though he came close on occassion. It was amusing  
watching the crowd on the way out. Two comments, better make that  
complaints,one from each sex, being shouted into cellphones for the  
whole world to hear: "He has a 1000 songs to choose from but  he  
didn't plat anything I knew for the first twenty minutes", and "I  
didn't recognize one fuckin' song!!!!!" Really  Didn't know or  
recognize Girl From The North Country, Rolling Stone, Watchtower, 
Hard Rain, Highway 61    Where have you been my blue eyed son  
Maybe Tweeter really was just a Jersey girl. Now for the next best part 
of the night. Leaving New Jersey and making it home in an hour and a 


Review by Jim Rawbylaw

14 songs and you got more than your money's worth.  Amazing how much
landscape Dylan was able to traverse with what would be, an unacceptable short
show from most anyone else.   A couple of standouts, Workingman Blues #2 - I've
never cared for the recorded version, too stilted, an over formal recital.  But,
last night, Dylan's vocal rendition was very moving.  It alternated between
melancholy, yet not overwrought and determind, but not obstinate.  Sometime
alternating between the two within the same line.   And timing!!  It was a
special treat, due to the way the stage was setup in the outfield, the way the
sound would echo off the grandstand behind homeplate. Standing slightly midway
between the two, you could hear Dylan's voice echoing off the granstand yeilding
the effect of emphasizing the end of each line. Especially on the slower,
quieter songs, such as Workingman, where it really was pronouced, to the
point, that it appeared Dylan was aware of it and was incorporating it into his
delivery to great dramatic effect, truly amazing to witness.  Lonesome Day was a
steamshovel monster. Girl of the North Country wonderful.  Chimes, a
mid-tempo unbeat version, with Dylan making short work of all those
words fitting within the bar.  Even Honest With Me and Tweedle Dee were
enjoyable versions, each with refreshing updated musical motifs.   By the time
Ain't Talking was played, Dylan had the echo off the grandstand working like a
high mountain marauder.   Dylan's organ playing, and harp while standing at
the organ playing was melodic and inventive, incorporating repetition 
judiciously, tastefully.  This was most evident for the encores, solid organ 
playing on LARS and Watchtower.   Very glad we withstood the weather
and went.  One last little Dylan moment:  The folks near the stage were still
cheering for another encore, but Dylan was already walking along the outfield
warning track towards the tour bus parked in the rightfield corner. The GA
standing area was fenced in around centerfield some 150' from where Dylan was
slowly ambling. The house and outfield lights went up and a good portion of the
crowd recognized the figure in the cowboy hat carrying a cool-off towel making
his sure footed way through the muddy track dirt towards the bus. The crowd
gathered along the fence to cheer Bob for the remaing of his 40 someyard trek to
the bus.  The crowd grew louder, and Dylan walked methodically right up until
the very end till, to just when he approached the back of the tour bus, with a
quick glance back toward  the centerfield crowd, gave the towel he was
carrying one causal twirl and then disappeared. The man is too cool for words.


Comments by Craig Stolow

I won't bore the crowd.

Been to more than 50 shows since 1975.  Through the ups, down, and in-betweens.
I was hopeful, even in the rain.  Lakewood, a Hasidic Jewish Community - Bob had a 
couple of days to settle in and re-connect.  Rain - Bob always seems to give out more
in inclement weather.  When he walked out, lavender/purple sportcoat, white brimmed
hat a la Rolling Thunder.

All I can say is this is Supper Club Revisited - rediscovered his passion for 

Enjoy all those who catch him for the rest of the tour.


Review by Howard Weiner

to sleep at 4 AM on July 23 2009, I decided to officially count all the Dylan
shows Iíve seen. I discovered that later that night would be my 98th Dylan
show.† ††††††††††† I met my friend Stan, The Village Beast, at the
Blarney Stone by Grand Central. We hopped into his Infinity, put on the
Bluesville station and cracked open a couple of frosty ones. The rain kicked in
as we headed West cross town and through the Lincoln Tunnel. This took a while,
but everything about this day was timeless. ††††††††††† I loaded a
Dylan show from Memphis 2006 into the CD player and the Village Beast sparked a
bone. We were on the road again, slicing through the swamps and industrial
wastelands of the Garden State. The precipitation escalated from a pesky drizzle
to a hardcore pour. We were prepared for a monsoon and prayed for a Hard Rain.
††††††††††† By the time we reached Lakewood, the parking lots were
filled and shuttle buses were offered from distant lots. This didnít fit into
our plans, so we improvised a parking lot behind the business complex across the
ball yard. Stan produced two yellow rain coats from his trunk. I grabbed the
sleek looking Puma jacket, leaving Stan with a dirty mangy jacket, a suitable
look for a Village Beast. In the near distance, we heard Mellencamp on stage,
but we opted to stay in our makeshift lot and dance in the rain to Slow Train
and other Dylan sermons. ††††††† Fifteen minutes before Dylan and His
Band took the centerfield stage, we entered First Energy Ballpark, home of the
Blue Claws. With the rain tailing off, the Cowboy Band strutted out in black
leather suits with matching black cowboy hats. But Dylan was the one with all
the beautiful clothes. He appeared center stage in a dazzling lavender suit with
a white top hat featuring a rather large brim. He looked like The Joker, as
played by Cesar Romero. Bob was crackling with fidgety energy, a tell tale sign
that we were in for a whopping good time. The outfield was muddy, and you know
how the Maestro loves to play in the slop. ††††††††††† Dylan belted
out a rugged rendition of ďWatching the River Flow,Ē immediately separating
himself from preconceived expectations of those who never seen him before,
although the crowd loved it. They adored Girl From the North Country even more -
a delightful surprise. Dylan loped into a lengthy version of Lonesome Day Blues.
My focus was distracted by an striking Jersey girl who was attracted to me. She
began rubbing, hugging and kissing me as Dylan broke into Chimes of Freedom. I
managed to enjoy both situations, but Chimes was the object of my desire.
††††††††††† Full attention was back on Dylan as he whipped up another
raucous Tweedle Dee in the fifth spot. I cut a rug with the Village Beast on the
right field grass, where the Blue Claws roam (local Minor League team). Then,
Dylan summoned A Hard Rainsí A Gonna Fall. Sweet destiny! The lavender bard
howled out the mystical words against a funky arrangement - all old things
become new again. Everything made sense. I couldnít ask for more.
††††††††††† Honest With Me sizzled before we all sang a little bit of
the Workingman Blues with Bob. A monster of a ballad, Workingman Blues #2
mutates in majesty each time Dylan performs it. †Luckily, itís been my fate
to catch this of late. In between the visceral and tender crooning of verses,
Dylan breathed a fiery harp solo, and closed it out with another. The band
smoked, but this was a one-man show. Bob would grind his organ for most of the
solos down the stretch. Amazed by Dylanís voice on Workingmanís Blues, Stan
placed his arm on my shoulder and said, ďHey Howie, I didnít realize we were
seeing Pavarotti tonight.Ē ††††††††††† Just like Iíd seen it go
down in Allentown, Dylan closed the bash out swinging: Highway 61 Revisited,
Ainít Talkiní, Thunder on the Mountain. Dylan boogie-woogied on the organ
American Bandstand style. Restless and animated, Dylan offered up amusing
gestures. Every now and then he swatted at his ear like he was trying to
eradicate an elusive mosquito. After plunking the final chord of Thunder, Dylan
turned his outstretched arms towards the skies, palms out, and looked out into
the crowd. How good am I? The master of illusion made all our worries disappear.
Satisfaction lingered in the air over Blue Claw field. The encores were solid.
The band sounded as porous as ever during a lengthy Rolling Stone instrumental
interlude. ††††††††††† We stayed in the moment as long as possible
shuffling around in back of Stanís car while digging on Dylanís new CD. Joey
D, a bulky Jersey type of guy, joined us for a brew and a jig. His befuddled
date watched in horror. I turned it up a notch by popping in a Jerry Garcia Band
disc from the Roseland Theatre circa 1983. We were electrified for another hour.
The fourth part of the day was almost gone - the red cooler was emptied and Joey
D and his terrified date split. I headed to Wo Hop with the Village Beast. After
a ninety minute drive, Stan eased his black Infinity into a narrow spot by a
stack of garbage bags on Mott Street. The car clock said 3 AM. At 3:06, we were
scoffing down spare ribs, pork dumplings, steak har kew, and chicken ding with
almonds. Howard Weiner †


Review by Anton Tibbe

"Dylan had the echo off the grandstand working like a high mountain marauder." 
I want to stop and acknowledge this line from Jim R's review above.  It captures
the essence of what makes it such a unique experience to be at these ballpark
shows, standing in the outfield in front of the stage, immersed in a special
sort of Surround Sound.  Well done sir. But that's the middle of the story.  Not
that the beginning had much to recommend it.  Thanks to the long drive,
miserable rain, traffic & equally wretched parking situation around First Energy
Park, we missed Willie Nelson's opening stint.  We made it to the stadium in
time for a rousing 70-minute set from John Mellencamp & band.  With the rain
continuing to fall in the deepening twilight, we watched the show from the
walkway above the grandstand seats; everything seemed too wet for us to venture
any further into the ballpark. Last time we saw a Mellencamp show, on the 2005
co-headlining tour with John Fogerty, the violin & keys/accordion dominated the
sound, an interesting approach that ultimately seemed to take the edge off most
of the songs.  This time the guitars were back up in the mix, giving the
performance a lot more bite, with the violin and accordion still prominent
enough to add that heartland-music atmosphere.  Mellencamp was in excellent
voice, Andy York dropped well-constructed guitar lines in all the right places
while Miriam Sturm wailed on her violin.  It was too soggy for me to keep a set
list but there were particularly fine renditions of Paper In Fire, Rain On The
Scarecrow, Check It Out, Crumbliní Down, an acoustic Small Town, Authority
Song, and Donít Need This Body, a sobering, haunting new tune about being
"almost done with this body."  He put anyone who might remember his heart
attack, or have had their own reminders of mortality, in touch with some raw
emotions for a few minutes there. Mellencamp's game isn't always subtle.  He has
a gift for the big, obvious, memorable musical hook, and he's made the most of
that.  He's also very smart about choosing the people he tours with.  He puts
all he's got into every performance.  He's earned a lot of respect in my book.
I'd grabbed a vile hot dog towards the end of the set, had to have something to
renew my strength for the upcoming slog to the outfield for Mister Dylan.  We
made our way down the grandstand aisle, hopped over a big mud puddle & walked
out to left field, where'd they'd covered the ground with thick rubbery mats
that made getting around out there vaguely like walking on a waterbed. The
lights went down and the familiar Copland strains came up.  My brain immediately
went into overdrive, neurons I didn't know I had started firing.  What is it
about the anticipatory moments of a Dylan show that always zaps you with a dose
of instant karma?  Is it the unmatchable resonance that he brings to the stage? 
Is it not knowing which songs you're going to hear?  If you follow the tour
setlists on line, you know that certain songs will pop up in certain slots, and
you also know that it's impossible to predict exactly how the band is going to
get there. When they lights came up, we saw that Dylan was decked out in the
familiar black hat, a natty lavender coat, white shirt & the usual
single-gray-stripe-on-black bellhop pants.  He strapped on his electric guitar. 
Holding it just shy of vertical, he showed us that he's still got some chops
with Watching The River Flow. They went into Girl Of The North Country.  Dylan
sang the first verse in a bit of a slur as "If you're traveling to the north
country fair, with the wind.... on the border...."  You immediately wonder why
he's done this.  Was it a deliberate lyrical change?  Did he forget the words? 
Was he simply preoccupied with something technical early in the show?  Whatever
it was, he sang the familiar full lyric loud and strong in the repeated verse at
the end of the song. That was all we'd hear from Bob's guitar.  When he moved to
the organ on Lonesome Day Blues, it was clearly higher in the mix than on the
previous tours I've seen, you could hear him pumping out every chord.  To my
ears the band had a great sound, like some undiscovered group you might stumble
upon in an Appalachian roadhouse somewhere, except with one of America's great
songwriters and most distinctive voices at the helm. You run across a number of
reviews that long for the days when Larry Campbell was in the band and the
guitarists took more solos.  Those days are gone; Dylan has taken the band in a
direction where the guitars are much more restrained.  Does he want the focus to
be on Garnier and Recile?  Visually they're at the center of the stage set. 
Their bass & drum work is so tight, so skilled, that it's easy to get lost in
their playing until snap! suddenly a whole song has gone by.  Maybe itís just
another Dylan scheme to turn the notion of a conventional rock show on its head.
Regardless, the effect of Dylan's current approach is to put the song itself at
center stage; each one seems to float there, conjured into being by this deft
backroads band.  On those few songs when Dylan takes the center mike, he's
simply allowing the entity that's there to inhabit him and speak through his
voice.  That echo off the grandstand seemed to envelop us in the songs more and
more as the evening progressed, enhancing the spooky-medicine-show atmosphere
that always seems to hover over Dylanís act these days. Back to the show:
Tweedle Dee was sharp and rocking, propelled by Kimball's & Freeman's precise
guitar work.  Somewhere early in the set the rain had finally abated, which
added a little touch of irony to Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall.  Honest With Me has a
new minor-key arrangement and a hard edge that added a dark dimension to the
song; it was a highlight of the night.  Workingman's Blues was elegant and
elegiac, driven by a gorgeous acoustic guitar chords from Stu Kimball.  Highway
61 rocked hard, as usual. Ainít Talkiní, for me, was the next highlight; I
think the song is one of Dylanís recent masterpieces and always find the live
performance spellbinding.  Clearly a large chunk of the crowd disagreed, since
they took the song as their cue to leave the outfield and exit the stadium. 
Everybody brings something different to a Dylan show and takes something
different away. Thunder On The Mountain, always rousing, and the three encore
songs showed up in their usual slots.  Jolene works very well in the end
sequence; itís nice to hear a song from the new album at that point in the
show. Maybe it was my waterlogged ears at that point, but Watchtower seems to
have a choppier, more angular feel this year that echoes The Clash as much as
Hendrix.  Maybe Iím nuts.  In any event I enjoyed this rendition of that
familiar song much more than Iíd expected.  I think theyíre continuing to
reinvent it. Iíd carried my waterproof binoculars out onto the field, and I
can testify that Dylan was having a great time with this show, flashing little
grins all night.  Iím not talking about the smile-like grimace that he
frequently uses to squeeze the right tone from a word at lineís end, Iím
talking about actual grins.  The manís done 47 shows this year before 
Lakewood, has another 24 on the calendar so far, and heís having a blast. 
Whatever magic heís found to drive him at this point in his life, itís
potent.  Itís an inspiration. I hate to return to mundane details after such
an experience.  Walking out of the ballpark gates into a dimly lit parking lot
and more rain was very disorienting.  There were no busses visible where weíd
been dropped off.  We sought out the staff; most of them had no idea where the
pickup site was and the few who did seemed incapable of explaining how to get
there.  We eventually found the bus queue by following a few people who seemed
to be walking purposefully somewhere.  It took us 45 minutes to get back to the
car.  You have to suffer for art, even when youíre just a spectator.


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