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flag US - California - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 17 - 03/13/98

Bob Dylan
Live at the Garde Arts Center, January 14th 1998

I have seen plenty of Bob Dylan. Too much, I used to think. But the critical and commercial success of Dylan's Time Out of Mind (from now: TOOM) seems to have inspired him to (again) put all his energy into performing. The January 14th Dylan show in New London, Ct., was the cleanest, tightest Dylan show that I have ever had the pleasure of attending. However, the incredible performance was marred by an extraordinarily lame crowd, which made this one of the most frustrating show I have ever been to. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that tickets to this concert never went on sale to the public. They were, except for the mail order tickets, for Garde Center subscribers and supporters. "Uh Oh", said I! Most of the people there looked like they had gotten lost on the way to the Opera. So already, I was not really that excited about this show.

But then Bob and the band took the stage. They launched into a tight Absolutely Sweet Marie. The sound was excellent for this show. Dylan's lyrics were SO CLEAR throughout the evening. For the second song, Dylan surprised me with one of my favorite TOOM tunes, Not Dark Yet. Unlike on the recent club tour, the lyrics were as clear or perhaps even clearer than on the album. The play was exceptionally tight. It seemed very well rehearsed. Next was one of the highlights of the show for me: Cold Irons Bound. I really am not even that big a fan of this tune, but this version was exceptional. Nice guitar work, very solid singing. Dylan said a pretty clear "Thanks Everybody!" after it. Well, it was sort of clear. In the pause before I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, some fan yelled "You're the greatest, Bob!" At that moment, I really agreed with him. Here he is, so long after so many people wrote him off, playing some of the best music of his career! Its just great to see. Anyway, I'll Be You're Baby Tonight was good. There was a nice lyrical change. I don't remember how it went exactly, but it was something like: "Tonight I'm going to make it last ALL night". That's not right, but; trust me - it was cool! And unlike Love Minus Zero/No Limit, this tune didn't really conflict thematically with the rest of the show. The next song was also from TOOM: Can't Wait. What can I say? This was excellent. There was one verse that just gave me shivers:

If I ever saw you comin', I don't know what I might do
I'd like to think I could control myself, But it isn't true
That's how it is, When things disintegrate

So blunt, so harsh, so bitter. If you've been there, you know. Now at this point I was just psyched. But the crowd just SUCKED. No one, except for the lucky souls in the orchestra pit, was even standing. Even though there were people there who knew Dylan (the new songs would get a cheer at the first line) most didn't. My resentment of these people was building. I mean, its not like you should only go to a Dylan show ONLY if you are huge fan, but you should at least get into it. These people were sitting like statues. Most were 40-50 year old "support the arts" types. I'm sure they were nice people; but they really pissed me off. These were the fans (if they ever were fans) they stopped listening to him long ago. I don't go to classical performances and clap at the wrong time. If you are going to come to a rock concert, GET UP AND DANCE!

Dylan then switched to acoustic. First was The Times They Are A-Changin'. I mistook the beginning for My Back Pages which would have been better and more appropriate. When he started singing, I could see all the geezers around me remark something to the effect of "ooh, I know this one." GRRR.... Not my favorite song, but clear and pretty good. Here was the strangest part of the concert. To have just heard Dylan sing his heart about and lost love, I couldn't help but find irony in the lyrics of Love Minus Zero/No Limit (acoustic):

She doesn't have to say she's faithful,
Yet she's true, like ice, like fire

I couldn't help but wonder if this song was directed at Sara, or whomever the bitterness of TOOM is aimed at. Thankfully, Dylan didn't let the irony effect him - he blasted an emotional rendition. He also did a really cool thing on the guitar solo. He did these quick machine gun strokes - sort of like what Richie Havens does on the 30th Anniversary tribute. Very cool. Next I had the pleasure of seeing a Dylan live debut. It was Million Miles, also from TOOM and boy was it a ride. It was well rehearsed, WAY fast and really intense. Great material played well - it doesn't get better. Next, Dylan played This Wheel's On Fire. Kind of an unenthusastic rendition of a great song.

Even though I couldn't see the band from there, I decided to go dance in the aisle so that I wouldn't block all the sitting people's view. An usher naturally told me that I would have to sit down. I reminded him that this was a rock concert. He yelled something else at me but then went away. Dylan then closed with 'Til I Fell In Love With You. This tune was sweet. Very nice. The encore featured a relatively nondescript Like A Rolling Stone, and then a brilliant acoustic Don't Think Twice, It's All Right. It had this very high pitched solo that put me in another world. As much as I hated the crowd, even they were cheering wildly afterwards. Hell, even the 70-something usher next to me was cheering!! It was cool. Next was Love Sick. Even though I love this tune, it works better on the album, in my opinion. Last came the obligatory closer Rainy Day Women. Ho-hum.

Even though this concert was not the most fun I have had seeing Bob Dylan, it was clearly the best he has played in the 5 concerts I have seen since May. And he is playing as well as he has EVER played. I know that may seem ridiculous, but Dylan is at one of many peaks of his creative career, and he knows it. At one point during the show, he just squinted and stared down the audience. He knows as well as anyone that a Bob Dylan concert can be just as intense and emotional as one was 30 years ago.

Copyright © 1998 Dennis Cleary e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Bob Dylan articles/reviews: Blonde On Blonde, Modern Times, Pawtucket, McCoy Stadium, Rhode Island, 24.08.2006, Bootleg Series Volume 4 .., Tell Tale Signs : The Bootleg Series Vol. 8, The Best Of The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12.

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