Reservations in Newport
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After-hours edition of Subterranean Homepage News
August 6, 2002
A heretic in the Church of Bob
Friday night in Worcester, Mass., Bob Dylan resumed a tour that paused May 12 in London.
Saturday he played the Newport Folk Festival.
Sunday I blogged it.
"Dylan was never big on sacred cows, and probably wouldn't want to be thought of as one," I wrote to someone whose email had begun, "I hate Sheila Lennon." (He wasn't at the concert.)
He's "more like a living deity," my flamer shot back. "But I'm not into that."
"It seems a living deity might care more about his people," Joe said tonight. " 'Course, the Big Deity doesn't seem to be paying too much attention, either," he laughed.
As a powerful poet in a different time, Dylan did what artists do: Writing and singing what he seemed to have been born knowing, he threw a line to the future for a lot of people.
Saturday, Bob and the band obviously worked hard in the heat, and long. But if that breakaway energy exploded, reviews suggest, it held off till the final encore. If you stayed till the crowd thinned out, Dylan bless you. (A-choo!)
"It seems like he could have given more than he gave," Joe says tonight. "The joint wasn't jumping. And we were ready. He just never ignited the spark," at least in the first 100 minutes.
You neglect that Dyonisian element of a concert at its peril: The Appolonian spirit can rejoice in a sunset, but only when viewed through a Greek Temple. The Dyonisian strives to transcend and shatter all structures. ... eros (is) the ultimate Dyonisian energy. The Appolonian energy is always to exclude it. (here)
Carnegie Hall by the sea with BYO seats, ya say?
On some nights, in some places on this tour, the roof blew off, his fans write. Other times, they say, bad venues, attitude and too much else got in the way.
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Here's Daniel Gewertz of The Boston Herald: "...The mysterious one said nothing, as usual. And while there were a few fine moments, the show wasn't one of his stronger affairs.
"(Dylan) sang a typically generous set, his great band switching as usual between acoustic and electric. Dylan's recast, recadenced versions of his oldies were about as slouchy, sing-song and silly as they get. ``Mr. Tambourine Man,'' which was sung back at Newport '65, was especially lame, and almost unrecognizable. He weirdly merged the obscure ``Mama You've Been On My Mind'' and the famous ``Don't Think Twice'' into one song, the verses shuffled together like an odd card trick.
" 'Desolation Row'' and ``The Times They Are a' Changin' '' were among the weakest, with ``Times'' done as a roughly crooned waltz. It was ironic that Dylan was back in Newport finally singing political lyrics, yet with a song in strange disguise.
"He got better, though..."
Sounds like we were early, coming at 3:30. Should have shown up around 7 and caught the last stuff. Before then, a lot of us were bored with what one comment called "Sinatra style" on a cowboy vibe.
* * *
As we left the field Sunday, heading for that bus again, we had a weird conversation with a couple Joe knew from way back, serious old freaks.
"Still not communicating with the audience," she said, laying that line down with a grin.
Irony flashes among us. We've checked in on Bob again, as we have so many times before.
Some people track Dylan's music, concentrating on the changes; some follow him around, catching all the shows they can. Already, probably far too many life-changing statements have been delivered by quoting old Dylan songs, like he's everybody's public Hallmark stash.
We just drop in now and then, seein' if he's changed at all.
* * *
Paul Andrews, Why We Need Blogs, Pt. II (scroll down)
"The instinct of a mass media reporter is to pump something up -- be promotional, in other words. This makes advertisers, editors, and to a certain extent, readers, happy. It helps explain how we got into the Internet bubble where thieves like Ken Lay and Joe Nacchio were dubbed the smartest men in the world and icons of the digital age. The centrifugal force of "positive spin" in mass media is so great that only the most seasoned and tough-skinned reporters can resist it.
"Secondly, the difference may be simple logistics, having to do with mass-media access. A Times reviewer stands the chance of getting front-row, or even side-stage or backstage, viewing of the concert. He/she will hear all the songs, and see nuances onstage that are lost to the typical concert-goer. I don't know if this was the case here. It does, however, seem to me that Sheila went as a typical concert-goer. So her view is "street level," and probably the one that most accurately reflects what the audience got to see.
"Mass media do get the great access, it's true. But the secret handshake is, we'll give you a good ride in return. It's an ethical consideration which, in the wake of the Internet's truth-telling and the scandals rocking politics, business, sports and everything else today, needs to be re-examined in newsroom policies everywhere..."
I deliberately did not request press credentials for Newport, and I paid my own way on my own time. I'd blog it as I saw it.
I didn't have to go, didn't have to stay, didn't have to file.
The ProJo asked to include what I might write in its Sunday lead package. It turned out to be a simulblog.
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Tell your story
Dylan wrote the standard: See it and say it.
If you want to tell your story about a concert (if you were there), or about Dylan, or about whose voice speaks to you these days, please click here and add yours:
There were lots of stories in that little city Saturday. What's yours?
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Below are some quotes from diehard fans that may surprise you, and links to more reviews.
Bob Dates - Schedules, setlists, fan reviews and tour experiences.
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Thad Williamson: (Newport, Saturday) "I think a success overall though probably not one of the best or even one of the better Dylan shows Iíve seen in the last 10 years."
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Stephen David Walter (Worcester, Friday) "Let me admit right now that I had high -- dangerously high -- expectations for Worcester; much more so than for Newport the day after. I had thought, or rather, let myself believe, that the long hiatus and musical endeavors of a filmic variety were going to lead to some serious upheavals in live performance. That I realize the futility of such expectations never seems to prevent me from actually _having_ them, you see.
Well, not only was the setlist pretty well unchanged, as anyone can see, but also the show was, I have to say, quite weak by and large. Rough edges are to be expected of a warm-up, to be sure, yet this one seemed rather more like a slow night mid-tour: few risks taken musically, vocals largely noncommittal ... just an over-arching lack of engagement with the material at hand. All those interesting developments "off-stage" hadn't had the impact I'd hoped they might (poor pitiful me) on this somewhat less-than-thunderous return to the road."
"There were exceptions, of course, and promising ones at that..."
He liked Newport much better: "Speculations will abound about the hair, about the ponytail and beard, all of which I can 100% confirm were not in evidence at Worcester. A stolen movie prop? Or one still somehow in use? All I can advise is to enjoy the absurdity of the best joke heís pulled in years. It made my day yesterday, and it hasnít even quite sunk in _yet_, the sheer, grand absurdity of it all.
"The show was pretty grand... Nothing spectacular in itself, perhaps, though with some genuinely fine performances, and definitely taking on a certain grandeur from the setting. Much, much better than the night before, and boding extremely well, I think, for the tour that lies ahead."
* * *
I don't write about music for a living, as a commenter assumed. The guy who does wrote that the intro was, "Olympic-style marching music played through the speakers, a trumpet call and thunderclap..." without trying to name it.
The opening flourish was the beginning of an Aaron Copland medley and I've altered yesterday's review to reflect that. Most of the western cluster of the audience had assumed -- erroneously, as it turns out -- that Dylan's show opened with the theme from Star Wars. (We were lowbrow out west.)
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See it and say it
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