Originally posted to
rec.music.dylan, 13 September 1999

Memphis TN
11 Sept 1999


This is a long, highly personalized, idiosyncratic & idiotic recollection of things that happened, things that might have happened & things that might not have happened at all. If you need a setlist, try Bob Links If you need a musically valid, well-reasoned review, find Paul Williams' sensible take on the show. But if you're ready for a rockin', reelin', rollin' ride & you're not prone to motion sickness, read on. But don't say I didn't warn you if your train (of thought) gets lost...

I left my home & family & headed north on Friday morning. It was my first long trip with new Mr Truck & the Mississippi Delta was shinin' like a National guitar. My plan (based largely on my bad back) was to find my motel & settle in for some R&R before the R&R. And that's exactly what I did. The Memphis Channel 24 news that evening had a short spot about the concert, featuring footage from the "Blood In My Eyes" video. No Simon footage. Oddly, there was more coverage of the upcoming show in my hometown newspaper 'way down in Miss'ippi than in the Memphis paper that day...

As the night came falling from the sky, the motel pawkin' lot began to fill up with cars bearing Jackson State University football banners, but did I pay attention. Noooooo... I stretched out with a Tom Clancy book & read myself to sleep.


Memphis is an easy town for a rock'n'roll fan to navigate. Just look for the ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue, follow him up to the gates of Graceland, etc. etc. Or find Highway 51. They buried The King's body out on Highway 51...

And it was a glorious morning, all powder blue skies... So I unfolded the roadmap for the soul, kindly provided by the lady behind the motel desk & discovered not only clear directions to Graceland & Sun Studio but also to Paul Williams' record store, Audiomania. Not bad.

So to begin the mornin', I made my own pilgrimage to the home of The King, admiring interior decor alá Austin Powers. I hadn't seen so much shag carpet on the ceiling since I sold my old Dodge van. And it takes only a cursory walk through Elvis' "Trophy Room" to realize that although Bob Dylan is possibly the premier songwriter of our time & a helluva poet & all that, Elvis is indeed the king of rock'n'roll. There's enough gold records there to shingle a new roof on the Jungle Room!

On the wall there is a plaque with one of The King's favorite quotes: "Don't criticize what you don't understand. You haven't walked a mile in that man's shoes, son."

And of course, it's pretty moving to see all those memorials at Elvis' grave. Of special note, is the automobile museum. Now, if you're not into Stutz Bearcats or hotrod golf carts, you might find it interesting that the tail section of a certain red Cadillac finmobile protrudes from a wall near the gift shop with a conspicuous "NOT HIS" tag. It looks like a group of EDLISian terrorists might have crashed through the building!

One thing I noticed is that these Elvis fans weren't a talkative lot & for the most part were about as cordial as salamanders on ice. But the gardeners were friendly & the audiotour tape was fun. Still, I sincerely hope that we don't get BobWorld in Hibbing one day.

Then back to my motel ("only minutes away") to wait for a phone call...

Propped up with Tom Clancy's "Rainbow Six" shootin' up the baddies, when St Christine phones from the road. We decide to meet on Beale Street in an hour or so. I figure this will be an effort, but I fly up the Interstate to Union Avenue, right down to the Peabody & zip into the Commerce Bank pawkin' garage. And I'm walkin' in Memphis!

Shufflin' down Main, I spy a kid wearin' a Dylan t-shirt, say "hi" & discover a person I've met in cyberspace. Since I knew him only by an mp3 server alias, I'll let him remain Mr Anonymous (protecting the not-so-innocent & all that), but we join forces after a fashion & head on toward Beale. Actually, I think he simply wasn't sleepy & had no place he was going to. So me & Mr Anonymous are down in Memphis, corner of Beale & Main & we head on down to Alfred's, walk right past Christine & sit at the bar, then have to go back up the bar, laughing, to where she's sitting. Mr Anonymous is perplexed at this, I guess, but I'm hungry & Alfred's serves a fine burnt dead mammal on bread, so I go for the cholesterol.

Then, it's back up Beale to the pawkin' garage to fetch Mr Truck & down to Sun Studio for the tour. There, we find there's about a 45 minute wait, so we head up to Paul Williams' record store. Anyone visiting Memphis should consider Audiomania part of the regular tour along with Graceland & Sun Studio, IMO. Paul has an interesting shop, he's fun to talk with & he wants your business :-) Check out the postcards! Embarrass your friends!

Then it was back down to Sun Studio. Hard to believe all that terrific music came out of those tiny rooms, but it did. The tour is really well done -- music clips played on a vintage 1 track Ampec reel-to-reel. And you can stand behind the mike that Elvis used to cut "It's Alright, Momma". Of course, Joe has to stand outside where John Prine miked the Porsche for his song "Automobile", too :-D


Another nifty about Memphis is the trolley. After leaving Mr Truck back at the ever-reliable pawkin' garage, we take the 50 cent ride down to the Pyramid. Those who haven't witnessed the Pyramid should do so before Armageddon, since it is definitely bigtime architectural strangeness with Egyptian figures painted on the columns inside. Pidgeons like the roof, too, although they seem to be disturbed by rock'n'roll shows.

It's gettin' close to showtime...

I guess I should've taken my mini-cam, tripods, mixer board, rackmount ADAT machine, AK47 & grenade launcher, since there was no attempt at the door (or anywhere else I observed) to control cameras, recorders, guns, knives, or tactical nuclear warheads. I saw one fellow carrying a large professional camera bag to his seat & many audience members walked in with cameras slung around their necks. My anonymous companion walked in with an uninspected backpack. Or maybe their strategy was to leave that sort of thing up to the "event security staff", at least one of whom had ODed on his daily steroids...

This is the first show in 5 years that I haven't had floor seats, but place in the stands was quite good, basically an elevated 10th row chair, at the end of the row closest to stage right. Close to the hyperactive event staff security guy, who desperately needed to get a life...

Spent a bit of the pre-show time watching Larry Campbell chat with some folks who turned out to be relatives, but read on for that...


Simon started pretty much on time, which was a bit of a shock to me, since my only other experience with the Capeman involved a delay of over an hour. But here's ole Rhymin' onstage wearing jeans with two-tone shoes, t-shirt & brown baseball cap, looking soooo casual compared to the way Bob usually decks out. Oh well... I recognized *most* of the songs, but I didn't know 2 or 3 of them, so rather than display my ignorance, I'll offer a few general comments about Mr Simon's part of the show. First off, he had an 11-piece "world band", which I think means that he has a multi-racial, multi-national band. Let's see: 3 drummers, 2 keyboardists (one doubling on accordion), 2 guitars (one playing cello & mandolin as well), bass, sax/woodwind, trumpet, trombone/percussion, and a partridge in a pear tree, I mean, a short guy using expensive guitars for a prop.

Out of Simon's 15 song set, several tunes stood out: "Boy In The Bubble", "Me & Julio" & "Call Me Al". And "Bridge Over Troubled Waters", the opener, was *very* nice. Of course, I could've tolerated an 8 song set or even a 5 song set, but there were poor misguided souls, I mean, Paul Simon fans present, so we have to keep everyone happy. The set itself was very similar to one that I saw back on the "Rhythm of the Saints" tour almost 10 years ago. In fact, several of the band members were the same. And they've been doing pretty much the same setlist all summer, so it was *supposed* to be good. And it *was* good. Very well arranged. Paul is quite a showman, too. But it was not what I was there to hear.

An annoying feature of Simon's set was his light show. While the background displayed interesting "psychedelic" patterns, floodlights were spun out into the audience, and at several points, strange orange lights that felt like heat lamps were shone on the crowd. When they shut off, I noticed high voltage arcs inside the housings & wondered for a moment if the plan was to burn down the mission before the prophet came on. Fortunately, Bob's set featured no *visual* pyrotechnics.

During Simon's set, our friendly neighborhood "event staff" member began hustling up the steps beside me, hassling people sitting behind where I was. At one point, he had a major nose-to-nose with a guy from the audience, which struck me as a little odd for an unarmed, undeputized security guy to be doing. Finally, what appeared to be the honcho security man came over & let the audience member return to his seat. The security guy was unfazed & continued to hassle folks throughout the show. I'm sorry, Memphis, but I just didn't get the message on that...

At Graceland, the audiotour tape frequently repeats, "Step close to the rope so you can see better & those behind you can move up". This was NOT the motto at the Pyramid. During "Me & Julio" a group of folks stood at the rail & danced a little, but they were all people from the 1st row... It was the first Dylan show in 25 years where I witnessed no stage press. Any hope I had of finding a seat vacated by a Simon fan during halftime disappeared as I watched Mr Security Guard do his thing.

After taking his encores, Simon stepped to the mike & made the expected introduction. And there's Bobby, striding out from behind the stage right drum riser with that jingle-jangle mosey of his, looking like "much of a man" next to Simon, who seemed like a munchkin next to the Minnesota Marvel. Simon's band backed.


"The Boxer": I really prefer the Self Portrait version, but if Paul Simon's gonna sing this one with anyone except Art Garfunkel, it might as well be Bob Dylan. Bob looked a little restrained, twitching his knee like a little boy being forced to sing a "sweet song" for his relatives. C'mon, Bob, "accent-u-ate the positive". This one was a LOT of fun, although after hearing a bunch of Summer '99 tapes, I missed "Sounds of Silence". Wish I coulda heard them both.

Bob & Paul talked a little between songs. I'm sure there was *see-rious* discussion of the songs. "You wanna play 'I Walk the Line' or 'I Walk the Line'?" "Dunno. Let's play 'I Walk the Line'." So they played:

"I Walk The Line": I can't help it if Bob Dylan looks like a sports version of Johnny Cash to me. And he *really* looks the part when he plays the part. Nice.

"The Wanderer": I've never cared for this song & the tapes I'd heard prepared me for exactly what I got. Ho-hum Dion. Bob & Paul looked like *they* enjoyed it & that's important, I suppose. BTW, this was completely separated from "I Walk the Line", not a medley or seque.

"Knockin' On Heaven's Door": A bouncy reggae arrangement courtesy of Simon's band made this one a little quirkier than I expected. Good redemption after the preceding tune. I didn't catch any "innovative" lyrics, although I'm sure they were there. Bob & Paul just traded verses & attacked each other grinning on the choruses.

There followed a 30 minute intermission while the stages were swapped out. A group of yuppie commandos sitting in front of me arose & left, with their fearless leader (former frat president, I suppose) pronouncing, "I've *seen* Dylan & he's not *our* kind of thing..." Good move to leave, bubba. Get that Beamer out of the pawkin' lot before those horrible hippie types start milling around ;-) There were Simon fans leaving around the hall, but not many, really. The real mini-exodus appeared to come after Bob's acoustic set. Sort of a tiny Live '66 Revisited walkout ;-D

Q: How do you recognize Paul Simon fans in the audience?
A: Look for the polo shirts.

Then, over by the monitor mixers, I spied a propane torch being played across bundles of incense. The halftime air was sweet perfume! It was starting to smell like a Bob Dylan concert!


"I Am The Man, Thomas" (acoustic): Bob & the crew open with this Ralph Stanley song, obscure enough that Bob can make it his own, yet accessible enough to be an effective opener. As was the case back in February, Bob's voice was in good form from the git-go & high in the mix, unlike previous years when it was 2 or 3 songs into the set before Bob was "all there." Bob's cocking his leg, kicking & having a fine time with Larry & Charlie doing backing vocal harmonies. This is a great song, done well & anyone with second thoughts about Bob & the topic of religion needs to just go get a life. Hallelujah! I'm ready to go!

"Mr. Tambourine Man" (acoustic): I've taken to calling Bob's current rendition of Tambourine Man the "sketchbook" version based on the summer tapes I've heard. He leaves every 2nd or 3rd line out, as if to taunt the sing-alongsters in the audience, yet it all still works. (Like *Picasso's* sketchbook.) Bob started in with a little fancy footwork. He's playing most of the "visible" leads, holding his guitar almost vertically & peering out with a quizzical expression.

"It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" (acoustic): Well, you were right, Christine & I lost my non-bet. I last heard this one live in Memphis 25 years ago. This time around, the intro was a spooky thing like "John" or "Hollis Brown". I think Tony bowed the upright throughout this one, which may account for the spookiness. Unlike the sketchbook version of Tambourine Man, this was approached lyrically with due care. Bob ducks up & back from the microphone like a prizefighter. Awesome! The high point of the evening for me, especially if Bob was NOT going to play "Mississippi", which he wasn't ;-)

"One Too Many Mornings" (acoustic): Larry moved over to the pedal steel for this one. It sure was sweet, ending with an extended harp solo, Bob dancing his little mojo shuffle in circles behind the center mike. Hmm... Maybe a high point here, too. Oh, hell, the whole show was a high point ;-D

Bob was wearing his "usual" black outfit with the white piping. For once, his cuffs seemed to fit. (At every other show I've seen since '95, the cuffs sneaked about halfway down his hands.) Some sort of ribbon tie but not a Colonel Sanders job. (Thanks for the terminology, Paul :-) Larry was in his well-worn black frock coat, Charlie Sexton was wearing a black outfit with white lapels, and Tony was wearing a nice brown suit instead of his leathers. David Kemper had on a white cowboy hat. Bob's white hat was stashed behind the drum riser & he donned it as he vacated the stage after the last encore...

"Tangled Up In Blue" (acoustic): The usual. Fun. Always a crowd pleaser. It started out with Bob & Larry playing, while Sexton stood over to one side. For a moment, I wondered if he was cut out of the arrangement, but then he came in when Tony struck up the bass riff. Still, I have to wonder what Bob thinks Sexton should be doing, other than taking up space & using oxygen. He's evidently a talented guy, but all the choice riffs (leftovers that Bob doesn't keep for himself) seem to be going to Larry. Oh well, good for Larry! Bob is the lead guitarist in this band. And Larry Campbell is the multi-instrumentalist. But Charlie is still covering the rhythm very expertly & faithfully, although it still seems like a bit of a waste. No matter -- Bob is into the moment & Sexton is doing a good job with his assignment, too.

"All Along The Watchtower": On goes Bob's strat & Larry heads over to a stand-mounted lap steel. Sexton sticks with a big red (Gibson?) acoustic. Tony goes for the electric bass. And I stand up. Although many folks think that "the song formerly known as #3" should go the way of all good things, I stand for this one (until one of my "Simonized" neighbors asks me to sit down...) I'm a little disappointed that the clear acoustic intro that Charlie played during the summer tour -- almost a clone of the original JWH riff -- is gone, but while the song is still an electric rave up, it isn't the totally Hendrixified version that it was when Bucky manned the steel. It's closer to the original now & I like it.

"Just Like A Woman": If somebody asked me to list the five songs I'd like NOT to hear in concert, JLAW would probably make the list. But not on Saturday night in Memphis! Larry switched over to the pedal steel for this one. And Bob turned in what I believe is the best vocal effort I've ever heard him give this particular song. Just crystalline! And then, at the very end, Bob botched the lead guitar solo. Somehow fitting, I suppose, like a beautiful woman with a tiny scar on her cheek.

"Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again": Another on my list of five songs I'd like NOT to hear in concert. And I'd really rather have gotten "Highlands", "Down Along the Cove", or "Mississippi" in this spot instead, especially "Mississippi". Who wouldn't? But this song is a tip o' the hat to the hometown crowd & it was taken as such. Done well, but not as firey as I've heard it get. Oh well...

"Not Dark Yet": The only TOOM song of the evening and one that I hadn't heard live before. My PalmPilot notes just read, "This song is dark blue & silver". You go figure what that means. I just sat & witnessed this one with my hands on my face. All the lyrics were in there with care, although I *still* can't tell if it's "sense of humanity" or "sensitive manatee". Those lines about "she wrote me a letter" and "wrapped in some kind of pain" were just heart-rending. Bob really put it into this one, IMO.

"Highway 61 Revisited": Another hometown tribute, of sorts, since both Highway 61 and Highway 51 run thru Memphis, rendered (as usual) as a guitar hero anthem. At one point, there is a brief close-thirds run between Bob & Sexton (I think), but they move quickly to more Boblike cacophony.

And then it's time for the band to hustle off the stage. After a relatively long "zippo break", they're back for a predictable encore set...

"Like A Rolling Stone": Done nicely, although I don't care for the way Bob starts the vocals on this version, just slipping in. But Bob doesn't care what I think & more power to him! He is getting stronger by the minute. Sexton strikes distinctly Bloomfieldesque poses & the guitar riffs are prominent. I'm all set for "Ring Around the Rosie", but, despite some teasing counterpoints, it never materializes. No ring around the Rolling Stone tonight

"Blowin' In The Wind" (acoustic): The revised standard version with Larry & Charlie providing high lonesome harmonies on the chorus. Bob struts through the middle lead solo & then at the end of the song, takes off in another key. Larry is looking & grinning with that inscrutable smile of his. This will either work or it won't. Bob doesn't back down, but keeps playing in this "wrong key" until it starts to make sense, like playing blues harp crossed.

"Not Fade Away": Rave on Buddy Holly finale with Bobby D kicking his left leg & having a great time with his band lined up like a firing squad. Sexton & Garnier almost try a little coordinated guitar swinging. This is one of those songs I can take or leave, but it was really kicking, tickin' like a clock -- better than I heard in February in New Orleans, I think...

And after a tantalizingly long delay, the lights come one & everybody files out. Simple as that. Or not so simple. Outside, birds fly high by the light of the moon above that unique venue. Christine & I say our bye byes, we visit a minute with a few acquaintances & Mr Anonymous & I head back to the trolley stop.


I'm waiting on the trolley back to the pawkin' garage & strike up a conversation with a couple who are wearing stage passes. They turn out to be relatives of Larry Campbell, so we have a *very* interesting ride back to Union Avenue. They are very proud of Larry & I think they've every right to be. He has certainly stepped up to the plate now that Bucky has retired from the band.

They share an interesting tidbit of news: Bob's entourage was bumped from the Peabody Hotel due to the Jackson State-Tennessee State ballgame crowd & that Bob et al had moved down to the French Quarter Hotel. (Paul Williams earlier mentioned the French Quarter as Bob's favorite place to stay in Memphis.) You heard that right. Bob Dylan was bumped from his hotel to make room for football fans. This should've sent a clear message to me about what was about to happen, but do I listen between the lines? Noooooo...


After saying farewell to Mr Anonymous, who headed for the Greyhound station & an 18 hr bus ride, I check Mr Truck out of the pawkin' garage & discover that it is impossible to turn west onto Union due to bumper-to-bumper postgame traffic. There are folks sitting on car roofs, waving banners, running down the street, drinking whisky from fruit jars & God knows what else! So I turn east & then over to Madison & get going west back toward the Interstate. Every redlight is blocked by folks who refuse to stop. Traffic is cold irons bound. At one point, it takes 20 minutes to traverse approximately 50 yards. Pedestrians appear, standing in the crosswalks to block traffic for their friends, then hopping into the cars with a certain monodigital gesture we all know & love. There is no apparent police presence & no attempt to direct traffic through the lights. I'm not comfortable with the folks who're around me in their cars, either, since they're mostly very drunk & rowdy & I am just a po' unarmed redneck. Rocks are being smoked, orgies organized, virgins converted. I have gone from Bob bliss to Dante's inferno in only a few minutes. And it ain't the concert crowd!

After another 45 minutes inside of the frozen traffic, I finally get rolling near the Interstate. And a cop stops me for going through a light on yellow! Jeez! Every stoplight from there to Front Street is being blatantly run on red by drunken football fans & he picks me! But in Memphis, the cops don't need me & man, they evidently expect the same. "You're a vizzy-ter?" he asks. I nod contritely, resisting the urge to suggest that he can make big bucks busting DUIs a few blocks over. "Okay, bye. Stay outta trouble." End of that. No ticket. Thank yew, Memphis!

And approximately 2 hours after the concert ended, I returned to my lonely little motel room just inside the Mississippi line, a trip that had taken only 20 minutes earlier that morning. Well, I'm just tickled to be here is all I can say! Thanks Bob & thanks, Mr Policeman :-D

Your humble correspondent,

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