Bob Dylan |
Tupelo (MS) Coliseum
1 November 96
Pilgrim's Progress (Travel Notes):
As late as Thursday, it looked like I wasn't gonna be able to go to the concert in Tupelo. My wife had gotten a tentative diagnosis of mono & my gymnast daughter had a competition in Birmingham. Gotta quit sending 'em to those Arabian doctors... The prognosis improved marginally when the lab tests came back & my beloved spouse's "quarantine" was lifted. The plan was to drive 5 hr up to Nawth Miss'ippi, catch the show, drive back to the Coast & fetch the family back to B'ham. (This would place me in Alabama too late for the Saturday night show, but one must take what one can get.)
Friday AM found your ever-faithful EDLIS Who Has Which agent on the road rain fallin' on his shoes (via a slightly cracked windshield ;-) I was praying that the radiator hoses in my brown GMC Stepside wouldn't fall onto me & the cassette deck died for good in Heidelburg. What fun: Nothing but 4 hr of FM radio en route to a Dylan concert :-( But beggars can't be choosy...
By Meridian MS, it was definitely the 5th day of May in the drizzlin' rain & by Scooba MS, US 45 had trickled into a muddy 2-lane. Through Shuqualak (say "Sugah Lock") MS, the trusty FM played Hendrix' cover of AATW, so life wasn't too bad. Plus, they play the blooze on the radio up in the Black Prairie.
"I'm from Mississippi, don't take no stuff from you... Goin' to Alabama, got my pistol by my side... You can run but you sure can't hide."
It was raining cats & dogs in Egypt (MS), probably in deference to the Isis cult of cat worshippers. But somebody in Tupelo requested JLAW on the FM radio & things were improving, even though the traffic was slowed to 40 mph by the weather... Oh, the cruel rain & the wind...
Parties & Gatherings:
I trust Charlie Smith will elaborate on a most excellent pre-concert gathering. Held at the home of a totally baffled & thoroughly congenial fellow, the party was a nice place to get outside the rain. Fans from all over were present for the festivities: Texas, Rhode Island, Miss'ippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Missouri, even Switzerland & Norway. Great job, Charlie!
Driving to the venue, Colin Hulin passed around copies of his tape list. I asked where he'd gotten his copy of a particular RTR tape & he pointed to Rhett Thomas in the passenger seat. Rhett laughed & pointed to me, "I got my copy from him." Round & round she goes. That sort of thing doesn't happen every day, Bobfans...
For the rest of the world: This was what a pre-concert party should be. Dylan fans networking & sharing experiences. Putting faces to names previously known only from email, meeting old friends for the 1st time, meeting new friends for the last time. The world is a lot smaller than we give it credit for being.
1 November 96 - Tupelo Coliseum, Tupelo MS:
The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band opened with loud, blues-rock. KWS wants tobe Stevie Ray Vaughn badly, but SRV he ain't. I don't mean to find fault with anyone who lives in a vault, mind you, but KWS could easily get a job playing for $3.00 cover at my local barbeque joint. Or, the band that plays there could be opening for Bob Dylan, or we just have high standards of standardness when it comes to the electric bluze in Miss'ippi, take your pick.
Dylan wore a black jacket, silver trousers & white straw cowboy hat. The "men in hats" weren't wearing 'em, although Tony G. was wearing a beret. Somebody closer than the 15th row will have to remark on the details of dress, which have significance to some...
Incense smoke rose from behind the drums. Not as thick as last year but a definite presence even back to the 15th row. No harp rack. There would be no harmonica in this show.
And then the crowd began to stamp their feet & the house lights got dim, and in the darkness of the room there was only us & him...
First Electric Set:
"Down In the Flood (Crash on the Levee)" - There was no surprise opener, but nothing tentative in the way this one started. Dylan, the Band, and the sound crew were all in it, punching strong from the git-go.
"Lay Lady Lay" - Here's a crowd pleaser, rendered nicely & pitched to an enthusiastic crowd... Bucky played some really smoooooth steel on this one.
"AATW" - What's the probability that Bob will play anything else in the 3rd slot? Slim or none? Good, cookin', up to par.
"Just Like A Woman" - Another crowd pleaser, played tighter than when I heard 'em in Biloxi. The final riff was exact with no sloppiness. (I always hold my breath when Bob plays that "ping ping ping-ping piiiinnnggg" closing, just to see if he's paying attention...)
"Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" - An interesting arrangement that I (who can ordinarily "name that song in 3 notes") didn't recognize until the lyrics started. Evidently, it threw Bill Pagel totally, as he listed "Positively 4th Street" on the setlist page. This one built and built.
"Silvio" - No surprise in the number 6 spot. This one was "deader" than I've ever heard it & for a brief moment, I'm positive I saw the beaming face of Jerry Garcia hovering larger-than-life up above the stage lights. (This was a spiritual manifestation & not the light show, mind you.) The guitar solos seemed to go on forever, which of course they'd didn't else I'd still be there listening ;-)
The acoustic set wasn't as impressive as in Biloxi last year. My scribble sheet contains one note: "problem? drummer?" My initial opinion changed as the set went on, but the post-concert consensus was that the acoustic set was a bit lax. A backdrop was raised during this part of the show for a simple but attractive light show.
"Mr Tambourine Man" (a) - Nicely done, this one was another crowd pleaser. Please Mr Tambourine Man, play your harp for me, but it was not to be...
"Masters of War" (a) - The regular arrangement had its great metric thrust enhanced by the drummer. The lights featured a slide of faces that I vaguely recognized (Rembrandt? Da Vinci? I ain't no art critic, but it fit.)
"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (a) - Others considered this the high point of the show. My initial scribble sheet mark was a big minus sign, but it built up to a great finish. Nevertheless, this one missed the harmonica very badly, IMO.
Second Electric Set:
No band introduction. I guess we're all supposed to know who they are by now, hats or no hats ;-)
"God Knows" - Good version but I missed Winston's machine gun drum entrance. The crowd surprised me by really getting into this one. I was too far back to enjoy a stage press this time, but the side aisles began to fill...
"It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry" - Here's a good blues tune that gave Bob & J.J. a chance to do some extended 3-chord jamming. During the song, a woman gained the stage waving a copy of the poster from Greatest Hits Vol. 1. Afterwards, Bob signed it & I guess she died happy.
"Like A Rolling Stone" - Yet another play for the crowd, which worked well. At the end, high fives all around for the front row denizens...
"Highway 61 Revisited" - Another basic blues, maybe too basic. I think H61R loses its identity when rendered as a thudding 3-chord rock rave-up, but I'm probably alone in the crowd. More extended blues jamming, more high fives & more stage dancers.
"One Too Many Mornings" (a) - Very nicely done... Much better than the regular acoustic set, IMO.
"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" - Again, no surprises for the closer. A big crowd shout-along. Bunches of women onstage, including Jim (Emmett) Tillman's missus. No women in white flashing expensive undies like in Biloxi last year, but hey, I go to see Dylan & not the burlesque revue...
This was a good show! No sign of the (reported) friction between J.J. & Bob. (I think this is largely wishful thinking from the J.J.-hating faction, who IM(NS)HO can go get a life: J.J. did just fine. Even better than that!) Big smiles all over the stage & an enthusiastic audience.
Rene from Switzerland noted that many had left the hall after the acoustic set, but I'm not sure they hadn't moved forward from our 15th row position... He was standing beside a couple of young girls who were clearly out of their element. I repeated the old hang about a prophet in his own land, but I'm not sure that means anything to the Swiss, who evidently hold our Amerikan prophets in high esteem...
Rhett introduced me to the "check your i.d. lady" as his father, which astoundingly, I am old enough to be. Thanks, Rhett, I needed that! And, a special treat at the post-concert gathering came when a lady stepped up & said, "Hi, I'm Christine. I decided to stop here to meet you." Such fun to meet someone who has provided tapes & commentary through the past couple of years (and to photograph the back of the "most Dylan vehicle" I've ever seen :-)
But wait, there's more... Or as Rhett's namesake's girlfriend once said, "Tomorrow is another day." That, and tomorrow is a long time...