of The Folk Life ( Inc. 1976)
John McLaughlin and
Jamie Downs, Editors
DYLAN AT MTN LAUREL
Date: Sun, 17 Aug 2003 01:43:22 -0400
Amos Lee, a young Philadelphian just signed to Blue Note Records, opened for Dylan
Saturday night (8/16/2003) at the spanking-new (Summer home for the Pittsburgh
Symphony?), the Mtn Laurel Centre for the Arts in Bushkill, PA, in the Pocono
Mountains (80 miles due West of NYC, on I-80, for those of you needing a map -
the diagonal corner of the state from Pittsburgh, about 90 zigzagged miles North
Anyway, while the audience was no question there to hear Dylan, they gave Amos
a sporting chance, and he got them in a good mood despite the afternoon thunderstorms
which probably kept down the crowd on the lawn uphill outside the gorgeous new
bandshell (just perfect sightlines, great sound- think Wolf Trap), and the young
opener repaid them with a nice, funky set that displayed both his chops and those
of his tight band, from the chugging instrumental opener to a very nice soul number,
"Lift Your Hands Up to Heaven," with the audience obliging. He got the
crowd to sing along on the chorus of "Shed a Little Light on Me" and
closed his 40-minute set with a just lovely version of Sam Cooke's "A Change
is Gonna Come," which takes nerve even to try but at which he succeeded in
showing off his soaring, supple voice. (Hes also got some tricky little
dance steps too.) Expect good things from Amos Lee and his band in the future.
Theres a difference being musicians and stage entertainers, and theyve
got it. The Amos Lee Band knows how to get a crowd in a good mood for the star
of the evening - nobody can expect more when the crowd is waiting for Bob Dylan.
As for Bob Dylan. Well, first of all, here's my personal, permanent take on Dylan,
just so you know, going in. You don't have to be a genius every time out of the
box. Just once is enough. OK? Now, if you do it again, and yet again, and then
again... Well, Bob Dylan has been writing amazing, mind-bending songs and taking
them on the road for, what, forty-two years now, with absolutely no sign of slowing
down any time soon (he's sixty-one - eligible for Social Security next year).
OK, has he had some off nights now and then? Sure. But has he delivered some amazing
music over the years? More to the point - was he on tonight? Absolutely.
It was a great, rowdy show, with a kickass backup band that got its share of solos
during a concert which ran almost exactly two hours long, a total of sixteen songs,
opening with a roaring "Maggie's Farm" and winding up with "All
Along the Watchtower," before the cheering audience, on its feet, finally
let them find some way out of there. In between, he mixed up his set, with some
of the classics - "You Ain't Going Nowhere," "Highway 61,"
"Tom Thumb's Blues" - interspersed with newer material, from *Time Out
of Mind* and *Love and Theft, * almost all delivered at breakneck speed and top
volume (except for a syncopated, jazzy version of "Mister Tambourine Man,"
which had some of the audience bopping two or three different ways at once).
That was the only more-or-less acoustic number, in contrast to some of the recent
shows on this tour (for reviews and set-lists, go to Bill Pagel's incredible labor
of love, www.boblinks.org). For a guy now officially AARP-age, Dylan was just
in incredible physical shape, on his feet for the entire concert behind his little
keyboard, mostly leaning into it, left leg extended straight out behind him, right
leg braced under the keyboard as if he was going to start bumping it across the
stage like Fats Domino. Dylan and the band were in great shape. Think that great
backup band with Stroudsburg's own GE Smith, over a decade ago. Amp it up. Barrel
it along. Thats it.
And the lights go down after the break following Amos Lee.... Here comes Aaron
Copland's "Billy the Kid".... As the audience roars, on its feet for
the duration, the stage lights go back up, and there's Bob Dylan, stage right,
standing behind his keyboard in a very sharp black satin cowboy outfit, bare-headed
and immediately into a kickass "Tombstone Blue," the band getting into
its groove behind him. Lights down at the end, roar of applause, lights up, and
"If You See Her, Say Hello" sets the pace down just a notch. End in
applause, stage-lights down, stage-lights up, and on into the sardonic "Tweedledee
and Tweedledum" - in the Tom Ridge Pavilion, yet? - and then stage lights
down in the middle of applause, lights up, and a lovely, slow-loping, "You
Ain't Goin' Nowhere. Thats the pattern for the night - no song intros,
no stage banter, do the thing, barrel ahead. An amazing, orgiastic evening, the
crowds in the aisles, the band trading off solos, Dylan in command all the way
thro. I'm talking Bill Haley, friends - Dylan getting revenge for having his high-school
love of rock-n-roll passed over for folk music crossed with Beat poetry in the
early days (Check the official Bootleg Tapes, you'll see).
And that's it, I guess. If you couldn't follow all the changes in the songs from
their recorded versions to these live ones - well, if you wanna listen to your
record collection, stay home, right? Go to a show, you get a show curtain
backdrops drawn back in receding series, changing light-and-smoke shows, the skinny
maestro in a cowboy suit, slap-bass sometimes, guitarists trading off licks, drummer
whirling like a madman on his riser -- it's what people are looking for from a
night out on the town, even this far north in Penn's Woods (we can talk about
the Woodstock refugees who fill these hills some other time.)
Dylan delivered. Can't ask for more than that. Thanks, Bob, for a lifetime's entertainment.
(Nice hat you stashed behind the drums tonight.) Maybe some day we can all sit
down and puzzle over the lyrics. Not tonight. Kick out the jams, send the people
home grinning ear to ear. Thats it.
(Sorry no pix. Dylan dont low no press cameras in heah. Thass cool.
Jamie got to rock and roll all night. Thanks, Miss Amanda J)