Dylan & the Grateful Dead

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bad News for Joe the Plumber


It was a performance dominated by anthems that changed American culture. Revisiting his old school, University of Minnesota, Dylan played “The Times They Are-A-Changin,” “Masters of War,” “It’s Alright Ma,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” and “Blowin in the Wind. ” Walking out into the lobby of Northrop Auditorium after the show, there was a thunderous roar, females were hysterically screaming. Initially I thought Tony Garnier had been spotted in the lobby, but everybody was reacting to the scoreboard on the big screen: Obama 297 Mc Cain 130. It was bad news for Joe the Plumber, but fantastic news for Obama, Dylan, all the young liberals on campus and yours truly. A poignant celebration broke out in front of the Auditorium. This was the place to be – a crowd touched by Dylan’s desire celebrating on Obama’s historic night.

Around noon time, I was kicking around in Bob’s old crib – second floor of what was Gray’s drugstore in Dinkytown. Dylan spent some time up there reading Woody Guthrie’s Bound for Glory in 1960. It was an unseasonable warm and glorious day, t-shirt weather. Gray’s is now Loring Pasta Bar, a nice place to woof down lunch. I had a few beers and a yellow fin tuna sandwich topped off with a jalapeno laced pickle. This was a historic day; Dylan’s first major concert took place on 11-4-61 at Carnegie Hall. I was born on 11-4-63.

There was a popping instrumental, but Dylan lyrically butchered “Cat’s in the Well.” The crowd went ballistic when they realized “The Times They Are-A-Changin” was second. His fellow Minnesotans were boisterous all night. Dylan offered up a pair of harp solos and went for a stroll to the center of the stage on solo #2. I liked Summer Days in the third spot, but only Dylan jammed on organ during the instrumental. It’s weird, there are these two guys in suits and top hats, Denny Freeman and Stu Kimball, who used to rock solos, but now their lack of contribution is staggering. Bob needs to free them up to play, or sack them.

During “This Wheel’s on Fire,” Dylan emerged from behind his organ and shuffled around the stage like a motivational speaker as he sang. He then placed the microphone on stand, continuing to sing, now motioning with his hands like a flight attendant reviewing safety procedures. A few Rockettes style kicks were thrown in for good measure. The next song started off like the Barney Miller TV theme, no wait a second, it sounded like “Chain Lightning” by Steely Dan, but I realized Dylan’s garbled words were “Tangled Up In Blue.” Yikes, this really didn’t work out too well. Two songs later, the reworking of “Stuck Inside of Mobile fared much better, though Dylan mangled and flat out blew several lines.

“Masters of War” was excellent, and with the inclusion of an eerie “John Brown,” this performance had the feel of a final parting shot at the Bush regime. Musically, the concert was a little ragged, Dylan never really got on a magical roll, though his organ playing was excellent and dominating the sound. “Shooting Star” was a great choice for his return to Minnesota: “Seen a shooting star tonight and I thought of me. Was I still the same did I ever became what you wanted me to be.” A black backdrop with stars appeared, created for this exact moment in the show, I suppose. Dylan started the song playing keys and then strapped on his electric guitar for the final verse. Huge roar; that was the extent of the guitar experiment. A late “Under the Red Sky” was another nice call, loosening-up the mood. I love “Thunder on the Mountain,” but the lack of Freeman’s guitar was disappointing.

“Ain’t Talkin” was a great way to wrap the set up. In his black pants with the singular red stripe running vertically and grey top hat, Dylan barked out his masterpiece with gritty determination. It was a wonderfully strange show. “Like a Rolling Stone” was necessary, as always. Dylan wailed a great harp solo to the crowd’s delight. It was a spot usually reserved for Freeman, who is quickly joining Stu Kimball and Stephen Marbury on the bench. Oh well, Tony and George are still cranking and Donnie’s happily hanging in. Before “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Dylan said something like, “I was born around the time of Pearl Harbor, I’ve seen some darkness, but I think things are beginning to change.” After thrilling the crowd with the final encore, the hometown hero, came to the front of the stage with his Cowboy Band lined up like statues behind him. He was giddy, smiling at the rowdy audience. He raised his arms upwards in a curling motion, holding them there suspended, palms stretched outwards as he swaggered to the left and shuffled to the right. I give all this to you, the good people of Minneapolis. Watching Dylan receive his admirers was worth the price of admission. We filed into the lobby and looked up at the screen. An African American man was elected President of the United States and the all white crowd broke into an hour of spontaneous celebration.

1 comment:

zen said...

Hey i am a big fan of Steely Dan, but Mr Walter Becker has a new album called Circus Money, What a great album it is, just had to share that with all the Steely Dan Fans.