Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I couldn’t resist the temptation of seeing Dylan at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center again. I was in the front row of this beaten-down hockey rink when Dylan played here in 1989 after the release of Oh Mercy! – great show. Dylan was master of his domain again in 1996 and ’98. He’s always loved playing in Po’ Town – close to Woodstock. He even recorded Modern Times down the block at the Bardavon. Across the street, in 1788, the U.S. Constitution was ratified by the state of New York. The history of Poughkeepsie is scintillating, but the city is currently a ghost town, shrouded in mystery. For every shop that was open, three were shut and abandoned. I was one of the few stragglers roaming around Market Street at 5PM.
In typical I Love Upstate NY form, Dylan came out dealing his best Woodstock era material: This Wheel’s On Fire, Visions of Joanna, Just Like a Woman, Just Like Tom Thumb’s, Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat. Well, maybe some of those tunes were written in the Big Apple, but Bob was moved. The band clicked. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum was funky like Sly Stone, and Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ shimmied like a rumba should. And Dylan bobbed and weaved during a Simple Twist of Fate that rang with a Hawaiian twang.
I was thinking this was a classic show until Kevin Bacon (I mean Charlie Sexton) and Dylan fell apart. One of several things could be going on. 1) Sexton is bored 2) The Tour has worn Ole Charlie down 3) Dylan has put the clamps on Sexton 4) I’ve been spoiled by over 100 Dylan performances. Charlie didn’t play a lick on what should be two monster jams: Summer Days and Thunder on the Mountain. I hope the Summer Days was taped so it could be played at the Roller Derby this Saturday at the Mid-Hudson – the instrumental was banal fiddle-faddle. Dylan plucked his organ while Charlie dreamed of 2002, when he, Larry Campbell, and Dylan traded torrid guitar licks beyond ecstasy. Summer Days used to be Dylan’s instrumental Free Bird. What happened? I remember when Denny Freeman became the whipping boy in the band after a stellar first year. Now Sexton is in the dog house, or he’s burnt out, but the results down the stretch were awful.
Dylan blew the lyrics during Thunder on the Mountain. The jam was easily the weakest one I’d ever heard during this powerhouse anthem. Dylan would be wise to mix up that same old ending that he’s been coasting with for two years now. The creative energy has been sucked out of that cow.
Dylan’s still got the mojo, the opening half of the show was divine diversification – everything I desire from live entertainment. The rhythm section was a force and the multi-talented instrumentalist, Donnie Herron, did his part. I hadn’t seen the band in a year and I was looking forward to rocking out to the same old ending. Not anymore.