Bob Dylan and his band were fabulous at Lehigh University. The journey began when I met my accountant at Tobacco Road on 41st Street by Ninth Avenue, where our bartender, Honey, took our money. We then drove west across Jersey with live Dylan thundering all the way to Bethlehem. Since we were two miles from Stabler Arena, we stopped off for cocktails at the Sands Casino. Unfortunately, we got lost driving around the 2,600 acre Lehigh campus. After forty-five futile minutes, we paid a pizza delivery guy twenty bucks to escort us to the arena.
We strolled into Stabler, stomping to the beat of the “Early Roman Kings.” The acoustics of the venue were crisp, and there wasn't a shabby seat in the house. Dylan crooned a tender “Tangled Up in Blue,” and the warm tone of Duke’s guitar infused the band with a renewed sense of purpose.
The joint was jumping as Dylan"s harp solos pierced the night during “Behind Here Lies Nothing.” Dylan delivered the Holy Grail ,” Blind Willie Mc Tell,” followed by another '80s gem, “What Good Am I?” Oh Mercy!
The Thunder on the Mountain jam raged from fast to slow to loud to soft and back again. Dylan changed gears, shifting the sound this way and that way, and Duke and the boys were right on his tail. But no song captured the essence of the show better than “Scarlet Town.” Whenever I hear this Tempest delight, I imagine an old mill town like Bethlehem, where the evil and the good live side by side, and all human thoughts seem glorified. Dylan’s performance was phenomenal.
I've loved hearing the heavy echo on Ballad of a Thin Man every show for the past four years, but eliminating the echo for this tour is a touch I like. The roaring crowd adored Dylan as he stood before the faithful and marched in place, before splitting for the next cowtown on his schedule.
An hour after the parking lot emptied, my accountant and I were still enjoying brews, shuffling to Tempest, and inhaling the magic of Lehigh. Both the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band played legendary shows here in 1981. We split after midnight and drove straight into pure fog. Arriving in Chinatown by 2:30, we closed the night out with a succulent feast down below at Wo Hop.