An excerpt from chapter 18 of Dylan and the Grateful Dead: A Tale of Twisted Fate.
I caught six unique and satisfying shows on this leg of the tour. The best of the batch was on July 21, 1989 at the Garden State Performing Arts Center, where I saw my first show of the Never Ending Tour the year before. Dylan was showing up in the same towns and I was doing my part, spreading the news—word of mouth. I convinced Deadhead Doug to sneak his equipment in to tape the show. Doug respected Dylan, but he was a Garcia loyalist all the way. Doug was with his girlfriend taping in the fifth row, and I was shuffling on the lawn as Dylan opened the show with his first live performance of “Trouble” from Shot of Love. Dylan’s group rocked it violently, and swiftly segued to a tender version of Van Morrison’s “One Irish Rover.” Dylan’s vocals burned intensely against the casual arrangement, spurring Smith to finish the song off with a spiraling solo. The band slammed into “I Don’t Believe You” and Dylan unleashed an authoritative harmonica solo. It sounded as good as it did with The Band in 1966. It was one of those nights when Dylan pushed himself and his band, and every risk was rewarded.
I’ve enjoyed listening to this show for many years since that night, and I owe thanks to the dogged perseverance of Doug, who improbably battled off a female usher to successfully finish taping this show. During the fourth song, “Just Like a Woman,” the trouble begins. As a tribute to tapers everywhere, I’ve transcribed their conversation from the tape as Dylan played on five rows away.
Usher: Can I see what you have in there? What do you have in that bag? Why is there a red light on?
Doug: I got a flashlight.
Usher: If it’s a tape recorder, shut it off right now… I have to take the tape. I’m going to get a security guard. I have to get a security guard, then. Give me the tape, or I’ll get a security guard.
Doug: I don’t understand. What’s wrong?
Usher: Is that a tape recorder?
Doug: No, it’s a camera with a flashlight blinking.
Usher: If it’s a camera, why is the light on? Listen, if it’s a camera, let me see it, or I’ll have to call a security guard over.
Doug: The light’s not even on. Don’t worry; I’ll shut it off.
Usher: I know, but you’re not listening to me. You still have to check it with a security guard.
Doug: I’ll shut it off. Don’t worry.
Usher: Yeah, but even if you shut it off …
Doug: OK. I’ll shut it off.
Usher: I’ll call a security guard if you don’t come with me now and check it in. You’re not listening to me. (In the midst of this bickering, Dylan was twenty feet away, blowing a lyrical harp solo.)
Doug: I don’t understand what the big deal is.
Usher: There are no cameras or anything allowed in the theatre. I have to check that with a security guard.
Doug: It’s not a camera.
Usher: What is it?
Doug: It’s a flashlight. I told you already.
Usher: Can I see it then, sir? Whatever it is, I have to check it with security.
Doug: Miss, believe me. It’s nothing; it’s not worth the hassle. It’s just me and my girlfriend. I swear to God, it’s nothing. Please trust me.
Usher: I don’t care what it is. You have to check it with a security guard.
Doug: I’ll come back tomorrow.
Usher: No, you can’t come around tomorrow.
Doug: I don’t see what the big deal is.
Usher: It’s not allowed. If it’s a camera or anything, anywhere, or recording device, it must be checked in with a security guard.
G. E. Smith’s solo soared during “I Shall Be Released,” setting the stage for a manic “Like a Rolling Stone.” The garbled lines gushed out of Dylan. During the extended instrumentals, Dylan stomped around the stage and occasionally stopped for a guitar hero pose. “Mr. Tambourine Man” was pleasing as the final encore. Bob’s cadence had comic texture: “I’ll come following, ah . . . you!” What a fabulous performance. And for the foreseeable future, Mr. Dylan, we’ll be following, ah you!