Sunday, July 28, 2013

Anatomy of a Pilgrimage in Hoboken

My latest  Dylan pilgrimage began in The Bronx with a trip to Woodlawn Cemetery. As I was standing beneath the shade of the  tree hovering over Duke Ellington’s grave, I stared at the resting place of Miles Davis.  Up on the hill, I saw the tombstones of two jazz legends who played with Miles in the ‘50s: Jackie Mclean, Max Roach.  On this brilliant summer afternoon, I stood there with Miles and Sir Duke while listening to In A Silent Way in its entirety.   I then jumped on the 4 Train,  and transferred to the  2 Train to meet up with my accountant and dentist at Tobacco Road in Hell’s Kitchen. After chilin’ and jokin’, we went  to see Dylan in Hoboken.
In a Hoboken parking garage, we tailgated to Tempest, prior to enjoying cocktails at an outdoor bar on Sinatra Drive. I had planned on being inside the show for Morning Jacket and Wilco, but we got caught up watching the beautiful people of Hoboken parading around on Friday night. Anyway, we could hear the bands pretty good right where we were, and we were duly impressed. At 9 PM I made my move to buy a ticket. The first person I asked about an extra ticket handed me a freebie. Ask and you shall receive.
“Love Sick” sounded hot, but the  sound system wasn’t very powerful, and lots of Yuppies were chirping and chattering. The view of Manhattan from the Pier is spectacular.  I worked my way closer to the sound system and Dylan. I bumped into some acquaintances and noticed Charlie Sexton was back on lead guitar tonight. There hasn’t been  this kind of shuffling in Dylan’s band since the G.E. Smith replacement tryouts of 1990. The Tempest songs sounded fabulous, as expected, and “Tangled Up in Blue was one of the best versions I’ve seen in a long time. Dylan had an interesting, high pitched vocal inflection on every word that rhymed with Blue---youuuuuu…shoeeeee….
Dylan’s set lists have been stagnant the last few times I’ve seen him, but, how can I not love seeing
“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna  Fall,” Blind Willie Mc Tell,” and “Simple Twist of Fate” in succession?  Bob’s harp playing was simple and tasteful throughout. His solos on Blind Willie were absolutely hypnotic. “Summer Days” featured a sophisticated jam with twists, turns, and detours. Dylan stirred the stew, but by design, he never brought it to boil. For the first time, in about my last forty or fifty shows, there was no “Thunder on the Mountain.” I missed it, that rocker had become the instrumental highlight of Bob’s sets. 

Hearing “The Weight” was quite a thrill. The Dylan handled the first verse and I sweat he did sing great, before deferring the other verses to his on stage guests. Watchtower and Thin Man  finished off another memorable night  with Dylan, a night mostly spent shuffling on the grass by the pier with the Manhattan Skyline as the backdrop. After the show , my accountant drove us to Chinatown. At 2PM there was a line to get into Wo Hop’s. We waited anxiously until we devoured our feast.  I’ve been rolling with Dylan’s Never Ending Tour for the past twenty-five years, and he always delivers the inspiration. The train keeps a-rollin’. Here’s to the next twenty-five!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tony Garnier Joins Dylan's Band! 6-10-89

24 Years later, Dylan and Garnier are still happily married. Here's a brain-busting Like a Rolling Stone from 6-10-89 from Statenhal, Den Haag, The Netherlands. This is a favorite of mine. Dylan's vocals are urgent, and the guitar solo from, G.R. Smith smokes!

For more on the Never Ending Tour, check out Tangled Up in Tunes: Ballad of a Dylanhead

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Birth of the Never Ending Tour Revisited

Twenty five years ago on this day, June 7, Dylan launched what was to become known as the Never Ending Tour in Concord, California. I was fortunate to catch six Dylan shows in 1988. Here are my fond recollections of those performances:

6-24-88 Garden State Performing Arts Center…Dylan burst upon  the stage playing a frenetic Subterranean Homesick Blues opener followed by It’s All Over Now Baby Blue. Dylan and G.E. Smith were kicking ass and taking names.  I was stunned by the brazing versions of Drifting Too Far From Shore and Silvio, a massive improvement  over the tepid, but enjoyable album tracks.  Like a Rolling Stone was the sensational set closer—all ’88 renditions of Bob’s greatest anthem are sure to please. This was the first time I had ever seen Dylan without Petty or the Grateful Dead backing him—Dylan unfettered. This performance was exhilarating and brisk. I knew I’d be back for more, but I could never have imagined that it would be 119 shows over the course of the next twenty-five years.

7-3-88 Old Orchard Beach Ballpark, Maine…Gratefully blame this one on a simple twist of fate.  I’d seen the Grateful Dead at the Oxford Raceway the night before and was planning on returning for night two. Skimming through a local tabloid, my friend noticed that Dylan was playing at a ballpark in Old Orchard Beach--a hop skip and jump on down the road. With one of the most persuasive speeches of my life,  I convinced him to leave the Dead behind. Adios hippies, Howdy Bob.
Dylan played a batch of songs that I hadn’t heard at GSPAC, including: Tangled Up in Blue, The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest, To Ramona, Trail of the Buffalo, and All Along the Watchtower. I waltzed right up to the front of the stage and savored every tune. This intimate experience was the antithesis to what was going on in Oxford in the land of the Dead--100,000 freaks.

9-2-88 Orange County Fair…Tour ’88 steamrolled into Middletown, New York. Dylan raged and G.E. continued to extend his jams confidently as Dylan's repertoire grew and the concerts became longer. On this night, Absolutely Sweet Marie and Seeing the Real You at Last soared. Dylan crooned like a Celtic balladeer on Barbra Allen, and his emphatic cadence on It Ain’t Me Babe brought pleasure to the ladies at the fair. I was hooked. The Grateful Dead’s influence on Dylan was undeniable. Every night Dylan was painting a fresh masterpiece.

10-19-88 Radio City Music Hall…The tour closed out with four nights at Radio City Music Hall. There was a  buzz surrounding these shows due to Dylan’s  momentous tour and the recent release of the Traveling Wilbury’s Volume 1. I attended three of these Radio City Shows. The final night was one for the ages.  The surprise of the opening seven-song electric set was Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream. Bob’s voice was a little cranky at times, but The Dylan is at his best when he’s fighting through hiccups.
Dylan added the Neville Brothers Vietnam verse to a captivating With God on Our Side, to the delight of the audience. The four-song acoustic set was chased by an explosive trifecta: Silvio > In the Garden > Like a Rolling Stone.  In the Garden was mindboggling, transformed from a pleasing gospel number into a venue rattling rocker.
Dylan reached back to Harry Smith’s Folk Anthology for a stunning version of Wagoner’s Lad to launch the five-song encore.  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll followed, yes it was a perfect night. During Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Dylan and G.E. traded their acoustics for electrics as the band crashed in. A searing All Along the Watchtower and Maggie’s Farm ended the premier concert from one of the most pivotal years of Dylan’s career. I was there.
He not busy being born is busy dying.
For more on the Never Ending Tour, check out Tangled Up in Tunes: Ballad of a Dylanhead

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dylan's Top Ten NYC Performances

1.      8-1-71 Concert for Bangladesh, Madison Square Garden...From George Harrison’s introduction:, “Would you please welcome a friend of us all, Mr. Bob Dylan,” to the thunderous ovation following the astounding version of “Just Like a Woman,” this is the most satisfying short set of Dylan’s career, fueled by the pressure packed magic of Madison Square Garden.  The Prodigal Son returns, better than ever.

2.      10-31-64, New York Philharmonic Hall…It’s Halloween and Bob Dylan’s wearing all his masks: poet, prognosticator, prophet,  comedian, shaman, master of the talkin’ blues. The audience was spellbound and thrilled with every syllable. You won’t find better offerings of John Birch Paranoid Blues, Who Killed Davey Moore, or I Don’t Believe You.  

3.      8-28-65 Forest Hills Tennis Stadium...The storm after Newport. With Levon Helm & Al Kooper backing Dylan, Bob served nothing but aces in Queens. The crowd was bewildered as  Dylan debuted Desolation Row, Tombstone Blues, From a Buick 6, Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, and Ballad of a Thin Man.  Unplugged and plugged in perfect harmony.

4.      11-11-02 Madison Square Garden…Dylan takes the stage perched behind a Yamaha keyboard and debuts “Yeah Heavy and a Bottle of Bread.” Fortified by his best touring band, Chez Dylan mixes his iconic anthems  with gems  from Love & Theft, and sprinkles in covers from the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Don Henley,  and Warren Zevon,  to create an abundant feast. The set ending Summer Days was tour de force.

5.      10-13-89 Beacon Theatre…From his initial creation,  Song to Woody,  to his latest Oh Mercy masterpiece, Man in the Long Black Coat, Dylan shocked the West Side  of Manhattan with a chaotic performance. Dressed in a gold leme suit and pointy white shoes, Dylan dropped his harp and mic on the floor during the Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat encore, and walked through the crowd before splitting stage left.  Adios Bob. May the lord have mercy on us all.

6.      10-17-93 Supper Club…From 1991-’93, The Never Ending Tour sputtered a bit. With a pair of sparkling acoustic shows at the intimate Supper Club, Bob righted the ship. All performances were memorable, but  One More Cup of Coffee, Queen Jane Approximately, and Tight Connection to My Heart were extraordinary.

7.      12-8-75 Night of the Hurricane, Madison Square Garden…The grand finale of the first leg of the Rolling Thunder Revue. Nuff said.

8.      10-19-88 Radio City…A blistering Subterranean Homesick Blues  kicks off a unique show featuring rarities like Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream, With God on Our Side (With the Neville Brothers Vietnam verse), and Wagoner’s Lad. The set ending trifecta of  Silvio > In the Garden > Like a Rolling Stones is as rocking as Dylan gets, shades of ’66.

9.      11-19-01 Madison Square Garden… Six weeks after 9/11, Dylan returns to his town dressed in a pink suit. He unleashes a riveting 21 song show. I’ll never forget how he corkscrewed on the checkerboard floor during a Just Like a Woma harp solo, but the highlight of the night was when Bob said, “Most of the songs we’re playing here tonight were written here, and those that weren't were recorded here. So no one has to ask me how I feel about this town.” 

10.  1-17-98 Theatre at Madison Square Garden… Sharing the bill with “Van the Man,” Dylan set the night on fire with intense versions of Senor, Absolutely Sweet Marie and Tangled Up in Blue.  Tommorow is a Long Time was a pleasant surprise, and the Time Out of Mind tunes were sublime.

Honorable Mention: 2-25-98…Dylan walked away with all the important trophies from the 40th Grammy Awards at Radio City, but his live performance was absolutely a Time Out of Mind experience. During Love Sick, Dylan endured the Soy Bomb intrusion to deliver an unforgettable Love Sick anchored by the spunkiest guitar solo of his career. During the acceptance speech,  The Dylan recalls the time he saw Buddy Holly in Duluth. Bob had The Right Stuff.

Howard Weiner's new book, Tangled Up in New York


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tangled Up in New York

Tangled Up in New York: Shakedown on the Streets is the inspirational, hilarious, and strange saga of a forty-eight year-old salesman who bagged his day job to hustle books on the streets. From Memorial Day through Halloween, Howard “Catfish Weiner hauled his Dylan/Dead memoirs from Battery Park to Yankee Stadium in search of an audience for his prose.  Along the way, Catfish becomes one with his oppressive environment, fusing with the strange brew of humanity stampeding along the steamy asphalt jungle. This is the quintessential and timeless tale of a New Yorker pressing on against all odds to manifest destiny, on his own terms. 

During his unprecedented 2012 book tour, Catfish meets up with Dylan's Never Ending Tour in Bethel Woods, Port Chester, and the Mohegan Sun. His tour also makes stops for Dylanfest at the Irving Plaza, and opening day for the Tempest Pop-Up-Shop in New York.
Take a look inside on Amazon... 


Friday, April 19, 2013

4-18-13 Scarlet Town

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.


  In honor of the anniversary of Music Mountain, here’s chapter two from my latest work, The Grateful Pilgrimage: Time Travel with the Dea...