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St. Annie

May 20, 2008, 10:38:45 AM5/20/08
Saint John, Harbour Station -- incontrovertibly a big old hockey rink,
with metal quonset-hut ceiling, big steam pipes snaking the length of
the roof. Half filled with about 4300 or 4500 really happy people:
oldtimers who heard Bob here in 2001 or so, rafts of teenage kids like
the one who sat next to us -- he'd saved his money from waiting tables
and bought a really good ticket for himself (sorry, he had said to his
girlfriend, who, he said, understood).

No opening act. No guitar-shrine parked behind the keyboards -- and
Bob played only two instruments all night, keyboards and the
harmonica. No clutter onstage. One little burst of Mardi-Gras beads
hanging from the front of the drums, and, of course, Oscar, overseeing
the harmonicas from beneath his own personal little spotlight.

The band strode on looking clean-cut too. Gone was Donnie's long
floppy hair; gone was the straggly curl at the back of Bob's neck. He
sure looked great: black cowboy suit with trim and touches of silver,
small sombrero with a little feather at the side, sideburns and
mustache cut just so (is a professional barber who's a sane Sweeney
Todd with the straight razor traveling with the show these days???),
and that big diamond band on the third finger, left hand. Lean, mean,
ready to play. And play they did for two solid, and I mean solid,

Stuck Inside of Mobile: a fabulous rise-and-fall to the lyric line,
something he kept doing on the other songs too. Very low on the
"there's one" and then way high on the "I've" and low again on the
"met" -- low on the "He just smoked" and high on the "my" and low
again on "eyeball" (yes, eyeball). The "Aw c'mon now" to Ruthie was a
bass purr that filled the hall; the "deb-u-tante" was enunciated
perfectly and drawn out slowly -- a feature of the show was the spot-
on, clear-cut pronunciation of every word! Bob's voice sounded grand
from the get-go and didn't flag or fade in the slightest. So did
Denny's guitar -- he had intense and joyful solos on many of the

Bob only played the harp for a puff or two on "Mobile" -- then looked
at it as if asking an old friend why it was letting him down -- and
moseyed over to the stand and selected another, out of which he played
the living heck. In-out, chug-a-chug, an old train whistle rippling
and rising and falling.

Don't Think Twice: fabulous intro by Donnie and Bob. The "it's all
right" was so kindly delivered, without the slightest edge -- a gentle
song until the very end, including a soaring harp stanza that followed
the melody. At the end the band, grinning, burst into an incredible
bump-and-grind striptease riff to close things out: crowd went nuts.

:evee: growly, earthy, the perfect lead into
Desolation Row: one of the best versions I've ever heard. Bob sang
the start almost a capella until the band came in fully just before
"Lady and I." A slow, 1-2, rocking-horse beat. Riffs on the words --
"you'd better hurry up and leave" -- after the pennywhistle a long
instrumental.. Ophelia got a nice little tweak from Donnie's
mandolin. Again a defective or wrong harp, smoothly replaced by Bob
and a gorgeous interlure with it before the last verse, very quiet
band, almost a cappella.

St. Annie

May 20, 2008, 10:48:58 AM5/20/08

..oops. Rest of the story.
Watchin the River Flow: Bob's in an aquatic, nautical mood. Who
couldn't be, here in the Maritimes, with that massive rise and fall of
the Fundy tide literally just outside the door, on a day that began
with driving rain and pearl-grey mist down to the ground, and then
burned into a glorious windy sunshine by three in the afternoon? I
find myself listening to the song and hoping he had some time down by
the sea, or out on the water -- it would make my day if he did a sea
chantey, like Rio or Golden Vanity....

Nettie Moore makes me even happier, though. The "Oh I miss you" he
sang incredibly low. Very quiet, respectful crowd, clapping along
with the slow drumbeats. His voice sounds especially good on this
one, for the instruments are low. A little tech trouble during the
show -- with George's drums. They end up being so loud they hurt my
ears and George is an enthusiastic man ... drowning out the rest
what's happening onstage. May they get this one fixed before tonight!

A tumblin-tumbleweeds intro and into "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight." Hot
and sweet as can be. "You don't hafta worry anymore" and a lot of
repetition in the lyrics, which punctuated them and made you listen to
the words: "I'll be .. I'll be your baby tonight." Sat up and paid
attention when he sang "Shut the blind, shut the light, Your daddy's
gonna last all night" -- debate ensued right after the end of the
song: "did he really SAY that? WHAT did he say?" Well, that's what
I heard ... maybe because it's what I wanted to hear! The fact that
there was a heavy full moon pressing down on the harbor and lighting
up the whole night made the song even better.

Quickly -- sorry, don't have the time to write more fully but wanted
to get this down! -- High Water was a standout, under the bright
bright lights. Bob did it better than the band did; for some readon
the song sounded tangled and muddy. He kept looking back at them.

St. Annie

May 20, 2008, 11:07:35 AM5/20/08
> the song sounded tangled and muddy.  He kept looking back at them.- Hide quoted text -
> - Show quoted text -

Spirit on the Water: wicked appropriate, as they'd say in Boston, for
the setting and the night. He crooned it. "You think I'm over the
hill" always gets a huge enthusiastic NOOOOOOOO from the crowd which
must be fun to hear. And when he challenged "lemme see what you've
got, we could have a whoppin' good time" you really did wanna take him
up on it. A sweet harp in this one. At the end, he faced straight to
the audience and made a gracious little head-nod of a bow.

Smash into Highway 61. 2 kids with red foam pointy fingers (for the
Saint John Flames) began waving them madly. People in the costly
seats who had been sitting down (!) stood up and began to dance. The
sound quality on this one was unfortunately ragged, and an annoying
incessant sort of diddley-dee on the lead guitar, but at least it
wasn't that freakin' slide whistle.

Bob took a long time at his harp station at the end of Higway 61,
those long white hands moving carefully in the little Oscar spotlight,
taking his time. The band started vamping for him, and a couple-
minutes lead-in had no one knowing what was coming next. What came
was the best live "Visions of Johanna" I've perhaps ever heard. I
must hear it again -- please, someone, post it; please, Sony/Columbia,
release it. Donnie did lovely work. A gorgeous, liquid, slow song
that made me cry on my birthday. Oh, Bob, thank you for this one!

Straight into Things Have Changed -- hurried, but great, and
repetitive like some of the others: "first woman...first woman I
meet"; "wheelin...wheelin her down the street." Donnie plus fiddle =
good stuff. Bob drew out the lyrics a lot: "next sixty seeeeeeconds
could feeeeel like an eterniteeeeeee." He spat out "one big LIE" and
really stretched out the "people are craaaaaaaaaazeeeee."

When the Deal Goes Down was a slow sexy waltz. I swear he was
waltzing with his keyboard while Denny strolled on the guitar.

Summer Days was rollicking and I reckon inevitable these days. But
they did it well. And then rewarded my patience with it with a
searing "Ballad of a Thin Man." He bit out every word: "some-body-
points-his-finger" clean and crisp. His voice cut straught through
the fuzzy tangle of the instruments and made me wish they'd all just
stop, and let him sing the whole thing without a shred of

Encore: Thunder on the Mountain. Alicia Keys got a yelp, sort of
indifferent otherwise, The band intro was nice; Denny and Tony got
the hands they richly deserved. He vamped on the keyboards as he
introduced the guys, and then smash into Rolling Stone. As many times
as I've heard it, this was a standout: he delivered that first
"didn't you" as quiet and calm as could be. Slow, low-voiced, dare I
say a philosophical delivery that really made me think, and worry, and
also, weirdly, relax. On the last "no direction home" he pointed out
at the crowd, with that thumb-and-forefinger like a pistol gesture,
and looked out at us. They lingered quite awhile for the bow at the
end, and looked like they liked being there. The crowd was certainly
appreciative and enthusiastic, refusing to head out even after the
lights went up. People who'd heard him in 2001 said how much better
this show was, and how much better he sounded. The kid next to me
who'd saved his money for the gig wiped his wet eyes and said he was
going home to play his guitar.

A delight of a night. So glad I was there for this one...but I have
to say, I'm having trouble remembering back to a show I didn't like,
for some reason or another....Ah well. Given that I loved the
eyeliner days I guess I'm a pushover, but the one thing I long for is
Bob on acoustic again, doing some old ballads with Denny the way he
did, in another lifetime, with G.E. Smith... and even longer ago with
men long dead....

Best to everybody from the Maritimes! xx Annie


May 20, 2008, 12:33:51 PM5/20/08
Dear St. Annie,

Thanks a lot for this inDepth analysis.

Can i take it you enjoyed the Show?

Sounds like i'll have to find this posted as mp3 (i'm morally opposed
to bitTorrent).

As to yr:

(is a professional barber who's a sane Sweeney
Todd with the straight razor traveling with the show these days???)


It's my contention that no man can fashion a 'stache like that without
2nd party assistance.

Stroply yrs,


May 20, 2008, 2:49:25 PM5/20/08

Why opposed morally?

St. Annie

May 21, 2008, 9:23:03 AM5/21/08

Agreed on the 'stache, Perfesser.
It looked sharp again last night -- along with the hot black suit with
crimson trim. The best boots: looking brand-new, too new really, as
if never walked a step in -- black with an almost spectator-style
pattern of white dots/stitching. You really noticed 'em when he
danced, which was often.

Highlights: the opener, It Ain't Me, Babe. Yowls start at he blows
the harmonica, and George laughs at this. Tony doesn't. Tony looks
much younger from 8 feet away.
Tangled up in Blue: the redhead in the topless place, tonight,
"started ta laugh in my face." No more carpenter's wives; they're
"truck-driver's wives." He flicks out the hair at the back of his
neck, after the number, and fluffs it out. Hot up there under the
lights already.
Mississippi has a lovely swinging beat. The keyboards drive the song.
John Brown and Masters of War: raw, upsetting. Quiet, listening
Honest With Me: midway through, prepping for keyboard solo, Bob takes
his hands off the keys and adjusts his lapels, strokes his hair,
chin. Elegant as he moves. Playing he crouches behind the keyboard,
slinky, tongue out, concentrating. Donnie is watching his hands like
a hawk.
Just Like a Woman: ribbons and bows have fallen from her gown.
A great It's Alright, Ma.
Beyond the Horizon provides the best crowd-pleaser moment of the eve:
Bob looks at Donnie and gets the giggles. Cracks up onstage at his
lounge-lizard self, or who knows what, just like Elvis in the midst of
Are You Lonesome Tonight. He can't stop laughing. George starts to
too. At the break he/they seem to recover, but as the band rips into
Highway 61 Bob cracks up again. Between the Howard and Louie the King
verses, he's laughing hard, and a crowd up front who can see him and
who's infected by the laughter isn't helping. We don't know what the
joke is, but it's a trip to laugh along. This suits Bob Dylan a lot
better than the poker face he concentrates on pulling for the rest of
the show. He doesn't so much as smile again, but he's nice and loose
as they take their curtain call.
Rolling Stone makes everyone happy, especially the kids, of whom there
are hundreds n a small audience. The floor's sold out, but there are
lots of empty seats down there when the show begins. The security
guards were efficient and professional, but they let the dancing kids
dance, as they ought to have.

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