When Dylan's tour schedule was announced and three local shows were listed, the Electric Factory in Philly seemed like it would be the best place, at least compared to the Asbury Park Convention Hall and the Borgatta in Atlantic City.
I had seen Santana at Borgatta, and its a big showroom, and the Asbury Park show is in a theater, so the EFC seemed like the best bet at the time, and I got two tickets off line.
Around noon on the day of the show - today, I called Barbeque Jim Campbell in Media, Pa. and asked him if he wanted to go to see Dylan. Jim said he had just heard about the show on the radio and was thinking about it when I called, a clear case of ESP.
We had seen Dylan together, with my brother Leo, at the Tower Theater sometime in the 80s. I can get the exact date because it was Paulie Gregory's 21st birthday, which we discovered later that night when we got back to the shore.
Barbeque Jim has a little cottege in Ocean City, which he occassionally rents out, and lives in a little shack - the Toy Box, out back, next to the barbeque and the bikes. He's a surfer dude, commercial artist and photographer who had been to China in the late 70s, right after Nixon.
I was thinking about this when I got stuck in traffic in Chinatown, looking for the Electric Factory. This is the new Electric Factory, at least its only been there ten years or so. I had been to the original Electric Factory, over on the other end of town, back in the late 60s. It was set up in an old tire wherehouse.
The new Electric Factory appears to have been a factory or a wherehouse too. But I couldn't find it when I went looking for it. I got stuck in a parade in Chinatown, celebrating the opening of the Olympics in Bejing) as I wanted to do a drive by of the EFC before going over to 2nd street to meet Jim at the Kyber Pass. Although I found a parking spot not far away, the Kyber was crowded with a young, mainly male, 20 somethings, of a punk rock nature, so I went down the street to the Sassafras, a little classier, upscale joint with open air French doors and some seats at the bar.
After settling in with a Youngling Lager draugt, I looked out the door and could see Jim waltzing up the street, so I didn't have to go back to the Kyber to look for him.
Not having seen each other in quite a while, we did a quick update on our lives, he just got back from Argentina where he went on a cowboy venture trip with some buddies, and I gave him a rundown on Santana and Levon Helm and a few other shows I've seen recently.
Then, after getting directions from the bartender, we jumped in our cars and I followed him to the Electric Factory, which we passed and then parked a few blocks away, just across the street from the Edgar Allen Poe House, with Poe's portrait painted as a mural on the side of a nearby wall, and a giant Raven sculpture in the side yard garden. The house and the house next door have been restored nicely, and the neighorhood is on the upside.
The new Electric Factory is bigger than the old one, I think, as it has a second floor balcony, which has a long bar against the wall and seats you look down to the stage. Since I bought the tickets ($65), Jimmy bought the beers, Yinglings $6 drafts a cup. By the end of the night, I don't know who got the better deal, him or me.
My Browns Mills friend Timmy, who went to the Asbury Park show, and whose been to the new EFC before, told me to get there early and grab a seat in a secluded section near the stage on the second floor, but they were reserved for VIPs, and we had to settle for a stage left overlook. But the sound was good and we could see most of the stage.
Dylan came out and instead of strapping on a guiter, surprisingly sat down at the keyboards as his five man combo back up band got ready. Guitar, base, keys, violin, guitar and Dylan on keys, harp and vocals.
You expect Dylan to do things a little different every show, and I couldn't even begin to compare it with the other shows I've seen - Dylan and the Band at the Spectrum in the 70s, Dylan at the Tower in the 80s, Dylan at the Taj in the 90s, all terriffic performances.
This time, it seems Dylan is in a lounge act mode, and Jimmy even compared it to Leon Redbone.
Unlike the Tower show, where he came out roaring with "All Along the Watchtower," and kept ratching it up a notch every song, this time it seemed he was playing keys with his combo at a lounge. A traditional version of "Lay, Lady Lay" got the crowd going, and some of the songs were recognizable rock & roll, but there were a few songs that just seemed out of place. Maybe I just didn't get them.
Then, just as I was about to complain, Dylan jumps into a real nice version of "Ballad of a Thin Man" singing, "You don't know what's happening here, do you Mister Jones?"
Doing some new arrangements of some older songs, and some new songs off his latest album, Dylan refrained from playing any of his popular hits, and I guess he doesn't have to.
As the reluctant poet laurient of my generation, Dylan has reached the pinacle of respect, and like Santana and a few others, god like status in the music industry, and yet, he's also the artist who has taken the mantel of Whitman, Longfellow and Frost. And there really is no second.
Okay, so Bruce comes in second if you keep taking votes.
So like Whitman, who took the ferry across the river from Camden 150 years ago, and gave readings of his poetry at churches, auditoriums and theaters, Dylan can come in and do and say whatever he wants, and there will always be a standing room only full house to hear him out.
But the guy who came out and startled us with "Once upon a time, you dressed so fine, threw the bums a dime, didn't you?", this time came out with his lounge act combo and entertained us for an hour and a half, did a two song encore, and then split.
Those who were there, mainly old hippies and a few young kids, can say they saw Dylan at the Electric Factory in Philly, but you expect the gods to move you more. You expect the gods to kick ass, and leave you knowing that you saw the poet laurient of our age.
Old Walt Whitman, grey beard and fat, may have electrified his audience when he sang his Leaves of Grass, but Dylan, Whitman's heir to the title, came out with his lounge act.
Perhaps the lounge lizard will metamorphize into a menacing minator once again, before he gets to the Borgatta, but my thoughts on it is that he's going to have to reach a little deeper into his soul and bring out some fire and brimstone if he's going to kick ass like the gods, as he has and will once again. I hope I'm there.
First reports from Asbury Park indicate a better show, which included "Like A Rolling Stone" in the encore, and while Bruce and Patti were stage left, and reportedly practiced a few songs with Dylan that afternoon, he didn't take the stage, despite the calls for "Bruce, Bruce."
Dylan, at 67, and the most influencial songwriter of his generation, is a head and a shoulder above Bruce when it comes to ranking poet laurients, though Bruce can still catch up, while Bob has to seal is fate before its too late.
For more views of this show:
BK 02:33am 080908
August 8, 2008
|1.||Cat's In The Well (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on violin)|
|2.||Lay, Lady, Lay (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel, Stu on acoustic guitar)|
|3.||The Levee's Gonna Break|
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin, Tony on standup bass)
(Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on electric mandolin, Tony on standup bass)
|5.||Tangled Up In Blue|
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel, Stu on acoustic guitar, Tony on standup bass)
|6.||Things Have Changed (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on violin)|
|7.||Spirit On The Water|
(Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on pedal steel, Tony on standup bass)
|8.||Honest With Me (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel)|
|9.||Beyond The Horizon|
(Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on pedal steel, Tony on standup bass)
|10.||It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)|
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on banjo, Tony on standup bass)
|11.||Tryin' To Get To Heaven (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel)|
|12.||Highway 61 Revisited (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel)|
|13.||Nettie Moore (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on viola, Stu on acoustic guitar)|
|14.||Summer Days (Bob on keyboard, Donnie on pedal steel, Tony on standup bass)|
|15.||Ballad Of A Thin Man (Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on lap steel)|
|16.||Thunder On The Mountain|
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on lap steel, Stu on acoustic guitar)
|17.||Blowin' In The Wind|
(Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on violin, Stu on acoustic guitar)
(Thanks Ed & Michelle for the phone call and Mike and Zac Kline for the emails)
Bob Dylan - keyboard, harp
Tony Garnier - bass
George Recile - drums
Stu Kimball - rhythm guitar
Denny Freeman - lead guitar
Donnie Herron - violin, viola, banjo, electric mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel