Orlando & Jacksonville March 9, 10 & 12, 2024

Girlofthenorcalcountry's picture
My first venture into 2024’s Rough And Rowdy Ways World Tour starts out with thematic reverberations of a much older song than any in the currently played set list as my flight to Orlando, originally scheduled for 7:30 AM gets changed to 10:57, then 9:56, then 9:36, then 9:06, then 8:06 – yes, indeed, the times they are a-changin’! This last update sends me hastily ending a phone call and racing for the gate as I am on the other side of the terminal and the current time is 7:40. I get to the gate and barely a person is there and the door to the jetway is closed with no agents at the podium, and so for a brief, panicky moment I think somehow it’s all boarded and I can’t get on! I rush to a nearby gate that is peopled by southwest employees and, between breaths, gasp that I need to be let on my flight, I can’t miss it! With some curious looks the Southwest employees assure me that, no, that flight has not yet boarded and is still delayed. Ok, then. Back at my gate the departure time remains posted as 8:06, which by this time has already come and gone, and they apologize that they are unable to change that notification.  Which doesn’t really make sense since they’ve changed it SO many times already. I endure various updates about a mechanical issue and then a missing pilot, and they have everyone line up to board and then sit down several times. But ultimately, the flight delay gods go easy on me and we end up heading for the Sunshine State, Kait, and of course Bob Dylan only an hour and a half late. I make it to Orlando with a few hours to spare before show time, enough to go back to our upstairs bungalow Airbnb, freshen up, and get a cocktail in me before heading to the venue.
    Outside the venue we have various encounters, arranged and otherwise, with friends and Fan Club members from down the years. Venue workers keep coming up to us and asking us questions: are you waiting for someone? Are you valet parking? Do you know what door you are going in? While I appreciate the help, it feels a bit like an interrogation as, after all, we’re just standing outside an auditorium before a concert, which seems like a pretty normal activity – do we really look that shady (don’t answer that question)? Anyway, soon enough we are inside in our excellent seats in row three but kind of row two the way the venue is arranged, all the way on the left hand side facing the stage; right where we will be for every night of this three-show run, except we will move a row closer each night. A great situation!
    I admit that I’ve lost track of the different intro music that Bob employs to signal the start of a show. But right on time it blasts out and the curtains lift and there they all are, Bob and everyone in place and some plink-plonking already going on at the piano. A surge of excitement as the show begins. It’s apparent immediately that this has really become a show centered on Bob at the piano, and of course his singing, which is strong. The band is very subdued, sometimes at Bob’s insistence as he motions one or the other of them with a hand to his side or behind his back to reduce the tempo or volume of their playing. I’m struck that Bob is in a mode of really trying to achieve a certain sound or mood and that he’s not always feeling like he’s getting there. But what is art if not a challenge and a struggle, sometimes for the artist and sometimes for the audience? Bob’s shows demand you to pay close attention and he is clearly a perfectionist right now for trying to get things “right,” whatever that is in his brain. He’s searching. And lord almighty he is playing that piano! I’m struck by his keyboard flourishes and concentrated solos that seem impromptu in any song at any moment. He laughs out loud a few times at this show, directly into the microphone, which is always endearing to hear.
    While Bob has snuck a good number of cover songs into his shows the past few tours, I’ve seen a scant few of them. In fact, it sort of seems that for whatever stretch I join a tour, I get identical shows. Which I don’t really care about, because they are so good and I’ve seen so many shows and so many songs, over the years. So, true to recent form, I get three nights in Florida of the cover song Walking By Myself. This first night is the best one, in my opinion, and really one of the best moments of the evening. He really digs into it, especially during one round of the part that starts, “I love ya,” and he repeats, “love, love, love YA!” a bunch of times and then, upon the song's closing, states into the microphone an extra, “I love ya!” to the audience. It’s special, and one of those moments when in your brain after a long day of travel and associated stresses you hear yourself say, “Yeah, that’s why I’m here!” Bob sits more than stands at the piano tonight, which actually works well for the view we have and for him not being blocked by the microphone. We also get the longest show of the three I will see, since it’s the only one where he includes Gotta Serve Somebody in the set list, so that is cool. 
    We round out the night with a great party at an Irish pub around the corner where old friends meet and combine effortlessly with friends just met tonight. There are locals and someone from as far away as England. We share stories about shows we’ve seen and mutual friends we have in common, and it’s a jolly time. After we close the bar we enjoy some late night continued partying and swimming at a friend’s hotel; even though our friend loses their room key in the pool and we have to go to the lobby dripping and wrapped in towels to get a new one, it’s not too difficult and gives us something more to laugh about the next day. We lose an hour with the clocks so it’s an extra-late night, but at least the show is in the same place so it’s a sleep day not a travel day!
    The following day spent in Orlando is fun, with sushi and tiki drinks and strolling around Lake Eola watching swans attack dogs on leashes. The show tonight is probably my favorite of the three. I feel that Bob was totally on point through and through. There are a couple of songs with flubbed lyrics that someone afterward points out to me but honestly I barely even notice in the moment because his whole being, his whole demeanor is so focused and into it. Maybe he was too into the vibe to remember all the words! And, as Bob will do at the drop of a hat, even from last night to tonight there are some really drastically changed arrangements! Both My Own Version Of You and I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You are reworked to have more jaunty, swinging tempos. I love both new arrangements, especially My Own Version Of You, which will stay that way in Jacksonville while I Made Up My Mind goes back to a slower, or maybe an in-between kind of tempo. Bob also stands up a lot tonight, so I guess he maybe got some good rest and was feeling energized! 
    But now that I said the second Orlando show was my favorite, maybe the show in Jacksonville was. With a day off in between, we get situated and then spend a bunch of the show day in the lovely nearby historic town of St. Augustine, a first time visit for me there. We eat some great food, stroll around in lovely sunshine, enjoy the interesting architecture of grand Spanish Colonial churches and modest older houses, even happening upon the area's answer to Big Pink! The show in Jacksonville features Bob at his most interactive. We’re in the front row, perfectly positioned. We get a few flashing smiles and, while he may have been adjusting his lapel or fussing with his hair, I swear Kait and I get a sly sideways point across the keyboard during False Prophet, right at the lines, 
    “Hello Mary Lou, hello Miss Pearl, My fleet-footed guides from the underworld. No stars in the night shine brighter than you, You girls mean business and I do tooooooo!” 
    Bob plays an amazing piano interlude on To Be Alone With You tonight. It’s part boogie-woogie, part weird dissonant avant garde jazz, and it seems to last a really long time. The other most exciting thing that happens tonight is the harmonica solo during I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight. You see, any show that Kait and I are at together of these Rough And Rowdy Ways shows, even the most sit-down, deadbeat audience, we always, always get up and dance during I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, the fast part. It’s the song after which Bob gave us the double point (pistol fingers) in Huntington WV late last year. It’s kind of our song with him, right now, like Standing In The Doorway or High Water was in 2003. So how thrilling it is when the jam part starts in that song in Jacksonville, and Kait and I leap from our seated positions to shake it at least for this brief minute or two that we do, and Bob concurrently grabs the harmonica and blows his lungs out in an extravagant and elegant way for the same part! It’s like he’s joining in dancing with us at the show.