Polka Dots and Moonbeams: Caroline's Summer 2016 'Headin for Another Joint' Journal

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Polka Dots and Moonbeams (Summer 2016)

Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO

Got to spend the turning of the season and kick off the summer in a big, hot way with Bob and great friends this year, and nothing could really be better. My three show mini-tour started with a home town show, which is always fun, and at the venerable and mighty Red Rocks Amphitheatre to boot. Had to splurge for the front row for this one, as well as do what needed to be done to get my bestie and Fan Club co-Director out here. It’s funny, we were in the same spot as the last time Bob played there, only that time we put in the cost of labor by camping out in line all day vs. what is now the monetary cost involved with getting close to Bob. But in the end, one way or another, it’s always worth it. “What does it matter, what price I pay?”

We kicked things off with a fun pre-show tailgate in the parking lot, and got to meet a great little congregation of Fan Club folks! Thanks to Joni, Carol, Susan, Erika, Tom, Laurette, Jeff and anyone else I’ve forgotten for stopping by and making the day festive, and of course to Mr. Jinx for always being the greatest of companions and providing the wheels. The party atmosphere that started there followed us inside and didn’t stop until the last note was played! (Actually, it didn’t even stop then!)

This current show is a grand one, with the songs off the last two albums performed with utmost care and gratitude and truly a joy to hear and behold. Whatever you think of Bob leaning heavily on these songs from the Great American Songbook right now, there is no doubt that he is presenting them to his audience as a gift that he cherishes, and I challenge you not to be moved by that. I like the songs on the albums; I love them live. In concert they are given room to breathe, with brief but stunning solos by Charlie or Stu, and Donnie’s pedal steel sounds otherworldly. And how long has it been since I’ve gone to a Bob show and heard him and the band perform SIX songs I’d never seen live before?? ‘Nuff said!

Tonight on the Rocks is a special one, for sure. The setting here is incomparable and has a way of affecting and enhancing the experience for both artists and fans. Right out the gates with Things Have Changed, which has a slowed down tempo from the last tour, Bob is enthusiastic, expressive and playful. The relaxed pace of the song gives him time to stretch out vocally. He follows each singing of the line, “I used to care” with some punctuation like, “Oh yeah!” or “Uh-huh” or “Aaahhh!” and it sets the tone for the entire night ahead. So many smiles, laughs, dance moves like only Bob does, and of course jazz hands. In our front row spot with the wide bleacher seats that Red Rocks has, there is plenty of room to groove and we are completely level with Bob, there’s no looking up for us or looking down for him, and it seems that he is happy to see the Fan Club up and dancing in front of him!

When Bob hits the harmonica notes in She Belongs To Me, they reverberate off the rocky spires and you think they might echo there for all eternity. As a near full moon peeks out from the side of the stage on this final night of spring, and the rust colored rocks loom all around us, there is a gloriously spooky quality shared by all the songs, even songs so vastly different as Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, What’ll I Do, and I’m A Fool To Want You.

Many highlights come in the second half, with High Water leading off. Such a history we have with this song and it’s great to be able to dance and jazz hand along to it in such close proximity to Bob. I think it’s during this one that Bob does the most dancing himself; he starts with the little backward shuffle from the microphone that he does frequently during breaks between lines that he sings, but here it turns into a few steps of that old soft-shoe, Mr. BobJangles. The Tempest songs are shining beams into Bob’s soul, and I’m so glad they are liberally proffered to us throughout these shows. We get the bawdy stomp of Early Roman Kings, and by this point there’s no holding back from either Bob or his Fan Club. We’re whooping it up with shouts and hollers during all the great lines, and he is attacking the keys and the vocals like the young man that he will forever be. All the women goin’ crazy indeed!

Then it’s back to another haunting, spooky highlight with Scarlet Town, which is likely THE moment from this show that will be stuck in my mind’s eye even when I’m 80 years old, because each line rises to a new pinnacle of mysterious beauty. This is one of Bob’s true modern classics, with evocative music and words that can be studied and explored for endless meaning. Tonight it is timeless: dark, disturbing, glorious, and redeeming, ghostly and human, all at once, one of those songs like Chimes of Freedom that truly includes and captures everyone and everything, albeit in as different a way as possible. It’s all right there for ya.

The smiles and jazz hands are coming fast and furious during the show closer, Love Sick, as if Bob is, as much as we are, trying to revel in and soak up every last moment of this extraordinary evening. It’s not often (never?) that I have a plan to do something at the end of a show, other than simply applaud and smile. But tonight is a little different. We made a giant Bob Dylan Fan Club banner that served its first purpose admirably, draped over our car earlier today, as a way to facilitate the pre-show meet up. Its second purpose feels a bit more daring but is pulled off immaculately I must say. During Lovesick the rest of the Fan Club in attendance have made their way over to the seats to where Kait and I are, and in the last notes and when Bob and the band are standing taking their applause, we unfurl the banner and hoist it high for him to see. And see it he does, responding with a pleased and amused smile and nod, a couple of double-barreled points our way, and he obediently, unabashedly and oh-so-happily returns the outspread hands logo right back at us. There it is. It couldn’t be a better way to wrap up the night, and I’m sure my smile is as big and bright as the moon that is now shining down fully upon us.

Thanks, Bob, band, crew, Fan Club, and red rocks that comprise this glorious venue that is also 75 years old this summer! It took all of you, and it was truly a night where everything and everyone came together splendidly!


Pinewood Theater, Lincoln, NE

Some nights with Bob you just know are going to be special before they even begin to happen, and such was the case for me with the Pinewood Theater in Lincoln. Oh yes, we had flown to Kansas City and attended that show the night before and while Bob was, of course, solid, the crowd and the venue security were dismal enough that I will not deign to grace that event with one of my reviews. It’s OK. I am left simply with gratitude that KC was not the end of the road (and Joe’s Barbecue in a gas station was top-notch). Onward, always onward…

As fate would have it, our front row center seats in Lincoln are next to our good friends Robin and Lex from Wichita, Kansas. They are hardcore Bob traveling friends, friends of the kind that, as I explain to the extreme interest and impressed amusement of the security guard near us, we only ever encounter at Bob’s shows but, that said, we know each other well and have spent probably 40-50 fun filled nights together. All in close proximity to Bob, so the friendship is intensified by virtue of being enjoyed at some of our favorite times ever. That’s the way it goes with the best Bob-friends.

Any inkling I had of this show being one that would truly sparkle is driven home before the first note is even played. Well, that’s not true; Stu is playing his opening notes! But, before Bob even steps to the microphone. Because as we watch excitedly for his entrance, craning our necks to the side of the stage where he and the rest of the band will emerge, there he comes, and he’s wearing a black shirt with large, white polka dots! Haven’t seen a polka dot Bob in recent years! He’s got on a cropped black jacket with thin stripes down the sleeves, not a longer below-the-waist one like he often wears, and the jacket is fully open (it’s another hot night in the Midwest) and the shirt is rather unbuttoned on the top button or two, with a loose black and silver bolo tie hanging casually down. He looks amazing, loose, and ready to have a good time.

What a good time it is. Like night and day from the weird, stodgy, selfish audience energy of the night before. This audience came to have fun, and everyone is respectful, accommodating, and happy. We (and by “we” I mean not just “us” but those around us, too) are up and dancing with Bob during the rockers, sitting, swaying and transfixed (and catching our breath!) during the slow songs. For whatever reasons, the love vibes are flowing in Lincoln and bouncing around the place. Bob feels it, and responds. The moody instrumental jam during Melancholy Mood is just a little longer and drawn out; Bob blows just a little harder on the Tangled harmonica solos; Duquesne Whistle reaches new heights of frenetic jamming. On the latter and virtually every piano song Bob can’t even keep his seat and ends the song on his feet dancing too while banging on the keys!

OH, and speaking of the piano – the busts are gone! Up until tonight there have been three decorative busts arranged on the grand piano, creating an obstruction to Bob if you are not in the right place. Tonight – GONE. Seems another indication that Bob came to deliver, to let us see what he got and have a whoppin’ good time! We have such a clear view of Bob at the piano and he engages the audience with almost endless smiles whilst playing and singing, seemed to really absorb the adoration and attentiveness from the audience and give it back, ducking under the microphone the better to view us and even kicking out a leg in our direction emphatically during Early Roman Kings. We also catch him multiple times not being able to resist sharing his enthusiasm with a fellow band member like George or Donny and giving them a goofy grin or an out-stuck tongue and raising of his eyebrows. Like, look what we’re all doing here tonight!

As always with the last show that I’ll see in a while, there are lines in songs that take on bittersweetness in the midst of my euphoria. What’ll I do when you are far away, and I am blue… One time, for one brief day, I was the man for you… I’m goin’ away, baby, I won’t be back ‘til fall. Well, every moment and line of Spirit on the Water, which to me seems a song from Bob to his fans about life on the road and our shared experience. By the time we get to Long & Wasted Years and the precious few that remain, I’d want to cry except Bob is still smiling so… So much for tears! We sway and gesture along with all the outrageous lines on that song, a pinnacle of raw honesty in Bob’s oeuvre but simultaneously such a mystery. Autumn Leaves is breathtakingly sad and so apropos to the moment. Blowin’ in the Wind has such a swing to it tonight. Bob sings it with pride that is palpable, and the humble sincerity I feel in his voice as he looks upon his audience with a slim smile and says, “my friend” is… well I’m not sure what it is or if I can find a word for it. Lovesick, at last, to send us on our way and Bob is the height of animation, with not only very distinct and outright jazz hands as the song calls for, but more subtle, flickering hand motions throughout, as if the music is emanating from his fingers, very lovely. And in the semi-darkness with the flood lights shining out at us from behind him, I swear I catch him with a direct point at our front row crew on the lines, “Could you ever be true? I think of YOU… and I wondeeeerrrrrr…” A spontaneous but seemingly quite deliberate gesture at an interesting moment. Inscrutable Bob giving us a wee glimpse in, a key to his brain, before he fades away into the night and we drift dreamily out beneath a rising strawberry moon.