He's Still Cute, and We're Still Friends: Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY Nov 23 & 24, 2021

Girlofthenorcalcountry's picture

My first venture into Bobland this tour, this year, and this decade, was defined in large part by the reuniting after way too long with Kait and sharing in the unshakable bond between us two that is never stronger than when we are around Bob. This second excursion, all the way across the country to the Empire State, was punctuated by a whole cavalcade of connections and re-connections. There were old friends with whom I've kept up over the years; equally old friends with whom I'd lost total touch and was delightfully surprised to see and spend time with; friends from the internet never actually encountered in 'real life' but felt like we had; and brand new friends, some fleeting and some I feel confident I will see at more shows. Liz, Allyson, Joanna, Jay (I never actually saw you but knew you were there!), Don, Susan & Al (just a drive-by, but still), Michael, Martin, Bob (not THAT Bob, though he was there, too). Todd! Richard, who crossed the Rubicon, I mean, the East River, to kick things off at that strange combination of speakeasy and dive bar we almost didn't find a mile from my junkyard-encircled hotel out by LaGuardia. And of course Mr. Jinx, ever one of my favorite traveling and show-going companions. And then at the end of it all, that chick at the airport bar in San Diego who, after I told her where I'd just been, at first declared herself “Bobby D's biggest fan,” until she found out that I was THE Caroline, admin of The Bob Dylan Fan Club, in which she is a member and participant. I've rarely felt so famous! It was truly a trip from start to finish populated by characters and colored by socialization.

I always love the GA shows the best and they are few and far between now when it comes to Bob. The opportunity to get right up front so that there is no one in between me and Bob. The ability to move, dance, sway and let the feeling of the music come through in that physical way that is largely lacking when sitting (or bouncing) in a seat. That prized front and center rail spot, of course, necessitates hanging out at the venue in line all day – but even that was quite a pleasure. Catching up with people and meeting new folks, including John the fun and talkative parking enforcement guy, sipping on a couple of beers and passing the day quite pleasantly in the thankfully not too bitter cold.

As we've heard by now repeatedly this tour, the set list played for both Port Chester shows was identical and the same as the other shows on the tour, with the exception of the slight changes made at the very beginning. But they were quite different in feel! I was a bit worried at the outset of night one, as the vocal at first was almost inaudible; and I'm not sure whether it was a cause or a result of that sound problem that Bob stumbled on the first two lines of Watching The River Flow. What's the matter with me? Thankfully, though, whatever was the matter got quickly corrected and soon Bob's vocals were up in the mix and clear. He also managed to sing into the microphone more successfully after those first couple lines. He never seemed to quite fully settle in this night though. Was he having a hard time hearing things clearly? Was he a bit freaked out by having his fans so close at hand at this first and, other than tomorrow night, only GA standing show of the tour? Maybe he raged on his night off last night in NYC and was just tired. Impossible to know but he remained, at least to my perception, a bit hesitant and maybe just a bit introverted throughout. On this tour there are a number of songs that he begins center stage and then migrates to the piano, or vice versa, on any given night; tonight the lone song that he came center stage for was Melancholy Mood. On any others, during sections when he wasn't playing piano, he would seem as if he was thinking about going center stage but would instead just take a couple of steps away from the keys and face his band and sway. That in itself was kind of interesting and cool in its uniqueness-- watching the back of that famous curly head taking in his musicians. At least once he was not entirely pleased with what he heard, going over to Tony a couple of times in what appeared to be agitation and during I'll Be Your Baby Tonight he repeatedly says something to his band about “the beat,” and not in a pleased way. Despite any discomfort or displeasure that may have been part of Bob's demeanor tonight, the show was powerful and captivating, and I was entranced by all the Rough And Rowdy Ways songs. During I Contain Multitudes I got a pointed look and signal of a raised hand when Bob sang about Liberace, even though tonight I did not actively woop on his behalf – proving that Bob knows things that he shouldn't reasonably know. Key West is a stunner night after night and always seems to be the song people are swooning over, a trip we all go on together like a drug we all take for a shared hallucinogenic experience. I've Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You was my out-the-gate favorite on the new album, though seeing the songs live has brought others to the forefront and perhaps challenged that status. But it remains a very special one and really takes me with it tonight; Bob's singing is the vocal equivalent of a swoon, with his voice grabbing softly hold of me and dipping me way down and back up in a romantic grip, like the shadow dancers on the poster. I love it so much. Actually, he also came center stage briefly on this one tonight, after his gorgeous mid song piano solo.

Night two and I've had a feeling all day that Bob's gonna rock the joint tonight. I am not mistaken! The front row is rarin' to go as Bob promptly takes the stage – he's maybe even a minute early. Oddly, he stumbles on the first two lines of the first song, Watching The River Flow, again tonight! It's hard to tell if he is jumbling words, or not quite at the microphone, or both. And even more oddly, I have since seen multiple reviews of other shows where he does the same – both nights in Philly for example. Just what's going on here? Is this some type of performance art and actually part of the song arrangement now? What's the matter with Bob?! He don't have much to say. Oh wait, but he does! And he goes on to say it all with force and vigor tonight. He makes up for whatever shyness or reticence he was feeling last night and then some, going center stage for some portion of what seems like about half the songs, starting early on with I Contain Multitudes. Tonight Bob is smiley, pointy, jazzhandy, and singing his heart out. He seems thrilled to be with us and pours so much into every song. Some of my favorites tonight are the Rough And Rowdy rockers. False Prophet contains an entire song's worth of emoting in each line, with Bob really hamming it up in the best of ways. And Jimmy Reed! He starts out center stage with just him and the microphone, before returning to a full on assault on the piano; I'm not sure he's done any center stage on this one at the other shows. Bob is feeling this one tonight 100% and more – it's full of fire and seems to achieve that scratchy old sound of an old record, and that's meant in the best of ways. And his singing, holy hell! Drawing out so many lines to wonderful effect. Thump on the bible, proclaim a creeeeeeeed! There's some moment tonight when Bob is at the piano and gives me a distinct nod and point; Mr. Jinx sees it too, but now neither of us can remember what song or line it was during. Bad reporting, I know. But I get so wrapped in the moment that I forget to remember things sometimes. Oh well. It's nice to be noticed, and I'll just hope it was during a line more like, “I knew you'd say yeeeeesssss... I'm sayin' it too” than, “Show me your ribs – I'll stick in the knife!” or “I need you like my head needs a noose!”

There is a final moment tonight that I do remember well, that I see clear as day in my mind's eye. Bob wrapping up Every Grain Of Sand and looking down from his place at the piano to where I stand in rapt attention a few feet away, and flashing me an open mouthed grin right in between these lines:

“Sometimes I look, there's someone there, other times it's only me
I'm hanging in the balance of a perfect finished plan”

I like being here; or there, as the case may be. I like this plan and I like being a part of the plan, like we all are on this road with Bob. How wonderful that he's back out, with all these new songs that people want to hear, continuing to give us all that he gives us in his multitudes of ways. I'm so glad he made this the “Rough And Rowdy Ways Tour.” I think that, more than with any other Bob album, seeing and hearing him play and sing these songs live on stage in front of me and to the world has made my love for the songs grow and blossom. I feel like I understand them more now, and understand a little more what they mean to Bob.

Before band intros tonight:
“Nice to play this place, what a beautiful place indeed! I hear the Marx Brothers played here. Mae West, too. Can't say more about this place than that. Anyway, we're playing here now (crowd goes wild). Yeah! I wish Mae was with us but, you know, you can't have everything.”