On a rainy July night, I set off to see Bob Dylan at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It had been almost a year since I last saw Bob in the luxurious confines of the MGM Theatre at Foxwoods (see my post from August 16), so I was ready for my summer fix of Bob.
In the past, I had been reluctant to go to a show on the ball park tours. I'm not much for general admission gigs. You are either sitting thousands of yards away from the stage and you have to ask your neighbor: "Which one's Bob?" or you are enduring the mosh pit up front. Not my idea of a fun night.
Fortunately, I had Guitar Johnny as my wing man tonight. With him as my backstage ambassador, I had visions of meeting Bob and completing my rock and roll fantasy life. After a very pleasant dinner in the backstage area and a nice visit with a couple of the band members, "Guitar" and I were unsure about our plan. We went up to the back of stage to hear a bit of Johnny Cougar (or whatever he is called these days) and it didn't look like there would be much room there for us when Bob's part of the show began.
The weather was getting worse and I have to confess we were thinking about hitting the road. When we realized that Bob was not coming out of his bus for a stroll around back stage and a personal meet and greet with yours truly, we were really losing interest. Fortunately, we decided to make one more foray through the backstage area. We were hanging around just seeing if we could catch a glimpse Bob before he took the stage.
We did see a few people going up some stairs on the right side of the stage, but didn't think that was in our reach. Suddenly, a security guy was on us and instead of telling us to beat it, he told us go right up those stairs and find a place behind the soundboard. In an instant, we were flying first class.
Up we went and we found ourselves about 25 feet off Bob's side of the stage. After about 5 minutes there was a little commotion to our left and there was Bob with a black suit and white Rolling Thunder style hat standing about 6 feet away.
Bob and the band hit the stage and started into a rocking version of Cat's In The Well with Bob on lead guitar. Next they launched into It Ain't Me, Babe, which was followed by I'll Be Your Baby Tonight. Bob was playing his guitar for all he was worth. We could see Denny looking over at him with a perplexed look trying to follow his lead as they soloed together. Afterwards, Johnny said he thought he was listening to the Allman Brothers with the twin lead guitar sound. Pretty great stuff and Bob had the old chicken scratch working just fine. It made me remember his solos in the old days on Tangled Up In Blue. Chicken Scratch!
I was amazed to see that Bob keep the guitar on for another song. The band started in and after a few notes, Johnny and I looked at each other and said at the same time: "This Wheel's On Fire". One of my favorites from the Basement Tapes and what a treat to hear Bob take those leads. It made my night to hear it.
After a crazy jam version of The Levee's Gonna Break, the music took a little turn for the worse. It may have been our position on the side of the stage, but Bob's organ playing was drowning out every one else in the band. In Johnny's words: "His organ was Gothic." I thought it sometimes sounded like something you would hear at your local skating rink. Nevertheless, Bob was bopping around and laughing with the band between songs. He looked like he was having a good night.
Masters of War and It's Alright, Ma were casualties of this organ sound. The set list then veered to the modern era. It didn't matter, I was a happy man after the first few songs.
As we were driving back on 95 after the show in an absolute monsoon, Johnny was telling me about seeing Dylan and the Band in October of 1965 at the Bushnell Auditorium. Suddenly, we spotted the two tour buses heading down the highway to the next gig. As we passed, I thought about how much I enjoyed the show and how happy I was to hear This Wheel's On Fire. At the same time, I thought about the strange life of Bob Dylan and his Never Ending Tour. I hoped as he rode his bus through the rain and the dark, that he was happy as well. Thank you Bob for a great night.