Thursday, July 13, 2000

Dylan dazzles early crowd

Legend opens at Riverbend for Dead's Lesh

By Chris Varias
Enquirer contributor


        The only two people Bob Dylan should have to bequeath the headlining slot to are Hank Williams and Howlin' Wolf, and they're dead.

        Yet there he was at Riverbend Tuesday, taking the stage at 7:08 p.m. with the sun still shining, more than two hours before Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh would begin his headlining set.

        That just makes Mr. Dylan the world's best opening act. His hour-and-35-minute set was another great one, continuing his string of wonderful area shows over the last few years.

        And, actually, the strange or der worked. Lots of the older Dylan fans cleared out after he finished, giving the younger hippies more room to do the electric Dead boogie.

        Where to begin about Mr. Dylan? There was an amazing “Wicked Messenger,” recast like a rocking and rumbling rendition of ZZ Top's “Sharp Dressed Man.” It marked the only time Mr. Dylan drew his harmonica, blowing away with guitar slung to his side, keeping an eye on the crowd he was slaying.

        Guitarists Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton did battle on a rarely performed “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” with their boss obliviously noodling away on his guitar and serendipitously finding the pocket.

        Mr. Dylan was mum between songs but especially animated while playing. During “Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues,” he darted and duck-walked around the stage — a cross between Chuck Berry and Charlie Chaplin — slicing the air with the neck of his guitar like a sword.

        With those three songs and more, the set was heavy on the '60s. He went back to Nashville Skyline for “Country Pie” and “Tell Me That It Isn't True.” Mr. Campbell's pedal steel highlighted “Love Minus Zero/No Limit.” “Positively 4th Street” was a crowd-pleaser, while “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Highway 61 Revisited” brought the room down as usual, as did his staple from the '70s, “Tangled Up in Blue.”

        As for the quiet stuff, “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall” dragged, but “Song for Woody” was a nice reminder that — at a time when the Woody Guthrie myth snowballs — the folk singer was once simply Mr. Dylan's pal.


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