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  • THUNDER IN THE SOUND!

      BOB DYLAN’S NEVERENDING TOUR

    “Thunder on the mountain, rollin’ like a drum
    Gonna sleep over there, that’s where the music coming from
    I don’t need any guide, I already know the way
    Remember this, I’m your servant both night and day.”

     Bob Dylan and his band return to the seaside town of Monterey and fill the Fairgrounds with a sold-out seated crowd. Dylan’s music, rather than showmanship, always surprises how good he and his band are, and knowing his songs by heart, that part of him is always open, searching the air with old melodies, new revelations, singing vintage songs with a fresh breath, igniting sounds, as the watchman passes, as new & familiar phrases flow through our ears, and the world nearby seems like “The Truman Show”.

    I feel privileged to be on the balcony of the hotel where I’m staying, directly behind the Fairgrounds stage, about four hours before the show, when Dylan’s band does a sound check and they do the best and loudest version of “All Along The Watchtower” I have ever heard. Maybe because this is where Jimi Hendrix once performed that song it seems so electric, thundering hot, the music on fire, and the loud fire engines that are going by during this song drill seem to add exuberance to the musical mix. I call my daughter on the phone to let her listen in. This is the first song she wanted to learn when she got a guitar. I am amazed at the length and strength of the song and grateful to hear it as it’s not performed in tonight’s set.

    When Bob Dylan is introduced about three hours later, a booming voice, with a long red carpet welcome, sounds like thunder coming from the sky. Bob takes the stage and the crowd is pleased when he opens with “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35” and “To Ramona” seems like a new song but really is an old one they were rehearsing this day. Everything he sings, no matter its age, sounds fresh and new in a familiar melody. He is in tune with his current audience. He recites his poetry in songs that are honest as the day and night are long. He sings to us about lessons in history.  Like the song, “The Battle Of New Orleans”, recorded by Johnny Horton, and written by Jimmie Driftwood, a high school principal who got students interested in learning history by communicating his lessons through music. It encouraged my interest in history then and when I heard this song on “American Bandstand” I started listening to rock ‘n roll. Dylan has songs like that to teach us from the lessons of life around us, and tonight he performs “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll”, a true story that happened in Baltimore in the early sixties. The New York Times calls this song “almost journalistic”.  Suddenly, as Bob is singing “sailed through the air”, an airplane  appears in the twilight sky without a sound, like a bolt of lightning before the thunder,  comes flying through, making a landing so close it seems the runway is a layer of air over our heads, but Dylan continues in a staccato beat and the lyrics communicate a lesson to us like one from Proverbs. The band continues with a rocking “Cold Irons Bound”.  Bob Dylan, the poet and bard, has always been a Biblical spiritual individual, from the early days at the beginning of the sixties decade to now. He humbly continues to share his talent with us. “Every Grain Of Sand” touches the hearts of the people here, and then the band lights up the place with “Highway 61 Revisited”, a song he’s been revisiting a long time, and we’re really pleased that he does “Shelter From The Storm” tonight and then “Thunder On The Mountain”. A giant shadow of Bob appears on the back screen and the crowd is lifted to its feet as the chords of “Ballad Of A Thin Man” rock the grounds under a full moonlit sky. Bob plays the harp to frame his taunting lyrics of Mr. Jones to close the show, and everyone is rocking to the beat. The final encore comes with his new “Together Through Life” song, “Jolene”, then, like a rocket ignited, with the spotlight on the crowd, the parting pleaser, “Like A Rolling Stone”.