ASBURY PARK, NJ—Bob Dylan comes to Asbury Park. A historic event in the making. Everything was in place for a very special evening. The show had been an announced sell-out within minutes of the tickets going on sale. At least that was the word. I met two friends on their way to the show who said that they’d purchased their tickets minutes before when a new bunch of tickets dropped. I’ll never understand this concept. A show is sold out, or it’s not. When a show is sold out, people are forced to deal with scalpers if they want to go. Is it fair then to announce a sell- out, force people to pay exorbitant prices to scalpers, and then announce that some additional tickets have been found at face value? This is a practice that has to end.
Dylan and his band came onstage to a tremendous ovation, the band resplendent in their matching earth-tone suits and black hats. Dylan was dressed completely in black. As has been his practice in recent years, he took his spot behind a keyboard, and barely moved from there all night. At no time did Dylan play guitar. The last time I saw him, he was using the keyboard for more of a piano sound. At this show it was organ from start to finish. He’s had the same basic unit backing him for several years now, and they have become a very polished and tight band.
Despite his longevity, Dylan is in no danger of becoming an oldies act. First of all, he played six songs from his most recent album Modern Times, which in my estimation is one of the finest albums of his storied career. Of these songs, the standouts were the raucous “Rollin’ And Tumblin’,” the gentle “Spirit On The Water,” and the mournful “Ain’t Talkin’,” which closed the main set.
Dylan also defies any attempt to shunt him to the leftovers bin by continually reinventing, and in some cases deconstructing his songs. Classics like “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” and especially “Tangled Up In Blue” were performed with entirely new arrangements. These revisions are not always successful, and the version of the latter song was quite frankly a bit shocking, but there’s no denying the impact of an artist who continually reinvents himself and his work. Other set highlights included intense versions of “High Water (For Charlie Patton),” and “Highway 61 Revisited.”
So all of this sounds pretty good, right? The truth is, it wasn’t. Despite a thoroughly engaged Dylan, a locked-in band, and an interesting set list, I was terribly disappointed. There is one and only one reason for this. The sound in this venue is absolutely awful. It doesn’t matter where you sit or stand, or who is performing. The sound has never been good at Convention Hall, and never will be good until someone decides to invest some money to make it a proper venue. Fortunately it wasn’t a terribly hot night, as it was when Springsteen performed there earlier this year amid loud complaints about the heat in the hall, but even last night it wasn’t comfortable. People are paying $100 or more for tickets to these shows. They deserve better, a lot better.
The Set List: “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35” ““It Ain’t Me, Babe” ““Rollin’ And Tumblin’” ““Spirit On The Water” ““High Water (for Charlie Patton)” ““Tryin’ To Get To Heaven” ““Honest With Me” ““Tangled Up In Blue” ““It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” ““Beyond The Horizon” ““Highway 61 Revisited” ““Nettie Moore” ““Summer Days” ““Ain’t Talkin”’
Encores: ““Like A Rolling Stone” ““Thunder On The Mountain” ““Blowin’ In The Wind”