Upon learning that this gig was to be played at Deer Valley a few weeks ago, I actually briefly considered not going. Deer Valley is one of around 4 ski resorts that still does not allow snowboarders on its slopes. The last thing I want to do is support something like that. However, it was Dylan (and the band! haha), it was close, it was GA, and, well, c’mon, its Dylan!
I arrived early enough to be able to wander around on the stage. It was tiny! The stage itself was only maybe a foot and a half tall, and very small. It was deep, but the audience was on the ski run, meaning a hill, so there would not be a bad spot to be had. It was cold, grey, drizzly, and the sprinklers were having their way w/ the only spot w/o grass; right in front of the rails. Still, you could tell we were going to be in for a major treat.
Soon after, the road crew arrived and made us go back to the line. And oh, what a line it was. Aside from the group I was traveling w/, there weren’t but one or two “regulars”, yet the 7 lines grew fast and furious, stretching all the way back to the parking lot many, many hours before doors, I’d never seen such a large and (relatively) gung ho bunch of locals. Most were pretty mellow, and the guy next to me actually saw Tony a lot back when he was w/ Asleep At The Wheel.
The first problem to hit (aside from the sprinklers watering the stage) was a massive power failure. At first it wasn’t too bad, they still had time, but as the day waned on and the power still had not returned, both the crew and the audience began to get edgy. Would they cancel the show? Would they play a replacement date? I cant come back for that! Will they play acoustic?!?!?!?!?! Why cant you use the generators? Why are the bathrooms so dark? haha A quick walk up the hill proved the prefect vantage point for the janky way they went about setting up the rails. There were cables jutting up out of the ground holding the canvas roof on that clearly had to be walled off, but because the stage itself was so small, there were only 2 barricade pieces that were parallel to the stage, the rest angled away to form a U. You would have to run down a ramp off the ski patio, up the hill, around this U, and back down into the pocket of the thing, which wasn’t very big to begin w/. Sounds like a worthy challenge haha. The best part about it was that the bathrooms were up there, so the crew couldn’t stop you from going and looking, further stressing out the guy in charge
As for myself, it wasn’t a bad wait. I was able to sit in the shade and type up my KC review, and have a relatively normal conversation w/ one of the merch guys. We’d sort of become forced friends after seeing each other day after day after day during the week haha. Security was really cool too, they were all relatively young and would give me the heads up when I needed to duck the stressing stage manager (apparently shade is reserved for those on the payroll as well ). Thankfully the power came back on and they were able to start soundcheck (and open the downhill bathrooms, no doubt making his life a little easier).
By the time they got around to opening doors, the rainstorm that was being meticulously followed by those in line finally reached us. It had just started to get wet when the head ticket taker slowly and calmly walked by, instructing in a quiet voice “start taking tickets”. I ripped my own ticket again and tore off. There was only one person in front of me; some arrogant local who’d been drinking all day and was really starting to become an assh*le, claiming how his ringers were going to grab the whole rail for his 30 friends that showed up right before doors, etc, etc. You know the type, so it made what happened next even better. The venue guys, as is their job, begin yelling “Slow down, walk, don’t run, you’re the first ones , you have plenty of time”……so this mookactually starts walking!!!!!!! I fly around him and yell “no, you’re not!” (If he wouldn’t have been an assh*le all day, I wouldn’t have, but this was too sweet.) Stunned, he begins chasing me, lets out a war cry (?) of “AYE YEI YEI YEI !!!!” and aims for my left, where there appears to be a space between me and the walls around the cable… only to be blocked by the trashcans!!!! My lead grows. I get around the handicap pen, take a sharp left, and, by some miraculous stroke of luck, actually SEE the tiny white twine stretching 2 and a half feet off the ground. Not to brag, but w/ the agility and grace of, I don’t know, a gracefully agile person (?) haha, I slide underneath it and hit the rails first, with quite some time to spare! The most fun run in I’ve ever had! I turn around and get to watch the chaos that is the rest of the crowd as they sputter up and around the corner. If I was a tech I’d be standing center stage each and every night to watch that, as it sure is a sight. Luckily the grass hadnt beome slick yet, but to someone who’s lungs aren’t accustomed to such altitudes, I’m sure it was a pretty massive hill.
The rains begin, hitting hard as they often do up that high. Just about every single tech and crew guy came out on stage to watch; I don’t know that I’ve ever seen so many together at one time like that haha. We are on the cusp of the canvas roof, so we don’t get the worst of it, but we are still anything but dry. We begin listing all the songs he can/should/(but in reality probably) wont play, and come to the realization that “what Dylan songs don’t have to do w/ rain?” haha
When the instruments are finally unwrapped and the boys strut out, what else could they have opened w/ but RDW? (From what I was told ), Dylan seemed happy, and Donnie, George and he seemed to sharing the greatest of jokes among themselves, grinning the entire time.
I couldn’t believe my ears when they started into Masterpiece, I had to be wrong, there’s no way, it cant be! It was! Its plain to see that the energy from last night is still alive w/i them, and the sound isn’t anything to shake a stick at either. We were standing just right of the PA tower, and the intro music was squealing pretty terribly, but Papa seemed to get things under control, from where I was the bass was pounding into my chest all night. Tony was playing the hell out of the thing too, throwing in interesting little fills all night, but as always, just smooth as hell. Chalk another night up to Tony. I’m glad to see him moving better. While not necessarily bouncing off the walls, he wasn’t standing in weird positions or moving about in slow, uncomfortable ways. (I don’t know that I’d be able to see a Dylan show w/o T ) Denny again only has the gold Gibson on stage, but its really grown on me this past week, so no complaints from me. Donnie played pedal for this one, and at the end, beaming from ear to ear, he yells to Dylan “I got that one!” Uh, go Donnie?
Was taken completely off guard by Not Dark Yet, which was incredible. Sounded a lot like the album version, but more haunting, more real almost. Million Miles was equally powerful. And then it happened. Desolation Row. That was the one song I was happy to have never seen. Every single tape I’d ever heard of it just completely ruined it. That was a song for a young man’s voice; I don’t even particularly care for 70s versions of it. However, tonight’s didn’t bother me (and I was listening for anything to be wrong w/ it). The vocals weren’t particularly clear, but they weren’t horribly garbled either. But what really got to me was the music. The music has never been what attracted me to that song, but it was really moving tonight. I don’t remember one particular person standing out more then the others, but everyone just seemed beautifully on point, really the whole night, but for that song in particular.
Levee, which should have been predicted but wasn’t, was its usual rockin self, putting Stu was back on his Tele, which had been conspicuously absent for the past couple of nights. After that, another one out of left field; She Belongs To Me. Again, not one that I look forward to seeing, but above and beyond a solid performance from everyone. Honest absolutely BLAZED, Stu on lead, even twisting and writhing during his (impressive) solos, after which he went back to acoustic for Simple Twist.
Since the stage was so low and so close, I began to get a little uncomfortable just staring at my normal two (that, and I’d been staring at them for the past three nights now), so I got the chance to observe a little bit of the dynamic between the whole band, and I cant maybe help but wonder if Stu on rhythm for so many years is actually putting him into position for something more. This guy knows the songs, inside and out, and it is he, not Tony, who Denny watches for cues. He is the only one that Dylan is not in the position to keep an eye on, and last night it seemed Tony would play/show a few of maybe the more tricky parts straight to Stu. I’m not saying anything one way or the other, maybe its always been that way but I’m too busy watching stage right, but that guy really is a rock back there, and perhaps his stage position is not one of subordination, but rather of trust and reliance.
Our final surprise of the night came w/ Queen Jane, and there’s nothing I can say about it that I havent said about the rest of the show, absolutely incredibly playing from every facet. The performance level matched the setlist on this one, incredible song selection; but even more incredible playing on each and every one of them! It was such an honor to have been there (sorry to rub it in ).
The rain clouds came back sometime around H61, but they were really bearing down after Thunder (which, by the way, was the BEST version of Thunder I’ve ever heard!) and turning especially where we were into a muddy quagmire. When the lights went down, Denny and Tony turned their backs and messed w/ their equipment, but otherwise readied themselves for the next song; everyone else was putting their instruments up. Could it really be the end already?!?! I couldn’t believe it! More! We need more! They’ve only just gotten into it!
The came striding back out a very short while later, launching into one hell of a LARS, Denny on Strat and seeming to be doing a more bluesy job w/ that song then he usually does. The lights went down, and we expected to be greeted w/ “hello, friends…..”. Instead, the lights came up on Bob and the boys in that familiar line-up. What?!?!?! They cant end it now!!! Those bastards! Get back here and play some more!!!!
But, of course, they didn’t. It was raining harder then it had all day, and the wind was shifting in such a way that a very nice Tungsten amp would have been soaked in a matter of minutes. I’m sure the temperature had something to do w/ it as well. Even w/ the 4 heat lamps on stage, you could see their breath all night. My ears were hurting and fingers were cold just being in the audience, so I can imagine how cold they were up there.
Whatever mud had accumulated on me during the show instantly washed off on the trek to the parking lot. It was coming down hard and heavy, and you’d probably have been a little drier had you just jumped into a swimming pool w/ all your clothes on.
It had been completely worth it though. The last week had been one of the funnest I’d ever had. I had just done 4 shows in 4 states in 5 days. I’d experienced the complete pantheon of weather, I’d had the easiest GA run-in, and one of the more difficult ones. I’d sat in row Z, and I’d clung to the rails, I’d been everywhere but the electric chair, seen everything but the wind ( ). And as much as I really wanted to continue on to Las Vegas, I was just as happy to be leaving the tour. They have it easy, they have beds, they have people to drive them, they’re guaranteed the best spots in the house.