Bob Dylan, Ogren Park at Allegiance Field, Missoula, MT – 8/31
Allegiance Field is a small minor league baseball stadium in downtown Missoula that hugs that Clark-Fork River tightly and usually plays host to the local team, The Osprey. Not this night. Instead, John Mellencamp and Bob Dylan had the park to themselves and spent almost four hours entertaining fans from all ages and backgrounds.
It wasn’t long after Mellencamp’s opening set (which closed out with “Authority Song”) that Bob Dylan came out on stage with his supporting band mates: Tony Garnier on bass, George Recile playing drums, Stu Kimball holding it down on rhythm guitar, the talented Charlie Sexton on lead guitar and Donnie Herron on electric mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel. As for Bob, over the course of the night he would contribute on guitar, organ and of course the harp.
Dylan opened the show with a crowd-pleasing old favorite “Rainy Day Woman #12 and 35.” Although while familiar, this version came across as somewhat dry and didn’t seem to connect with the Missoula fans as much as one would expect. Still Bob’s raspy old voice and the song’s sentiments made it an enjoyable opener. Going into 1967’s bluesy “The Wheels On Fire,” Bob came out on the harp, singing matter-of-factly and sounding a bit more like Leonard Cohen than himself at times, but one sensed he was truly into it and the enjoyment the band was having on stage was palpable. The group jammed out the folk-driven mid-section of the song for a prolonged harp solo, ending it slowly.
Dylan with his custom tailored red and black suit and contrasting white “West Texas” style fender-fold Cowboy hat remained inscrutable as ever throughout the night as he commanded attention from the nearly sold out audience. Running through a gauntlet of iconic songs, Dylan took to his guitar for “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” and delivered a slowed-down version of this story-filled song, while offering an unexpected highlight as he and Sexton went back and forth. Sticking to selections from the mid to late sixties Dylan then took to the organ for “Just Like A Woman,” getting the crowd to sing the chorus, for a poignant and powerful moment. Dylan later got back on the guitar for an extended “Simple Twist of Fate,” while the crowd mellowed for the elongated version. Later, after a crisp “Tangled Up In Blue,” Dylan went into a fast-paced almost rockabilly “Highway 61 Revisited.” This was the high point of the show, as all band members played together in unison driving the crowd to move, dance and cheer. The slide guitar work of Herron was appreciated here, as well as the metered drumming of Recile.
The show never seemed to lose any steam after this point as “Masters of War” played well to a highly polarized crowd of war-supporting fans and anti-war college kids who had just entered their fall semester at The University of Montana. “Ballad of a Thin Man” was drawn out in a slow progressing meter with Dylan filling in on harp like a madman at times, swinging his free hand out at the crowd.
The encore opened with “Jolene”, the only contemporary song of the night, off of Dylan’s latest release, Together Through Life. It was by far the lightest and shortest song of the evening. This was followed by “Like A Rolling Stone,” which certainly carries a sense of history yet Dylan clearly takes pleasure in re-examining it nightly. As the night ended, after he had powered through his show with a classic setlist, Dylan’s efforts were praised by people of all ages as the small mass of Montana fans filtered out into cool Missoula night.