A Drummer's Diary
2000-03-11, Cal Poly Recreation Center, San Luis Obispo, CA
Flagging Down the Double E’s is an email newsletter exploring Dylan shows of yesteryear. Subscribe here to get a new entry delivered to your inbox every week:
Remember tour diaries? They thrived during the early days of blogging and seem to have gone the way of the Rapidshare link. A singer or band member - hell, even a roadie - would periodically post updates from the road on the band’s website or LiveJournal. Sharing the goings-on of one's own tour obviously remains on Instagram and Twitter, but I miss this slightly more formal and detailed way to chronicle each show, and the often extremely mundane offstage time.
So I was extremely pleased to find that Asleep at the Wheel drummer David Sanger wrote a tour diary for SonicNet (RIP) about his band touring with Bob. Since yesterday's two shows were last-minute warmup gigs, today marks the official start of the 2000 tour, and the first with Asleep at the Wheel.
At the time, the veteran Western Swing band - in their third decade then and still going today - had recently backed up Dwight Yoakam on the Tonight Show and were about to go on a big stadium run with George Strait.
But first, Bob. Here's how Sanger describes his first show:
The venue at San Luis Obispo is small. It is a gym where the bleachers come down to the edge of the stage, so there is not a bad seat in the place. There are no chairs on the floor, and by show time, it was "nuts-to-butts" out there. When we cranked up the first song, all of our fears about what to play disappeared. They were cheering us, our songs and our solos. We could do no wrong and started loosening up immediately. It was a great way to begin this tour.
I stayed around to hear Dylan's set and sat on Charlie Sexton's side of the stage. Charlie is a guitar god in Austin and has been since he was 14 years old. I realized that in all the years I've known about him, I've never really had a chance to see him play. He has a comfort, while wearing a guitar, that I've rarely seen. Those of you who see him in this supporting role to Dylan are seeing a real guitar master in a little-seen role, and he pulls it off really well.
Of course, the whole set was great. I haven't seen Dylan's show since about 1990 or so, and the show then was more rocking and certainly not as intimate. I've also come to appreciate Dylan's songs a lot more because of a singer/songwriter in Austin by the name of Jimmy LaFave who can sing Bob's shopping list and make it sound great. So with a new interest in Dylan's music and this new band and approach, I was blown away by how great the set was. A lot of acoustic numbers and no twisted arrangements leaving you wondering what it is you just heard. Just a lot of great Dylan music.
I haven't peeked ahead yet, but I hope Sanger's tour diary continues. That was the downside of the tour diary era; many bands bailed halfway through. But you’d never get this level of detail in an Instagram caption. Want proof? Here’s Sanger’s Instagram (to be fair, he seems to be pretty good at this newer medium too).
And I agree with his review: the whole set was great. (Though he says "twisted arrangements leaving you wondering what it is you just heard” like that's a bad thing.) Bob plays the first "Song to Woody" of what would be many "Song to Woody"s this year. Other than that and "Like a Rolling Stone," he sticks with the same songs he played yesterday. That's okay! They still sound good!
That's likely one reason the year is regarded so well. Even when you look past the many big setlist surprises, the songs he plays often, the ones you might use for a bathroom break, deliver every time. “Blowin’ in the Wind” was great yesterday! It’s great today! I bet it’ll be great again tomorrow! Bob’s first year of this decade would be far more consistent than his first year of the last. In 2000, the high points were high and the low points…they were pretty dang high too.