August 1, 2021

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11/17/01 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA

Tonight was Bob Dylan’s seventh show at the Spectrum in 27 years and his first show there without any kind of supporting act since 1981.  Of the three shows I’ve seen this tour, the Spectrum was the most packed and also one of the most appreciative.  The crowd was pumped.

Again “Wait For the Light to Shine,” kicked things off in high gear, followed by an “It Ain’t Me Babe,” that was incredible featuring a subtle guitar solo from Dylan that took the song somewhere else and at the end he went back for the harmonica and delivered a somewhat astounding solo that just built and built.

“Hard Rain” was every bit as strong as it was in Washington, with Dylan’s left leg constantly, twitching, shaking almost contorting—it never stopped moving, reminding me of ancient articles by Bob Shelton and Nat Hentoff, where they talked about how ever, while sitting at a table, Dylan’s left leg was constantly going.

“Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum” rocked, but there was something in Dylan’s phrasing that took the song somewhere else to an almost spooky place.

Dylan then bounced back to ’69 with “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” and then came the night’s first surprise.  Instead of staying with the pattern of the previous shows (that I saw) where he then dipped further back into his catalogue, he pulled out an astounding “Lonesome Day Blues,” that featured a startling good guitar solo by Bob.  And this solo pointed out what made the Philly show special.  While consistently singing with impact and intensity, Dylan seemed focused on the getting the music and his playing right.  His guitar solos, whether acoustic or electric took each song higher.

“High Water” which has consistently been a high point of the night, came next followed by “Don’t Think Twice” and an excellent “Tangled Up In Blue” with Dylan emphasizing the “written in my soul” line.  “John Brown” was stripped and stark with Larry’s bouzouki providing an eerie drone.  “Summer Days” was simply superb with the three-guitar attack.  At one point Dylan realized he muffed the “my back’s been to the wall line,” and quickly sang it again somehow squeezing it in.  This led to a slow, almost delicate “Sugar Baby” that seemed to silence the arena.  It seemed as if everyone was actually listening.  A ferocious “Cold Iron Bounds” came next leading into “Rainy Day Women.”

On the encores “Things Have Changed,” and “Honest With Me” were the standouts.  At the end of “Blowin’ In The Wind,” something happened that I haven’t seen at a show in years.  Suddenly there were a few thousand lit cigarette lighters flickering through the entire arena.

Dylan and the Band returned for “Exodus” into a searing “Watchtower.”  The band came together to soak into the applause with Dylan shuffling, smiling and pointing to various members of the audience. They left the stage for the last time and the applause continued for several minutes till the lights went up.  This is easily one of the GREAT Dylan tours.