October 31, 2020

Peter Stone Brown Archives

Archives of musician and writer Peter Stone Brown

08/10/03 PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ

Okay, so Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have done their set and you know something’s gonna happen because in the darkness you can see an extra mic has been set up on stage and extra amp which when the lights come up turns out to be an old tan Fender Bassman and the Heartbreakers file back out and there’s this guy in white, white cowboy, white shirt and off-white pants and white snakeskin cowboy boots and he’s like shimmering, the white is glistening and this roar erupts from the crowd and whoever he is he’s got this thing that’s been missing from the stage for the past 90 minutes or so and that thing is presence.  So a roadie plugs this guy’s Fender Stratocaster into that tan amp and the band starts to play “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and this cowboy dude, well he don’t care if Mike Campbell’s on the stage or not, he’s gonna play that Strat and take one of his raunchy maybe I’ll find maybe I won’t solos and well… it was kinda like old times.

Thirty-three minutes later more or less after the roadies have rolled up the Petty rugs to reveal the black and white checkerboard stage the cowboy dude is back, but this time without a hat a dressed in black, and he’s behind that piano that’s behind the lap steel and into “Maggie’s Farm” and it’s kicking along nicely and on the last verse he even stretches out a bit with a long “nooooooooooooooo more,” and then just like the previous night song two is “If You See Her Say Hello,” but this version is a bit more alive and he takes a really crazy harp solo where he does that up and down thing with a whole bunch of notes in between and after a couple of more verses does it again and while the harp was pretty wild the night before it wasn’t quite this wild.  At some point in the song Tommy Morrongiello joined in playing a Strat which he kept on doing throughout the night, each time apparently waiting for Dylan’s invitation.

Then again like the night before he’s into “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum” and again he’s going from this low husky voice where he sounds like he’s gasping for breath but on the next line shows he isn’t at all and the best part of the song was when he sneered the “you’re obnoxious to me” line.

That was followed with “Just Like A Woman” with Larry Campbell on pedal steel and after all the verses Dylan reached for the harp and started to play, then stopped and let the verse go by and just as you thought the song was about to end, he then takes a truly insane harp solo that in its own way went all the way back to Free Trade Hall.

“Highway 61” was “Highway 61,” and the best thing about it was Freddie trading solos and these guys mesh like twin brothers, switching rhythms and leads effortlessly.  Next came a nice surprise, “Most Likely You Go Your Way” which was going good until the second bridge where the entire band seemed to get lost, but the recovered quickly and jumped right into “High Water” which again was marked by great guitar work, though I still find the original arrangement preferable.

Next came a sort of strange version of  “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” that started off with just the bass and drums.  Larry played a very cool Western swing influenced pedal steel part but Recile’s drums just never fit with the arrangement, which wasn’t quite the sort of boogie rocker it’s been in live performance for the past couple of decades but wasn’t quite the country song of “John Wesley Harding” either.

“Wicked Messenger,” “Bye and Bye” and “Honest With Me” were all fine though nothing really special, but “Summer Days” started to approach its former glory.  Dylan was far more animated than he was on Saturday night, sometimes bopping back and forth across the stage throughout the show and he was into “Summer Days” with a vengeance, but it was a Freddie Koella solo that took the song higher.  All of a sudden during his solo, he found what he was looking for and hammered this one wild bending chord letting it soar and repeated it over and over and the band just kicked into another gear with Larry and Tony providing the line from Joe Turner’s “Roll ‘Em Pete.”  Now it still wasn’t on the level of the versions with Sexton, but this may have been the best version of the song this band has done yet.

The band returned for the usual version of “Watchtower.”  Dylan took the stage wearing his cowboy hat, carrying his jacket over his shoulder in a manner similar to the way Jack Fate carries his clothes bag, looked at the crowd for about five seconds and was gone.