Kahuna Summer Stage is really a bar that looks like it used to be a warehouse or maybe a department store in some forlorn lot that looks like it used to either be some warehouse office park or a strip mall lying on the banks of some invisible river in South Wilmington, right across from the Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball stadium which Delaware’s number one rock and roll singer who once sang a Bob song at Bobfest has a lot to do with. Looking at the stadium, I couldn’t help but wonder if Bob would return to this very spot in about two months.
There was a long line going into the Kahuna and another little walk till we found the stage which was a nice high height. We didn’t arrive particularly early, but managed to find a spot to stand about eight rows of people back.
Behind us was a slightly raised covered bar area where you could see pretty well, but I suspected the noise in the bar would not diminish for the show. The crowd behind us filled in pretty quickly and various people kept trying to maneuver through with big plates of fries and cheeseburgers.
At about 8 pm, I looked up at the stage and noticed Wilmington resident David Bromberg standing by the monitor mixing board.
At exactly 8:11, the band and Dylan took the stage, wearing a black suit with red trim and a tan cowboy hat and launched into a rocking but lyrically incomprehensible version of “To Be Alone To You.” Bob kind of mixed all the verses into the first verse maybe and then kind of made up the rest as he went along. It didn’t matter. Dylan was on. At the end, my friend Earl, a rather longtime contributor to the oldest Dylan forum on the Internet, and who has probably gone to more Dylan shows with me than anyone said to me, “This is way better than Philly last March.”
Then came the new arrangement of “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” which sounded a lot better in person than on any recording. Dylan kind of fumbled the third verse but recovered to start stretching things out even if the lines were a little mixed up: “The carpet too is moooooving Ohver youuuuuuuuuu,” and delivered a fairly wild harp solo.
A menacing “Lonesome Day Blues” followed and then Larry played a lick that almost sounded like “Tight Connection” to kick into a reasonably cool “If Not For You.”
“It’s Alright Ma” followed by despite Dylan really putting out, the song seemed to drag. The crowd went fairly crazy during the “president” line, and Larry kind of rescued things with a great cittern solo followed by a fairly interesting bass notes guitar solo from Stu Kimball, and Dylan intensified his vocal on the last verse holding out the last line, onlyyyyyy while the band closed the song around him.
Then came “It Ain’t Me Babe,” my first time seeing this arrangement, and again seeing it was better than hearing field recordings. Dylan started out singing fairly regularly, but by the end of the first verse was hitting some real low notes. This wasn’t a growl just low notes. Then on the second verse he went even lower bringing the song a spookiness it never had before. It was a great performance.
“Cold Irons Bound” came next and following this recent pattern of rocker, ballad, rocker, a not bad “Under The Red Sky” followed.
“Highway 61” wasn’t bad either but wasn’t as fierce as it was two nights before, but then they go into what has to be “Not Dark Yet.” Some leftover acid casualty standing next to me starts singing along loudly. Now this is basically sacrilegious in my book. You don’t sing along to this song, not to mention that no one, not even Willie Nelson who’s sung with everyone can sing with Bob Dylan. So I kind of motion him to be quiet which was the second time during the show I had to do this and he says, “Why don’t you sing?” I said, “It’s not a Pete Seeger concert,” and then did what Tony Soprano would have done.
Amazingly enough they didn’t follow it with a rocker, but went into “Bye and Bye” which got interrupted by these Kahuna girls who kept wandering into the crowd all night with these trays of weird little red glass somethings, I don’t know what they were, but they were selling them.
A decent “Masters Of War” which seemed especially appropriate in America in this week of national something or other followed “Honest With Me,” which was followed by “Summer Days.”
The usual three-song encore followed, except right before “Watchtower” some guy standing two rows behind me collapsed and the Kahuna security team who’d been present all night took a while to appear. This was a rather big distraction as everyone was turning around to see what was going on instead of watching the stage. Bromberg who watched the entire show, never took the stage.
While this show, didn’t have quite the heights of Atlantic City, despite a quite interesting setlist, part of it may have been the venue, which had a fair amount of distractions. However, the band played great, Stu Kimball easily handled everything that was thrown to him, and Larry Campbell is truly rocking out. And most important of all, Dylan is obviously interested in singing on this tour.