Bob Dylan at the Fabulous Fox, 1990-2015
1998-02-17, Fabulous Fox Theatre, St. Louis, MO
I enjoyed looking back at every time Bob Dylan played Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium last fall. Today, here’s another overview of Dylan’s history at a noteworthy venue.
This one does not have quite the Ryman’s worldwide name recognition - in fact, I’d never heard of it myself. But, when I saw he played there on this date in 1998, the killer name caught my attention: The Fabulous Fox. A quick Google revealed three things: the place looked cool as hell, Bob had played there a handful of times, and one of them was a very famous show! So, let’s take a look at The Fabulous Bob at The Fabulous Fox (ugh, sorry).
The Fox (not yet Fabulous, I guess?) began its life as a 1920s movie palace. There are five other Fox Theatres built around the same time by the same guy, William Fox. Two of the five, in San Francisco and Brooklyn, were demolished years ago. The Brooklyn one, which looked stunning, is now the home of a CVS. I’m sure the CVS is stunning, too.
The other Fox Theatres are not only all still open – Bob has played them all! And not in the distant past either: he played both the Atlanta and Oakland Fox Theatres just last year, and the Detroit Fox a few times in the 2010s. Every one of them looks incredible, the sort of old beautiful theater where you hope to see a Dylan concert. (There’s also a former Fox Theatre in San Diego he hasn’t played. Maybe he’s punishing them for changing the name: it’s called Copley Symphony Hall now.)
But those other Foxes will have to wait for another newsletter. Here’s a look at the six times Dylan has played St. Louis’s Fabulous Fox.
Nov 4, 1990
Eleven songs into Bob’s first gig at the Fox, he responds to an audience holler. You can’t hear the holler, but you can hear the response. “Chuck Berry?” he says. “He played here too, Chuck Berry. He made a movie here or something.” You can see it unfold at the start of this:
While Dylan’s comment on its own is not wildly informative, I’m sure every person in that room got the reference. Hometown hero Chuck Berry filmed his iconic comeback special Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll at the Fabulous Fox, a venue from which he was refused admission as a child because of his race (not so fabulous). Icons like Etta James, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, and Linda Ronstadt journeyed to St. Louis to play the tribute. But the superstar performer any viewer will remember best, other than Chuck himself, is Keith Richards. Richards led the band, and by the end of it he and his cantankerous hero almost came to blows. From the Washington Post’s review:
Of course, being Berry, he wasn't particularly eager to do something he hadn't done in 25 years, namely rehearse, and there are some funny but tense scenes between him and Richards. And after all the rehearsals, Berry still tried to change keys and arrangements on stage. "He gives me more headaches than Mick Jagger, but I still can't complain," Richards complains. "I love him, and I've done what I wanted to do for him. Now I'm going to sleep for a month."
At his first Fox appearance, Bob sadly did not bring back the Chuck Berry cover “Nadine” he’d done on an earlier trip to St. Louis in 1988. He didn’t do his other Chuck covers either, “No Money Down” which he did a couple times on sax in 1981 while his friend Larry Kegan sang, and “Around and Around”, which he did in 1992 (probably equally a nod to the Grateful Dead, who played this a ton).
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Flagging Down the Double E's to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.