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Stories in the Press: Atlanta 2004
2004-04-12-14, Tabernacle, Atlanta, GA
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A couple months ago, the newspaper archives site newspapers.com offered a free President’s Day trial. I spent more time than I care to admit that weekend saving Dylan-related news stories from papers of yesteryear. (I needn’t have raced; when I discovered how useful a resource it could be, I signed up properly.)
I wasn’t looking for Dylan interviews – easy enough to find those online – or album reviews. I was looking for concert coverage. Not of the big splashy shows, and not in the big national newspapers either. I was looking for articles in local papers that set the scene. It’s easy to look at a long list of tour dates, or listen to a bunch of bootlegs, and have them all blur together. But particularly in smaller cities, it was a big deal the day Dylan came to town. These clips bring out that local energy.
Thus we launch another irregular series today: “Stories in the Press,” which will look at the contemporary press coverage of a Dylan show from the past. Sometimes the newspapers profile a local superfan. Sometimes they photograph an insanely long ticket line. Sometimes they use the occasion to recap past Dylan shows in town.
We start with one of the more recent shows I found clips for: Atlanta 2004. It’s actually not one show, but three, a short run at a venue called The Tabernacle. It’s also, admittedly, a much bigger market than Bozeman, Montana or Lenox, Massachusetts. But you can still get a taste of the scene in local paper The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
One quick note: Some articles that I’m sure looked great on newsprint might be tough to read over email, especially if you’re on your phone. If you click through, you should be able to zoom in on the images.
The first mention of the shows I found in Journal-Constitution, on April 2, throws us right in the deep end of historical context.
Because this run came right after a big piece of Dylan news. And not just big news in superfan-world either. Every few years, there is a piece of Dylan news that breaks through in a big way. The sort of news your Dylan-agnostic friends and family ask you, the biggest Dylan fan they know, about. The recent autopen scandal was like that. The Nobel Prize and Bob’s (lack of) reaction, too. And what was that mammoth, earth-shattering news in April of 2004?
How’s that for putting this show in historical context? The Victoria’s Secret spot that people still reference any time Dylan participates in an advertisement would have been in the minds of every showgoer in Atlanta. Presumably not “would he have a bunch of underwear models with him onstage” (he didn’t) but at least “would he play ‘Love Sick’” (also no). It certainly created no shortage of openings for puns. In this article alone: “How many breasts can a bra push up,” “Hey My. Lingerie Man,” and “everybody must get thonged.” Yeesh.
The Journal-Constitution gave the show a proper preview a week later. Again, it tells you what was going on around the time of the show. By Spring 2004, Bob’s 2001 album “Love & Theft” was old news. The big new releases from Dylan’s camp were archival: “A unique alignment – Dylan's concerts at the Tabernacle and the recent releases of the 1964 concert CD and the DVD of his 1995 "MTV Unplugged" show – allows us to consider the evolution of the live Dylan.”
The reporter clearly knows his stuff; kudos for shouting out Bob’s new in-concert intro, and even where he’ll be positioned onstage. And this paragraph, which I like even if I don’t really agree (Spring 2004 was a good run!):
He might be engaged, enjoying himself, rockin' out, or seem bored and burned out; it varies from show to show on this latest leg of what he calls the Never Ending Tour [Fact-check: He doesn’t, we do]. Either way, his voice will be sandblasted down to an amplified whisper, a mere five o'clock shadow of the distinctive but expressive nasal whine of the 1960s.
The next clip, a tiny preview listing, is interesting for illustrating how these shows were special even for a major market like Atlanta that Dylan plays plenty. And that in April 2004, even the shortest blurb demanded a Victoria’s Secret joke.
And that full three-night recap that they promised would appear in print? Here you go:
Best line there: “Dylan and his band look, for example, as if they just stepped off the set of HBO's Deadwood. Four of the five men have mustaches, and they're fond of suits, hats and grim facial expressions.”
Nice to give Koella – the mustache-less man – a couple nods too. No one knew it at the time, including him, but these three Atlanta gigs would be his final shows with Dylan. (To hear him explain why, you’ll have to read my book).
PS. That arena show Nick Marino references in his review? Lamer venue maybe, but a killer show. I wrote about it in one of my very first entries.