Two Nights in Port Chester
2023-11-07-08, Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY
In the context of the Rough and Rowdy Ways tour, the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY, about an hour north of Manhattan, is notable for two reasons.
The first is the Grateful Dead. This was their East Coast home base for a while, before they got too big to play tiny theaters. It’s still a hub for the various Dead members and other associated bands. There’s Dead art everywhere; the venue bar is named Garcia’s. Dylan’s been doing regionally-appropriate covers this fall (see “Dance Me to the End of Love” in Montreal), and he’s already got a handful of Dead tunes in his current repertoire. A few Dead covers would seem to be a shoe-in.
The second is that this was the rare standing-room-only General Admission show on the tour. I think the last one was two years ago, at this same venue. Most Rough and Rowdy Ways shows have been in seated theaters (or amphitheaters for the outdoor summer ones), which leads to a sedate, dignified environment. Neither rough nor rowdy. I was curious to see how the sweaty masses being packed so close to the stage would change things. Would the crowd start moshing during “False Prophet”? Would Bob holler “LET’S OPEN UP THIS PIT!” before “Mother of Muses”? Would Tony stage-dive?
It goes without saying none of that happened. It probably also goes without saying Bob made no concessions for the new setup. He played all the usual songs, but they felt different in that environment. The faster numbers (“False Prophet,” “Gotta Serve Somebody,” etc) killed. The slow ones, at times, felt long. They usually offer many of the show’s high points, but packed in with people, jostling for a space without the back of someone’s head in front of you, “Key West” seemed like an hour long.
This doesn’t come through on the tapes; Bob performed the songs beautifully (“Black Rider” on night two was the best I’d ever heard it). But it’s how it was received in the room. During the second night’s “Key West,” one woman yelled something to someone about going to sleep. Did she say she was going to sleep? Was she admonishing her friend for going to sleep? Unclear, but “Key West” and “going to sleep” were linked.
The crowds in generally were much rowdier (and a little rougher) than I’ve seen in those theater shows. In many ways, this added welcome energy. Many lines got big laughs or cheers. People loved the Scarface Pacino/Godfather Brando bit in “My Own Version of You” night one. That line in “Black Rider”—you know the one—got a big cheer, which I haven’t seen since the very first night in Milwaukee. But you also got many more talkers than usual, and people shouting requests (I heard “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” and “I Want You,” which could actually be a cool addition to the set come to think of it). On the first night, one enthusiastic guy behind me with a thick southern accent kept yelling words of encouragement like “Goddamn, boys!” and “You go get ‘em, Mr. Dylan!” Kinda endearing, actually.
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