Patti Smith

On the road with Bob Dylan

[Contents copyright (c) 1995 - Anthony Rzepela]
Bob Dylan/Patti Smith: Stabler Arena
                       Bethlehem, PA
                       Dec. 13, 1995

   I guess the most remarkable thing about the performance 
last night was the sparse attendance. Anyone claiming more than
2,000 paying customers is telling you a lie. The top 9 rows 
on the back and sides of the arena were empty, and the "yellow"
section was only half-occupied. The floor is only 24 rows of 
32 seats each, and there was more than just standing room there, 

   Everyone seemed to be running late - a long line of waiting 
patrons was beginning to snake around the building at sub-freezing 
temps, but at 7:00, the doors were still locked, and Patti was
running through "Not Fade Away" and quick snippets of other tunes.

   Patti was off by 8:50, but there was so much
dead air that her set was only 7 songs. (Two electric up front 
and at the back, as opposed to the standard three, and there was
no "Because the Night" or "PHTP"). Her cold was evident, despite
really valiant efforts by Patti to make sure that it didn't show.
I actually felt guilty during "Dark Eyes", as she was obviously 
struggling and hoping that she wouldn't crack. To put illness
on top of this inhumane schedule (now ONE day off in 11)
just made me feel slimy for being a part of it, even as a lowly
paying customer.

   Patti had her appreciators. Many wild and enthusiastic whoops
could be heard, many "We love you"s, a few "We missed you"s - 
but it was an audience (and atmosphere) that seemed to discourage
wild abandon in expressing one's appreciation.  Still, the most
enthusiastic overall appreciation came for the reminders of Dylan 
(the opener, "Wicked Messenger") and the Dead ("Not Fade Away") and it
wasn't enough to get an encore. It was Patti's exit after "Dark Eyes"
in Dylan's set that got people to actually show some lovin' - 
a sudden rush of mad (mostly female) fans running up to the front of the
wide floor aisles just to say "Hi" or cheer her on. (You'd think it
was a rush of Green Day moshers the way security swooped down,
but I digress. This coincided with that moment in BobShows where
he allows the aisles to be occupied, so little damage was done.
Dylan's gentle coaching on lyrics she was forgetting was probably 
the single most touching thing I've ever seen on stage.)

   Patti's efforts were valiant. She started off her set 
by detailing her own "roots" in the area (her grandfather was 
a steel mill foreman, her father born in Bethlehem) and she was 
funny, sharp, and focused. It will be difficult to imagine 
her without Verlaine from now on, as his additions were just 
stunning. She referred to Jay Dee as the only drummer she'd ever
had, and said she could only forgive those who didn't know his name 
if they had been living in a cave. 

   Given the weather, the schedule, her cold, and a half-filled 
auditorium of people, many of whom were somehow able to sustain that
awful "Deadspin" dance through every Dylan song, regardless of
tempo or tune, the enthusiasm and effort she showed obviously were 
summoned up from someplace deep inside. It's a shame there weren't better
conditions for it to feed out and back.


Copyright © Anthony J. Rzepela 1995

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