Bob Dylan’s Electric Factory Show Sure Did Stink!

We couldn’t have been more thrilled to attend Bob Dylan’s “Electric Factory” concert in Philly on August 8th, 2008. We had feelings of the old “Fillmores” — (East and West): as this is one of those places reminiscent of yesteryear where there are no seats in front of the stage, only standing room. That means if you get there early enough, you’d have a chance for front-row center, no matter who you are and how late you got your tickets. The “Electric Factory” has some unique history; the original "Electric Factory" venue was a converted tire warehouse at 22nd and Arch Streets, which opened in 1968 and closed in 1973. The first performers, on February 2, 1968, were the Chambers Brothers. The building was torn down and replaced with condominiums. The "Electric Factory" was resurrected circa late 1994 or early 1995 and now stands at the current site (located at 421 N. 7th Street between Willow and Spring Garden Streets).
Some of the caveats we faced by armchair critics on the Web were that the sound system is lousy, the staff is rude and to “beware” of the folks flagging you down to park in lots that do not belong to the “Electric Factory” and can be several blocks away. But armed with this helpful knowledge, we were prepared for what we might experience.
Not only did we wind up with a spot right in front of Dylan with only the folks who got to the stage’s rail obstructing our view, and aside from being ‘in the know’ and getting the right parking spot, we didn’t encounter any other problems. The sound was lousy, but not unforgivable — it was hot as a sauna, but look at the Cavern Club where the Beatles first played; who can complain? There was one big problem though — even as Dylan and the band put on a great show, the “Electric Factory” show did stink. Flatulence, back door trumpets, wind, someone ‘cutting the cheese’, gas, farts, stink bombs!! Ladies and gentlemen, there was somebody very near us, and I pray it was a man, who stunk up our spot something awful. To overcome the heat alone, I decided to use my Tai Chi breathing, deep intakes of air to the diaphragm, but every time the offender released one of ‘his’ grenades, it was awful. It stunk of the drunken bum variety — if you know what I mean — pure rot folks. What a stink!
But what about the show? Did Dylan stink? Heck no! He was sublime! Watching him turn his classic songs around into update versions was a learning experience only few can appreciate. Having the liberty to be so close to him was a one-in-a-lifetime experience to be treasured.

The set list for the evening included:
Cat's In The Well (Under The Red Sky)
Lay Lady Lay (Nashville Skyline)
The Levee's Gonna Break (Modern Times)
Moonlight (Love and Theft)
Tangled Up In Blue (Blood On The Tracks)
Things Have Changed (Wonder Boys: Music From The Motion Picture)
Spirit On The Water (Modern Times)
Honest With Me (Love and Theft)
Beyond The Horizon (Modern Times)
It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) (Bringing It All Back Home)
Trying To Get To Heaven (Time Out Of Mind)
Highway 61 Revisited (Highway 61 Revisited)
Nettie Moore (Modern Times)
Summer Days (Love and Theft)
Ballad Of A Thin Man (Highway 61 Revisited)

The encore included two songs that would have made appropriate, if not better, titles for this very article: Thunder On The Mountain (Modern Times) and Blowin' In The Wind (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan).

Interesting asides include that the band used Buddy Guy’s soulful rendering of Lay Lady Lay behind Dylan’s updated vocals. Dylan used the phrase, “You can eat your cake and have it too” in place of “You can have your cake and eat it too” in the aforementioned song. He also grinned to himself many times as he altered song lyrics and allowed us to experience what he is known for. Plus we caught him doing a few deep knee bends and stretches in between tunes, perhaps a form of Dylan Tai Chi for the wishful thinking of an East Meets West style blogger. I wish I knew where he got his hats from, I'd love to get one like it!
Mr. Dylan, we wish you well and thank you for a great show! In more ways than one, it was truly a gas.
Philly Show Photo Courtesy of Zack Shapiro and


Unknown said...

I could not disagree with you more about the quality of the Dylan show. Here is what I posted on the Dylan website:

I've been going to Dylan concerts for 40 years and have seen 200+ shows. This was far and away the most disappointing show I have ever seen. I go to a Dylan show for the moment when time stops and he breaks your heart again by touching a place no other artist approaches, let alone reaches. He did not approach that spot last night. With a few exceptions, the songs sounded the same with similar rhythm and pacing.

Having seen him at the Electric Factory before, I knew going in that he tends to go loud and upbeat in his shows there. It is cavernous and the sound echoes like crazy. It doesn't matter. I'm not going there for high fidelity, I'm going for that moment.

Last night's show was the first time that I felt that I did not get more than my money's worth at a Dylan show. Maybe he had to work off some energy coming off of hiatus but he could have done that in a better way.

In response to another posting, I added the following:

I think that many old fans who attend occasional Dylan shows do come for a "greatest hits- oldies" show. Personally, I rejoice in the fact that Dylan has so much remarkable new material. I enjoy Dylan's recent work and play the last three discs of new material far more than his older stuff. In short, I am not looking for him to pick up the acoustic guitar and strum Mr. Tambourine Man. We already had that discussion about forty years ago and IMHO, we are all better for the fact that Dylan used his instincts and said to hell with those who don't want me to change. I'm 56 and the 67 year old Dylan inspires me to expand my horizons and continue to evolve, try new things.

My problem with this show is not that he used his newer material, it is the newer material he selected and how he performed it. Tryin' to Get to Heaven was fabulous, but I don't think the trifecta of Spirit on the Water, Honest with Me, and Beyond the Horizon is very interesting as the centerpiece of the set. It sounded more like the Brian Setzer Orchestra than Dylan. The absence of Workingman's Blues #2, a staple of performances in recent years was sorely missed. It is a matter of changing up the tempo, not the age of the songs.

I don't care if he talks to the audience, dances, make faces or anything else extraneous. I felt last night's setlist was ill conceived and age, his or the audience's is not a factor in my critique.

Sorry to hear about the flatulence issue. Not all of Philadelphia smells that way.

As far as Dylan's hats, many come from a shop in Cincinnati called Batsakes.

Mojo said...

thats the best thing about experiencing live music Sammy...the objective experience!

dontcha tell Henry!

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