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Bob Dylan helps Port Chester's Capitol Theatre rock once again
The Cap is back.
After months of renovation, speculation and anticipation, The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester reopened tonight with a show by legendary folk-rocker Bob Dylan whose performance was called "spectacular" by fellow-musician Peter Yarrow -- the "Peter" in classic folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary -- who enjoyed it from his balcony seat.
The concert marked the first time Jolie McCarthy, 62, had been back to The Cap since her days as a student at NYU. The Yonkers resident recalled seeing the Grateful Dead on Nov. 8, 1970, when a bomb scare emptied the theater, but failed to scare off the crowd or the band -- both returned to rock late into the night.
"Another day, another Dylan show," said McCarthy, who claimed to have attended more than 150 of them. "And it doesn't get better than this."
Capitol Theatre management and work crews spent months ensuring concert-goers felt the same way about the newly renovated venue.
When the doors opened around 6:45 p.m., McCarthy and her fellow Dylan fans rushed into the theater's revamped lobby decorated in burgundy and black with opposing mirrors reflecting into infinity.
Perched at the edge of The Cap's refurbished proscenium arch was Ulster County resident Annie Gus, who's been a Dylan fan since the musician led the Rolling Caravan Revue.
"I love the energy that he exudes; it pulls out my creativity in life," said Gus.
About an hour before showtime, she predicted the opening song would be "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat." And if it's played at any point, Gus warned, "You'd better hold onto something."
For a venue steeped in nearly a century's worth of history, much has happened in the months leading up to tonight's fanfare.
Opened in 1926, the venue affectionately known as "The Cap" boasted marquee acts in the '60s and '70s, including the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa. But in recent decades, the venue hosted more wedding parties than it inspired after-parties, as it housed more catered events than stage dives.
Fast-forward to this year, when Capitol Theatre owner Peter Shapiro poured millions into The Cap to spruce up the building and upgrade its sound and lighting systems. In June, the venue's website released a video that announced the theater would reopen in September.
Although Cap staffers were officially hush-hush about the acts scheduled to play the venue once it reopened, dribs and drabs started leaking to the public in July. Newsday Westchester was on it from the beginning, with a Moody Blues scoop, followed by news that Hugh Laurie, Blues Traveler, Buddy Guy and others would also be on the fall roster.
Finally, in early August, The Cap relented and released the bulk of its schedule for the 2012-13 season — and the scheduled acts proved impressive: The Roots (four times!), Fiona Apple, David Gray, Regina Spektor, Ben Folds Five, Al Green, My Morning Jacket, Steve Miller Band and Herbie Hancock. The only mystery that remained that week was who would play the theater for the coveted opening-night slot — and just days later, a spokesman announced it would be none other than Dylan doing the honors for tonight's show. Tickets for Dylan at The Cap sold out within "one or two minutes" of their Aug. 17 release, according to Shapiro.
To celebrate the lineup, The Cap released this very cool, ultra-funky video:
In the final days leading up to the theater's reopening, spokespeople for other Westchester County concert venues braced for impact. Will The Cap's A-list lineup help Tarrytown Music Hall and the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill attract new acts and audiences, or draw them away?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind — assuming the wind has a keen grasp of the music industry and an accurate forecast of the nation's economy.
In the meantime, there's a lot to look forward to at The Cap, including newly announced shows that include Crystal Castles (Oct. 4), Counting Crows (Oct. 13), and Strangefolk Reunion (Nov. 23 and 24).
Lauren Jelencovich, 27, and Kristin Drauker, 26, traveled from New York City to see Dylan at The Cap. It's Jelencovich's first Dylan concert, and the second for Draucker, who caught him last year at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
Jelencovich, a singer, said she came because she'd "heard so many wonderful things" about Dylan's live performances.
"I just wanted to be here and experience it," she added. "He's a legend."