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Fans rave about Capitol Theatre opening, Bob Dylan show
Bob Dylan left more than 1,800 fans in a packed Capitol Theatre raving and wanting more on a night when the concert hall reopened in Port Chester.
Don't believe me? Ask fellow folk legend Peter Yarrow — of Peter, Paul and Mary fame — who watched from the balcony and summed up the show in one word: "Spectacular."
Fresh coats of burgundy, black and gold paint coated the interior of the theater that first opened in 1926 and had its heyday in the '70s when acts including Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd and Carlos Santana performed. Long before Dylan took the stage, fans took pictures of the venue itself and snatched up posters promoting Bob Dylan at The Cap. Inside the actual theater, fans gushed over the ceiling's giant LED-lit circle, which projected bright, high-resolution images of the earth, moon and stars, as well as trippy, colorful patterns.
Capitol owner Peter Shapiro, who invested millions in the facility to spruce up the building and upgrade its sound and lighting systems, greeted the crowd on stage with thanks. "What a long, strange trip it's been," he said, echoing the Grateful Dead, who played 18 shows at The Cap over an 11-month period from 1970 to 1971.
At 8:03 p.m., and without an opening act, Dylan emerged in a black suit jacket with red piping and brass buttons, white pants and a bolo tie, proceeding to growl, smirk and grin his way through a one-hour-44-minute set of hits and deep cuts.
"Watching the River Flow" began almost immediately after Dylan and the rest of his six-piece band hit the stage. There was no buildup, no hype — and fans in the crowd seemed to appreciate it.
Gary Davis, 56, of Greenwich, Conn., called what he'd seen a "great show at a great venue," and picked "Thunder on the Mountain" as his favorite performance of the night.
The crowd definitely skewed older, with most in attendance flaunting gray hair (or none at all), but there was definitely a contingent of curious 20-somethings. With balcony seating and a general-admission lower level for standing fans, Dylan was greeted mostly with polite nods to the beat and the occasional thrusted arm, but a handful of folks on the lower level were dancing as if they were in a mud pit at Woodstock, at the dawning of the age of Aquarius.
And all along the perimeter of the stage, security personnel were vigilant (and cranky) about thwarting fans' attempts and photos and video. While they were just doing their jobs, their somewhat vain efforts were taking place at a concert happening in the year 2012. (As a result, the attached photo is from a previous Dylan show.) Even live-tweeting the event earned a few glares, but I managed to do so.
Dylan wasn't exactly doing backflips, but his subtle gestures showcased his showmanship. For "Shooting Star," he spoke-sang the words as he leaned on the piano like a lounge singer before rising to wail on his harmonica. (It was definitely a highlight, and Yarrow agreed, calling it the best song of the night.) For "High Water," Dylan fashioned the mic stand like a scepter before gripping the mic with his right hand and a harmonica in his left. And by the time "Highway 61 Revisited" came around, Dylan was plinking out the melody on the grand piano with his right hand, and gesticulating toward the crowd with his left.
"Like a Rolling Stone" saw Dylan trade in his scowl for a broad smile, and while he sang or spoke-sang most of the other songs in his set, he delivered "Like a Rolling Stone" as if he were reading an audiobook for children. It still worked somehow.
The band took a bow after that, and the crowd cheered for the requisite encore. Fans would see Dylan re-emerge in a white brimmed cap and witness one more song — a slow, bluesy, and nearly unrecognizable rendition of "Blowing in the Wind" — before the band took a final bow and the lights came up. And just like that, the show was over, but the new series of concerts at The Cap had just begun.
This week at The Cap fans will be treated to performances by The Roots, who will play four shows this month (Sept. 7, 15, 21 and 28), Hugh "Dr. House" Laurie with The Cooper Bottom Band (Sept. 8) and Buddy Guy and Johnny Lang (Sept. 9). The complete Capitol Theatre schedule, which features a wide range of talent that should appeal to a varied audience, includes more than 40 shows between now and April 2013.
Juan Carlos Rodrigues, who owns a home in Port Chester, said he was thrilled that The Cap reopened to an "incredible" show. "Sometimes we say, 'I'm tired, I don't want to go to New York City [for a concert]," he said. "Now, we have everything right here."
Were you among the fortunate ones to witness Dylan reopen The Cap? What did you think of his set — and the renovated theater? Or, if you didn't see the show, which song would you have most wanted to hear? Let us know with comments and votes in the poll below.
Bob Dylan set list:
1. “Watching the River Flow”
2. “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”
3. “Things Have Changed”
4. “Tangled Up in Blue”
5. “Rollin' and Tumblin’”
6. “This Dream of You”
7. “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum”
8. “Shooting Star”
9. “High Water”
10. “Visions of Johanna”
11. “Highway 61 Revisited”
12. “Can’t Wait”
13. “Thunder on the Mountain”
14. “Ballad of a Thin Man”
15. “Like a Rolling Stone”
16. “All Along the Watchtower”
17. (Encore) “Blowing in the Wind"
(A tip of Bob Dylan's white hat to BobLinks.com for confirmation of Tuesday's set list.)
Follow Chris Serico on Twitter at @NewsdayChris.