NEW YORK -- It was a night of classic Bob Dylan, from his new songs to his old sound to the latest cause for which he was
The day after he was paid tribute at the 20th Annual Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement in the performing arts, the '60s
folk-rock icon thrilled a
capacity crowd at the sold-out Irving Plaza club in New York City with his unique brand of musical poetry last Monday.
While the audience received an early Christmas present with a Dylan club gig, the real gift went to the designated charity of the
evening's show, the Hale House Center Inc. of N.Y.
Now in its 29th year, the charity organization began in 1969 when founder Dr. Lorraine Hale, then a young woman, saw a homeless
mother and child on the street and decided to help. The charity, which sprang out of that encounter, now works to care for children
of parents who have medical, physical or emotional problems, or who are serving time in prison.
"Mr. Dylan started seeking out an area charity last year and ended up choosing us (the Hale House) because of the impressive work
we've done," Hale said, adding that a portion of the ticket sales will go to her organization.
The evening kicked off with a surprise, unbilled musical guest. Pop-rock songstress Joan Osborne strolled out on stage and did a
40-minute set that included her version of Dylan's "Man in the Long Black Coat" off her first major-label debut album,
The five-piece backing band included the Holmes Brothers on guitars. Her
six-song set, which included a Ray Charles cover but, surprisingly, none of
her hit singles, was enthusiastically received by the more than 1,000 people privy to the performance. Osborne sang with a strong, soulful voice that was complimented by a sexy, come-hither stage presence.
Eugene Gritzan, 35, of Manhattan, said he was impressed with Osborne's
performance of the song "Go Where I Send Me" -- off a Christmas charity album titled A Home For The Holidays -- but was
clearly there to see Dylan. "I've seen him about 15 times," Gritzan boasted. "The new album is continuing to grow on me and his
songwriting is still up to par," he added, later complaining about the way tickets were distributed for the show.
Irving Plaza denied the show was going to happen for weeks and then suddenly turned course and announced via radio that they were
on sale at the theater's box office. Gritzan said he managed to snag one of the coveted passes, and a few fans purchased tickets through
the Dylan fanclub. However, at show-time the sidewalks were full of frantic fans looking for a way in.
"I got wind of this show last week and quickly sent my money in," said Steven Murphy, 42, of Teaneck, N.J. "This is a real special
event seeing Dylan in a club this small ... It's like a Christmas gift to myself."
Backed by a stellar band, including Tony Garnier (bass), David Kemper (drums), Larry Campbell (guitar) and Bucky Baxter (pedal
steel, stand-up bass, and guitar), Dylan played a spectacular set of old, new and borrowed songs, including the Carter Stanley tune
Opening with "Maggie's Farm," Dylan led the music ensemble through "Tonight I'll be Staying Here With You," "Cold Irons Bound,"
Big Girl Now," "Can't Wait" and "Sylvio" before going acoustic on
"Cocaine Blues," "To Ramona" and "Tangled Up in Blue."
He followed this acoustic set with "White Dove", "I&I" and a song off his new album, Time Out Of Mind, titled "Till I Fell
In Love With You," which closed the main set. The well-rehearsed band played for close
to two hours before ending the show.
The crowd did not let the musical poet leave that quickly, though,
clapping and cheering until Dylan came back on stage for stirring encores, including "Highway 61 Revisited," "Don't Think Twice, It's
Alright" and "Lovesick."
No additional benefit shows are planned, although Dylan is continuing to tour and will soon be pairing up with Van Morrison in
January for five nights at the Madison Square Garden, and with Beck on Tuesday at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles.
Anyone interested in donating to the Hale House can call (212) 663-0700 for information. [Sat., Dec. 13,
1997, 9 a.m. PST]