This week the Attic recalls the 10-year anniversaries of two significant Northland events. Today, a look back at the July 3, 1999, concert at Bayfront Festival Park pairing Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. Some of us in the Attic even remember being part of the audience or listening from outside the gates. If you attended, share your thoughts on this most memorable concert. The Attic dug up the News Tribune’s review of the Saturday evening show. But first, a photo of the two on stage.
The News Tribune’s review of the concert led Page 1 the next day. Here it is.
Rock legends wow Duluth
Singers-songwriters Dylan, Simon generate fireworks of their own
Published: Sunday, July 4, 1999
By Craig Lincoln and Chris Casey/News-Tribune staff writers
Note to the city of Duluth:
Please book Bob Dylan and Paul Simon for every Fourthfest weekend.
Any mere fireworks display will pale in comparison to the eruption that occurred when native son Dylan, dressed in a black jacket with white trim and black pants, joined Simon on stage Saturday night at Bayfront Festival Park.
The rock legends, following Simon’s opening 90-minute set, began a three-song duet at 9 p.m.
Dylan and Simon combined on Simon’s classic hit, “The Sounds of Silence’; Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line’; and Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.’
Simon closed out the duet portion saying, “Thanks for having me in Bob’s hometown. It feels great to be here.’
The crowd’s enthusiasm was classic Northland: no mere muddy field or rain will keep us from our appointed fun.
When Simon took the stage, the cheers grew from the front, where the early birds stood right in front of the stage, to the back, where the late-comers set up lawn chairs on a small rise of land near the park’s permanent band tent. About 10 acres of people filled the festival grounds.
A lot of people were there — well, about 10 acres worth of people. Dan Russell, executive director of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, estimated that 20,000 tickets had been sold.
Simon wasted no time getting the crowd into his popular and long song list. He opened with “Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and had everybody from young women in tie dyed T-shirts to aging baby boomers in cotton sweaters swaying to the music.
Backed by an 11-piece band playing its trademark World Beat Style, Simon cranked out a feel-good set of hits that spanned the decades.
He quickly jumped into more recent material, including “Can’t Run But,’ and “The Boy in the Bubble.’
His 17-song performance kept the crowd jumping with a band that included three drummers, a tight horn section, a cellist and an accordionist.
If this is Dylan’s Duluth, this must be the day for a big concert at Bayfront Festival Park, because the weather was perfect.
By our standards, that is.
The excitement over native son Dylan wasn’t dampened by the rainy weather. In fact, it seemed the locals took it all in stride.
As they well should, because if someone with roots in the Northland were blindfolded and dropped into the middle of the concert grounds, it would be abundantly clear this was a summer Duluth concert.
The fog dipped lower and lower and made the tops of the grain elevators on Rice’s Point a fuzzy gray. Ore boats glided by and sails from sailboats floated through the air above the crowd.
The 704-foot ore boat H. Lee White glided by the concert grounds before it ever began. The ship provided a backdrop to the dozen sailboats, fishing boats and yachts that clustered close to shore. The number eventually grew to a couple of dozen boats, including one red canoe rafted up with a sea kayak.
People streamed into the concert grounds constantly, lining up hours before the gates opened and eventually forming a line stretching so far one concert-goer guessed it was a mile long.
With that many people streaming into the park, slightly wet places turned into muddy puddles. Some high-stepped gingerly across the mud, others simply plowed through, slip-sliding away through the festival grounds.
Eventually, the beer tents were full. But there was evidence this was more than a young party crowd: The lines to the pop and popcorn stands stretched more than 50 yards long.
“The crowd-watching is very interesting,’ said Ann Ness of Minneapolis. “I’m up here with my mother-in-law and she’s enjoying it.’
Some late-comers simply decided not to fight the mud.
Mike Miller, 39, of Rice Lake, Wis., stood in the middle of the park well away and behind the crowd. He discovered the acoustics were much better there.
“I tried getting up there,’ he said, looking ahead at the distant Simon tent. “It’s a muddy mess.’
The fans came for many reasons. Some were aging baby boomers, others young fans looking for good song writing.
“We thought it would probably be the last time they’d be here,’ said Joe Johnston, 46, of Amnicon. “We grew up with Paul Simon and Bob Dylan. They were our story tellers.’
Some were college age, a new generation of Dylan and Simon fans, barefoot and with pierced tongues.
“Bob Dylan is the best songwriter in the whole wide world,’ said Christina Newhouse, a Los Angeles-area resident who came here to visit some friends. “Not to mention he is the worst singer, but he can get away with it.’
To the Dylan fans, and not surprisingly, they came for his lyrics.
One came for the experience, although he preferred the Grateful Dead.
“I love his lyrics,’ said Loren Lemke, 37, of Minneapolis. “And the band just rocks when he plays.’
Two friends, originally Wisconsin residents but who now work in Cancun, Mexico, made the concert a spur-of-the-moment event in the middle of a business trip.
“I don’t think he can sing for beans, but he’s great with words,’ said Dick Ware, 50.
“I just like rock and roll music in general,’ said Jerry Thorson, 42.
Thom Burrell, 48, of Duluth, bought tickets as soon as he could. “Paul Simon is my all-time favorite songwriter. I’ve never seen him before, and I’m a concert-going nut,’ Burrell said. “I knew this was one I wouldn’t want to miss.’
Here is Simon mixing it up with the crowd shortly after taking the stage.
Here’s a story, from two days after the concert, focusing on fans’ reactions.
Pairing leaves fans satisfied
Published: Monday, July 5, 1999
By Chris Casey/News-Tribune staff writer
“I was born on the hill over there. Glad to see it’s still there,’ Dylan said about two-thirds of the way through his set. “My first girlfriend came from here. She was so conceited, I used to call her Me-me.’
With just a few words, Duluth native and world-renowned rock icon Bob Dylan brought “it all back home’ in indelible fashion Saturday night at Bayfront Festival Park.
After Dylan uttered the words that will go down in lore — as almost all of his rare chatting-with-the-crowd moments do, especially those coming in his native town — the crowd of 20,000 went wild.
“It’s great, it’s perfect,’ said Dan Moen, 36, of Duluth.
“He actually talked this time,’ said his wife, Karen. “He never said a word last time.’
She was referring to Dylan’s first-ever Duluth concert last October in the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Arena. Though that sold-out show was well-received, some fans were disappointed that Dylan didn’t say anything about Duluth or Hibbing, where he grew up.
So, this time around, there weren’t many built-up expectations.
“I didn’t expect him to’ make a Duluth reference, Karen Moen, 37, said. “But I think he’s having more fun tonight.’
She added, “I think he’s more relaxed, or he’s having more fun, definitely. He was a lot more uptight the first show (in October).’
Asked if she had any theories as to why Dylan has played his native city twice in the past eight months, she said, “He’s had a near-death experience. He wants to come back.’
Dylan suffered from histoplasmosis, swelling of the sac around the heart caused by a fungal infection, in 1997.
Karen Moen said her mother graduated from Hibbing High School in 1959 — in the same class as then-Bob Zimmerman.
“She knew him, yeah. He once asked her out and she said no way,’ Karen Moen said. “He asked her to go roller skating.’
Holly Stroozas, 16, of Two Harbors also saw Dylan’s October show in Duluth. She said Dylan seemed “super happy’ that night.
“He seems like he’s having a lot of fun’ again, she said at Saturday’s concert, which also featured Paul Simon. “He’s smiling a lot. He seems to be glad to be back at home.’
Stroozas’ friend Lindsay Stewart, 16, of Two Harbors said she was just getting acquainted with Dylan’s music. “He’s good. I like his singing, for an old guy, anyway.’
The 58-year-old Dylan kept Judy Gadiel, 27, dancing throughout his energetic set.
“I think it’s awesome. I came all the way from Chicago to see this show,’ Gadiel said. “I think this place (Bayfront) is great. The sound is awesome and Bob Dylan is phenomenal.’
Gadiel was watching her third Dylan concert. “There’s nothing like seeing him outside and having his voice carry in the air. I like Paul Simon and I was happy to hear Paul Simon, but I came mostly for Bob Dylan.’
Ann Ness, who traveled from Minneapolis to see the show, said she enjoyed the Dylan-Simon combination.
“Having Paul Simon’s funky sound marry up with Bob Dylan is real nice, and they seem to be having fun,’ Ness said.
Her husband, Doug, said the “rusty’ quality of Dylan’s voice “is not very good, but the ideas and the heart is there.’ He said the pairing of “two of the premier songwriters of our time’ was too big to miss.
It will be a long time before the afterglow of Dylan’s performance — and comments — wears off.
He does, in fact, seem to care about his Northland roots. At least that’s the message Stroozas got from Dylan’s show.
“I’m glad he did’ mention his native city, she said. “Because now they (his Northland fans) know.’
Speaking of fans…
These two didn’t let the soupy ground at Bayfront hinder their enjoyment.
The concert packed the festival grounds a couple hours before the musicians took the stage.