Bob Dylan Show Rechristens Storied Capitol Theatre

Bob Dylan

The veteran rocker is the first act to play the renovated venue in Port Chester, N.Y., which underwent a $2 million makeover and hosted its first rock show since The Rolling Stones in 1997.

On Tuesday night in Port Chester, N.Y., Bob Dylan sang the familiar lyrics to his song “Tangled Up in Blue” -- “But me I’m still on the road heading for another joint.” To some, however, Dylan wasn’t performing in just another joint: He was the inaugural act for the celebrated reopening of the Capitol Theatre, which was built in 1926 and best remembered as an iconic rock ’n’ roll haven of the 1970s -- an upstate equivalent to the Fillmore that featured such classic acts as The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, The Kinks and David Bowie.  

So it was a big night in Westchester County, especially for impresario-promoter Pete Shapiro, who was behind the ambitious renovation that cost more than $2 million and has leased the venue for the next 10 years. Shapiro previously ran the jam-friendly Wetlands in NYC and oversees the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg.

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Shapiro says the Capitol Theatre has both a great history and great future. “Taking over a standing building like this one is unprecedented,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I have some experience taking over a venue, but The Cap is a 100-year-old structure and an amazing institution. Bowie, Floyd, The Dead, The Stones -- so many iconic acts have been associated with the site. We kept the bones of the place and gave it more than a touch-up. Every light is new, the sound system, everything -- we’re giving it a new identity with my fingerprints on it. I went nuts. A nonprofit would never be allowed to spend that kind of money.”

The Capitol itself hadn’t hosted a rock concert since 1997, when The Rolling Stones filmed an MTV special there. And with other established venues in the area, Shapiro has his work cut out of him. The concert hall has an 1,835-person capacity, and future bookings include such familiar names as Bob Weir and Buddy Guy as well as Galactic, Fiona Apple and The Roots (whose drummer-frontman ?uestlove was seated prominently in the VIP balcony for the Dylan show). 

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In regards to having Dylan as the featured performer for the club’s official reopening, Shapiro wouldn’t have had it any other way. “You can pick any of the biggest names, and I still would want to see the excitement of Bob Dylan opening the room,” he tells THR. “It generates such interest, and there’s nothing cooler than that. We were thrilled and didn’t try finding anyone else. He has that unique mystery about him -- no one has the legendary halo of Bob Dylan. It’s a good push. We’re really excited and hope it can give us some momentum.”

Certainly, Dylan did his job. Accompanied by his seasoned road band, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer chose not to distract from the proceedings with anything from Tempest, his album that comes out Sept. 11. Instead, he provided a distinct career overview, with some interesting song choices amid more predictable ones. His band refrained from any solo exhibitionism, leaving all the room for their fearless leader, who played piano, electric guitar on two songs and was compelling on the harmonica.

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Dylan’s group is a strong, cohesive force employing several tried-and-true American sound styles. Keeping their eyes on the maestro the entire time, they followed his every whim and instinct as he willfully reconstructed his own musical song-form, drawing from an endlessly decipherable canon of better-known and lesser-known material. There were great versions of such songs as “Shooting Star” the ever-timely “High Water (for Charley Patton),” more obscure choices like “This Dream of You” and the byzantine “Visions of Johanna.”

Dylan’s own talents and limitations as a piano player had a lot to do with the tempos, riffs and rhythms of his performance, but the staccato reworkings were uniformly effective as he closed out with familiar favorites “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Like a Rolling Stone” and “All Along the Watchtower.” Dylan encored with a deceptively understated version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and was gone by 10 p.m. It was another memorable performance at The Cap and an auspicious beginning of a new era for the venerated venue.

Set List:

Watching the River Flow
Love Minus Zero/No Limit
Things Have Changed
Tangled Up in Blue
Rollin’ and Tumblin’
This Dream of You 
Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee
Shooting Star
High Water (for Charley Patton)
Visions of Johanna
Highway 61 Revisited
Can’t Wait      
Thunder on the Mountain
Ballad of a Thin Man
Like a Rolling Stone
All Along the Watchtower


Blowin’ in the Wind

Twitter: @THRMusic