Stuart Anthony (he of ‘collaborator with Larry Beckett’ and The Long Lost Band fame) went to see Bob Dylan at Manchester 02 Apollo on 2nd November 2nd 2022. An event that stirred the old memory banks….
I drove down from Lancaster with my friend Julian, through what could safely be described as a North West monsoon. The M61 and 60 turned into aquaplaning lanes and I gripped the steering wheel, peering like Mr Magoo into the sideways rain lashing outside. Too many Dylan songlines popped into my head. “Shelter From The Storm” “Buckets of Rain” “Hard Rain”. Somehow, we made it into the city centre and the rain stopped.
This gig was billed as a phone-free event and the first thing I noticed, was how strange it was to be surrounded by hundreds of people, and not one of them was looking at a screen. People talked, and took in their surroundings. The atmosphere was different to normal life in 2022. Most people in the building were old enough to remember the old mobile phone-free world. A pleasant calm was palpable.
Dylan and band appeared on stage looking like old-time film silhouettes, a music hall visual vibe. Lights went up as Dylan sang his first line and everything turned into a focus on this living legend. The music was creamy and sweet, from a simple set up of drums, double bass, guitars, lap steel and Bob’s piano. Bob sang his new songs from Rough And Rowdy Ways and they sounded a thousand years old. The 100th gig of the tour gave us a honed and magnificent delivery. It was dreamlike. I was sat directly centre to the stage about 20 rows back from the front. It washed over me. I last saw Dylan in 2008 in a huge arena in Birmingham. It was impersonal and difficult to lock onto the postage stamp stage far away. My mind reached back to the one other time I got to see Robert Zimmerman, and through the power of relativity, what took a few seconds in Manchester 2022 time, in my memory I traversed several hours of an experience I had in Jerusalem, Israel in 1987. Wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff…
…5th September 1987. I was 20 years old and I found myself on a flight to Tel Aviv to be the best man at my friend’s wedding in Jerusalem. It was my first major trip abroad. The plan was to do the wedding on Sunday 6th and then my friend and his bride would be off on honeymoon, leaving me with his friends for a week in Israel, doing whatever we felt like doing. The wedding went well, held in the ornate Christ Church in the old city. During the evening someone mentioned that Bob Dylan had just played in Tel Aviv and was due to play in Jerusalem the next day at the magnificent setting of the open-air venue The Sultan’s Pool. My ears pricked up at this information but I thought that it would be out of my reach financially. I was unemployed at the time and had very little spending money and if I bought a ticket I would be wiped out for the rest of the week. I didn’t think it would be possible so I put it to the back of my mind.
The next day, with my friend departing for his honeymoon at the Sea of Galilee, I caught the bus into Jerusalem city centre and went for a wide-eyed walk through the old city and markets, drinking it all in, in a sensory overload. Jerusalem is an assault on the senses and in 1987 it was more open and vibrant.
At some point I found myself downtown on the well-known Ben Yehuda Street and stopped at a falafel stall. A young Jewish guy with long cork-screwed hair and looking like he should be in a band, asked me for a light and we got talking. I also looked like a long-haired freak so we perhaps identified with each other. His name was Ari and he lived in Jerusalem. He dug rock music and was about the same age as me. He told me he was due to be called up to do his military service in the IDF so was just enjoying some last days of freedom. I mentioned that Bob Dylan was in town and that I couldn’t afford to get a ticket and wondered if we could hear the concert from nearby as it was open air. Ari said no need, we can jump the fence. I looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “Stick with me he said and we’ll go down tonight to The Sultan’s Pool, and if we time it right, we can hop the fence. I’ve done it before!” Local knowledge of a sort.
“I’m game,” I said. “Let’s give it a go. Can’t miss Bob Dylan if I have a chance!”
We still had about 4 hours before the gig so we wandered around Jerusalem’s old city, went past The Wailing Wall and rolled through the amazing old city markets. I found out many years later that that afternoon Tom Petty and Roger McGuinn who were supporting Dylan on this ‘Temples In Flames’ tour, did the same thing that very day and visited those sites. We didn’t spot them however!
We ended up in a café and smoked and talked until the time came to head to The Sultan’s Pool. It’s an open-air natural rock feature that was then carved out by none other than Pontius Pilate and used to be a place to water animals etc. In modern times it became a concert venue with dramatic views up to the walls of the Old City. Quite a stunning location.
Ari was constantly scanning the crowded scene in front of us, looking for the right point and the right time to scale the chain fence when no one was looking. He was shorter than me, muscular and lithe. I was tall and skinny, and pale. We got very close to the fence. We could hear Tom Petty’s support act wrapping up as we’d been making our way closer, and now Dylan was just taking the stage. Ari jabbed me in the ribs with his elbow, “ok we go now,” he hissed. “Run at the fence, jump up and grab and roll over the top.” It was a normal wire mesh fence. In a flash he sprinted at it and in one swift movement flung himself over the fence and ran into the crowd to avoid being detected. I snapped into action and threw myself at the fence and with much less grace made it over landing like a sack of potatoes the other side. I stood up and found myself face to face with a security guard who instantly grabbed me by my t-shirt and dragged me to a nearby entrance and threw me back out. No sign of Ari, as I stood the wrong side of the fence, as the strains of Bob’s opening tune The Times They Are A Changin’ hung in the air.
I just had to see Dylan, but feeling defeated and having lost my new friend I began to walk away. A tug on my arm by a ticket tout caught me by surprise. He’d seen me fail in my fence attempt. “Ticket for you,” he said. Quoting a sum that would have left me with about 1/3 of my spending money for the rest of the week. “Ah F*ck it!” I thought to myself. When will I get a chance to see Bob Dylan in Jerusalem again? I bought the ticket. I got in. I made my way to the very front of the stage. No sign of Ari yet, but right in front of me, I could see right up Bob Dylan’s nose.
He was smiling, he was singing and the atmosphere was lively and full of crackle. Tom Petty was on stage, the moon was over the stage. The songs sounded great. “They’ll stone you when you’re tryin’ to be so good,” warbled Bob with a huge grin on his face. The hits kept coming Like A Rolling Stone, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Tom Petty leaning into the mic with Bob. I found Ari! We both put our arms over each other’s shoulders and danced like loons to the music. The band was cooking, the late summer heat meant we dripped with sweat and it was just going off. Bob stated strumming “Slow Train Coming” the crowd roared, and then suddenly a noise like the loudest electrical fart you ever heard cracked over the system for a second and…….silence. The power had failed. The gig stopped in an instant. The band looked at each other incredulously. No sound, and it didn’t return. It was the 13th number of Bob’s set; unlucky for some. The gig was over. The band left the stage and we had no choice but to take a deep breath and leave.
That was 35 years ago. I don’t know what happened to Ari. We did exchange addresses but at that stage of my life I moved around a lot, and he went into the army and we lost touch, and in the week after I left Israel, the first Palestinian Intifada began and Israel would never be the same as it was in that heady Summer. I got to see Bob Dylan, in Jerusalem. Ok I was now skint for the rest of the week but I was being fed and had a room to stay in. It all worked out in the end and I had a priceless memory….
Seconds later, back at Manchester Apollo in November 2022 Bob Dylan is playing Every Grain Of Sand and just once, brings his harmonica to his lips. Like a clarion call of time, Bob signs off the gig with the strains of the harmonica bouncing off the vivid stucco ceiling. No electronic fart this time, just a vibration that will go on forever.
Stuart Anthony 5th November 2022.
You can find more of our occasional trips down Memory Lane on our Time Tunnel pages
Categories: Time Tunnel