PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – The long-awaited opening night of The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester featuring legendary Bob Dylan brought out a crowd of more than 1,800 people Tuesday night.
With his new album “The Tempest” due out next week, the 71-year-old weathered Dylan is still kicking – literally. As he growled his way through some of his hits, including “Ballad of a Thin Man” and an extended version of “All Along The Watchtower,” Dylan shuffled around his band and stomped the stage floor, while shooting the occasional smirk at the crowd. When he pulled out his harmonica during “Shooting Star” the audience erupted.
Before the show, Port Chester police officers manned the corners as excited fans stood on long lines in the rain, holding tickets to the show that sold out within a half hour on Aug. 17.
The first person through the door that night – by some (simple) twist of fate – was Howard Weiner, author of the concert memoir, “Tangled Up In Tunes: Ballad of a Dylanhead.” Weiner has seen more than 100 Bob Dylan shows in his life.
“It was amazing, so great,” he said of being the first concertgoer to enter the Capitol Theatre. “I’m a huge Dylan fan and I’ve heard so many Grateful Dead recordings that were done here. It’s meaningful to me.”
One audience member, who referred to himself only as Mike N. said, “I came specifically to watch Bob come on stage. He’s got this ‘Bob’ walk. I want to see him walk on stage and then I can leave.” Mike N. is a longtime Dylan fan as well – he had a suit made for his wedding to replicate one Dylan once wore. “It cost more than my wife’s wedding dress,” he said.
With no introduction, Dylan opened with “Watching The River Flow” and ended with an encore performance of “Blowing In The Wind.” During the 90-minute set, one concertgoer gave his wife a high five, exclaiming, “Historic night, baby!”
In the past, Dylan used the venue as a practice space, but never took to the stage for an audience before Tuesday. After months of restoration, the theater that once hosted music legends like the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Kinks and The Grateful Dead is completely restored. It features 1,835 seats, a 65-foot domed ceiling, general admission floor, a seated balcony and six presidential box suites.
Catherine Owens and Tommy Voeten, two artists whose continually-morphing, 5-foot-high, LED-lit, circular, pencil drawings hang on a wall in the lobby, were admiring their work that was commissioned just five weeks ago.
“It was a request to do one, but when we got here, we realized there needed to be three,” said Owens. “They have very, very fine pencil work. But as they say, anything for Pete Shapiro.”
Shapiro, the owner of the Brooklyn Bowl in New York City, signed a long-term lease with the theater late last year and made it his mission to revive the venue to its former rock glory.