On March 21st, 2004 I had the great pleasure of seeing Mr. Bob Dylan perform in Toronto. No, the show wasn’t at The Phoenix; he played there on the previous night. And no, the concert wasn’t at the Ricoh Coliseum (whatever that is); Dylan played there the night before that. Strange that he’d play three consecutive nights in three different venues in the same city but he did, because the show I saw happened at the Kool Haus.
The Kool Haus wasn’t actually very cool at all (or kool for that matter). It was a big, square, impersonal, stand-alone warehouse standing alone somewhere down by the waterfront but it did book some pretty cool (kool?) shows, as evidenced by the ticket stub you are looking at now and a Ween show I saw there about six months earlier. In fact, with a capacity of around 2,500 I would surmise that the Kool Haus was far and away the smallest venue I’ve ever seen Bob Dylan in, so I guess it was pretty kool after all.
Due to having an excessively late night the previous evening I arrived at the Kool Haus later than I meant to but in a fit of great timing I ended up crossing threshold just as the music started (with Maggie’s Farm). I spent most of my time near the back of the box while Dylan held court from atop a tall stage that took up one wall of the venue. He was mostly playing a small electric keyboard and a pedal steel guitar for the show, something I (and obviously he) was just starting to get used to but I believe he did strap on a guitar for the sole acoustic number of the evening, the wonderful It Ain’t Me, Babe. And for those reading this and thinking “Who cares, Bob Dylan can’t sing anyways,” first of all: shame on you. Second of all, listen to Lay Lady Lay and take that back! He played his great crooner-ballad early on in this show along with other super-classics like Lay Lady Lay and Just Like A Woman and it was all so great.
Maybe it’s because the show was at a bar, but I don’t remember a lot of people leaving during the performance, something I’ve gotten quite accustomed to seeing at Bob Dylan concerts. Could be that the proletariat fans picked the coliseum show over the bar experience or maybe the inevitable droves that are shocked, surprised and insulted by Dylan’s modern performance style were kept entertained enough by the nightclub environment, but more likely I simply imbibed myself into such an enthralled state that I failed to notice.
No matter, because one thing’s for sure: I was in the room, smiling and still standing when Dylan closed out the show with a bam-bam of songwriting gold in the form of Like A Rolling Stone and All Along The Watchtower. Now, that’s how you end a concert.
Could it be that this was the last time I went to a show at the Kool Haus? I do know the place went by at least one other name – The Warehouse – but I think this might have been it for me.