As the sun sinks over the park in the Paris suburb of Sceaux, the hurdy-gurdy guitar and plaintive lyrics of Mr. Tambourine Man ring out toward the floodlit chateau beyond the sea of 72,000 heads. First burning lighters, then sparklers turn the lawn into a bed of stars glowing in homage to the thin, dark-draped figure at the microphone. "In Paris," says Bob Dylan, "they've always been here for me."
Tout Paris is indeed Dylan's again during this rare Sunday afternoon concert on the 300-yard esplanade of the majestic 19th-century structure. The latest stop in a 23-city European swing that features Dylan, Santana and a changing cast of other notables, the concert is part of a tour assembled by impresario Bill Graham, who expects to gross a reported $21 million from the two-month sweep of Italy, Sweden, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain and England. Profits notwithstanding, Graham says, the nearly four-hour show has preserved something of the '60s spirit: "It's like a traveling family circus."
At least one member of the family has gone AWOL, however. Joan Baez, 43, played 10 dates and dropped out just before Paris—because, some suggest, she objected to the concert's being touted as a reunion of the Dylan-Baez couple that romanced here 20 years ago. "You can't bring things back," says Dylan. "People have this nostalgia for the '60s, but it's not the same. [Baez] introduced me to a wider audience in 1964, but I don't see much of her anymore."
Still, at 43, Dylan feels some of the old warmth for European audiences. "They respect that poetic tradition," he says. "They understand the influences of my songs."
This tour, with its strenuous one-night stands, has proved taxing. "In your 20s it's all a big party, but it ceases to be [fun]," says Dylan, on his first tour since 1981. Still, there are comforts like the companionship of comrades, including Van Morrison, who stepped in for Baez at the last moment. And Dylan, who doesn't expect this outing to be his last, believes good years lie ahead.
"I'm looked at as if I belong to a certain period," he reflects. "But Picasso worked up until the end and he was in his 90s. All the people I've ever admired were at least in their 40s when I met them: Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Lightnin' Hopkins. I think you have to be old to get good."
THE JACKSONS: opening chord
Michael gives Birmingham a wave, but no concert
The four days of rehearsals for the Jacksons' long-awaited Victory Tour were to have been shrouded in secrecy, but the 11 tractor-trailers and 100-member crew that rolled into Birmingham, Ala. were about as easy to hide as a Day-Glo elephant. By the time Michael and his brothers arrived from L.A. in chartered planes the city was abuzz: Two hundred fans were waiting outside the Hyatt Birmingham where the Jacksons had booked 131 rooms. Birmingham's TV and radio stations were pleading for a concert, the city was abloom with white gloves, and a visit by Walter Mondale was all but eclipsed by the frenzy.
Not that storm clouds hadn't begun to gather. Fans complained about the mail-order lottery system for tickets, and there was grousing about Jackson promoter Chuck Sullivan's requests for cut-rate rooms and free ad space elsewhere. But all that seemed almost academic in a town where the Jack-sons—the local version of the Loch Ness Monster—provoked a rash of false sightings. Randy and Tito slipped out for a jog, and the Man himself donned a mustache and black hat for an incognito visit to a Jehovah's Witness service. But the stars generally stayed within their security-and privacy-conscious camp. Bodyguard Miko Brando (Marlon's son) helped patrol the Hyatt and the civic center, where the group had scheduled rehearsals daily from noon to 6 p.m.
Although the Jacksons considered a warm-up gig to kick off the 12-city, 16-week tour set to begin July 6 in Kansas City, the exhaustion-related illness of drummer Jonathan "Sugarfoot" Moffett—who lost 20 pounds after two months of grueling rehearsals in L.A.—nixed their plans. Instead a pep rally sponsored by a local video show drew 2,000 fans to the hotel, where they guzzled free Pepsi and held up a 32-foot plywood greeting card. Their reward: a few words from Marlon Jackson and an appearance by Michael, Tito and Randy, who stepped onto a second-floor balcony, waved and were gone.
Some expressed disappointment: "He's using our hall, our juice, why can't he give a concert?" asked Felicia Kindell, 19. In turn, the Jacksons were miffed by the doggedness of the local press: After spotting a Birmingham Post-Herald photo of a woebegone 7-year-old fan, Michael phoned her, but signed off after discovering a reporter had coached her to grill him.
Still, the rehearsals reportedly came off well. Said Randy, "Kansas City is going to be the show." And most of Birmingham was smitten by the time an expanded convoy of 15 trucks left town July 1. "I'll never forget it as long as I live," sighed one 14-year-old fan. "Even if Michael didn't play, he came. He waved. He showed us he loved us."
James Brown does a pretour soul search
After 30 years as a performer, James Brown might be forgiven for approaching a tour like his July European jaunt with a certain world-weariness. Not so, he says. "I think about the days when I had to shine shoes and be a janitor, and that makes me ready," he reports. "I think about the ghetto that I was raised up in, where I had hand-me-down clothes and never got a new suit. That makes me ready. I think about being 56 years old, with no education, and making more money than the President makes—that makes me ready." If that sounds like preaching, Brown says, then fine. "I played the minister in The Blues Brothers. I've been a minister all my life. I just don't have a pulpit. I have as much religion as any minister in the world. That's his job, to help save souls, and my job is to get the souls there for him to save." Amen, James.
Jennifer Holliday ends her first tour on an upbeat
"Boston—that's where it all started!" exulted Jennifer Holliday, 23, after her first concert tour ended with a sold-out performance June 30 in Boston's Opera House. Dreamgirls, the Broadway musical that brought her a career-galvanizing Tony award, had its successful previews in the same city in 1981, but the Houston-bred Jennifer found her concert stint rewarding in a different way. "The thing I like about this is that, unlike Broadway, there's no set thing you have to do night after night," she says. "And in the theater the audience is saying, 'Ahem, cough. What's wrong with her voice? I paid $40 for this ticket.' Here, they really love you. They give you an energy you don't even know about: They say, 'Sing, Jennifer. Sing, girl.' "
Paul Kantner bails out of his own Starship
As Jefferson Starship was set to blast off on tour to promote its new LP, Nuclear Furniture, guitarist and co-founder Paul Kantner, 42, announced he wouldn't be aboard for the West Coast leg. "Paul was having ideological and musical differences with the Starship," said a band spokeswoman. "They're going to talk after the tour." Meanwhile, Kantner is completing a novel titled (like his solo LP) Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra and writing music with Marty Balin.