Music icon helps to put Port Chester back on the rock ‘n’ roll map
Bob Dylan, as close to rock ’n’ roll royalty as they come, Tuesday night reopened The Capitol Theatre, which has been refurbished into as close to a rock ’n’ roll palace as they come, before a sold-out crowd of 1,835 fans.
Dylan and his band stepped onto the stage in darkness. The lights came up at The Capitol, for the first time in 14 years for a rock act, to find Dylan at the keyboards.
Dressed in white slacks and a black blazer with red trim, his trademark gravelly rasp in top form, he moved wordlessly from keyboards to electric guitar, the instrument that landed him in hot water in Newport a generation ago.
The crowd was a mix of young and old, big fans and more casual followers.
The 1926 Thomas Lamb theater, which welcomed rock’s top acts in the late ’60s and ’70s, had, in recent years, become home to weddings and bar mitzvahs, but Tuesday night’s concert — and the slate of acts announced to follow it in coming months — should leave no doubt: The Cap is back.
Plenty of people arrived Tuesday night without tickets and managed to get in, after standing in a steady rain that began at 5:30 p.m.
Anthony Ferrante, 53, and Domenick Gasparo, 31, both of Yonkers, showed up prepared to pay double the $65 ticket price to scalpers. They didn’t have to, as walk-up seats were available. They sat in the very last row of the balcony and paid $66.
“This was a miracle deal,” Gasparo said.
Mac McCullough and his wife, RoseAnne, drove down from North Stonington, Conn., nearly three hours, hoping for seats. They were not disappointed.
“The way I explain it to my friends, it’s like having an opportunity to see Shakespeare,” he said. “Why would you want to miss that?”
Fred Wyld may have come the farthest for the concert. The native of Darbyshire, England, was vacationing in Manhattan and showed up on a whim.
He got in.
Dylan’s Capitol date came one week before his new studio album, “Tempest,” is to be released.
It has 10 new and original Dylan songs — including the title song, a meandering take on the sinking of the Titanic that clocks in at nearly 14 minutes — and marks the 50th anniversary of his debut album, released by Columbia in 1962.
Admission to the floor area of the hall was general admission, meaning eager ticketholders got in line early. Despite showers throughout the day, fans stood on lower Westchester Avenue.
A band of oscillating searchlights shone skyward through the steady rain, serving notice that a star was back in town and attention should be paid.
Some things were not ready for opening night, though.
The lobby bar, with its long serving area and framed photos of past Capitol greats, was still a work in progress. The bars, however, were kept busy, with beers selling for $8 and $7. A nice touch: The dark red wallpaper had images of guitars and the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, among other rock icons.
The Capitol was once the stomping grounds for the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Pink Floyd. Simon and Garfunkel (and Dylan) used The Cap as a rehearsal hall before heading out on tour. And the Rolling Stones and David Bowie filmed MTV videos there in 1997, in the venue’s last gasps.
Entrepreneur Peter Shapiro, 39, a New Yorker who made his mark with the Wetlands (giving Pearl Jam and Dave Matthews their first New York City gigs) and Brooklyn Bowl (part music venue, part bowling alley), signed a long-term lease with owner Marvin Ravikoff and has sunk more than $2 million into restoring The Capitol.
Ravikoff was on hand Tuesday night, taking it all in, clearly pleased.
“The village is ready for this,” he said. “This facility has been trying for a long time to fill the gap.”
Some acts in the initial run of shows will perform multiple nights, including Warren Haynes (Oct. 11, 12), Strangefolk (Nov. 23, 24), the Moody Blues (Nov. 27, 28), My Morning Jacket (Dec. 27-29) and the Steve Miller Band, which will close out the year with performances Dec. 30 and 31.
Shapiro sees The Capitol as a venue with regional appeal.
“Do I think we’ll get people from New England? Boston? Why not? You wouldn’t drive down for Bob Dylan or Steve Miller Band or My Morning Jacket? Absolutely. Not even a flinch. It’s not that far on (Route) 95. And you don’t have to go through the city. It’s down 95 to Port Chester. Providence? Yes. New Haven? Yes. And the train station is right there.”