page by Bill Pagel
Review by Tally Tom
I just got back from Jax, completing a swing of three of the Florida
shows. I also caught opening night in Orlando (with some special moments)
and Saturday in Tampa (Whoa, Nelly!). I am at a loss here. As great as
Tampa had been (and it was incredible), Jacksonville was even better. ("As
great as you are man, you can never be greater than yourself"). It was
one of those nights that validate why you feel the need to catch multiple
shows. Although the Tampa and Orlando crowds had been more into the shows
than this one, the man himself was ON! His voice was as clear and strong
as I have heard in a long time, and he was be-boppin' and scattin' all
over the place. The harp solos, which now are appearing mostly at the
beginnings of songs, were heartfelt and inventive. This was one of those
shows that just builds. After a solid Hallelujah, I'm Ready To Go into
Times, the stage was set for a strong Desolation Row. Gotta Serve
Somebody followed and flowed with ease. Then, instead of the customary
pedal steel number of the night, the band slid into Floater. What a great
rendition! Dylan nailed the phrasing, the band nailed the changes. The
new guy definitely was showing his stuff at this point. I think he is a
great addition to the group. I fret whenever Dylan changes drummers,
because it is the basis for the whole shooting match. From this point,
the show just seemed to go into overdrive. I have heard several great
Masters of War sung over the years, but this one was the definitive one to
my ears (and I had said that about the Tampa version Saturday night).
Tangled was even invested with some different twists of phrase. The true
highlight of the evening for me, however, was Mississippi. This is why I
go see Bob live. It was incredible. The phrasing, the power in the
voice, the presence and determination. A defining moment. ("I will
preach to the conquered, I will tame the proud"). The encore section of
the show included a great Country Pie, with two harp solos by Bob, and a
wonderful I Shall Be Released. All in all, an incredible night just two
nights after another incredible one in Tampa.
Review by Andrew Moraghan
What follows are some random observations on Bob Dylan's performance in
Jacksonville on Tuesday, February 5, 2002:
1) The stage: The stage in arenas like the Jax Coliseum is quite a bit
higher off the floor than the stage provided in small theaters like the
one Bob performed in at Sioux City last fall. The difference probably
does not amount to much once you get away from the stage a bit. However,
the "feel" in the first few rows in Jax was radically different than the
feel from the first few rows in Sioux City.
2) Sartorial splendor: Bob and the boys looked sharp. Bob was dressed
in a long black coat, black slacks, and black and white boots. And, oh
yeah, he wore a white cowboy hat throughout the entire show, which
obscured his face at least somewhat for much of the show. The four other
musicians on stage wore matching burgundy suits. I am not sure whether
this is something new or not. The band was not in matching suits when I
saw them last fall anyway. The drummer took his jacket off midway through
the show as things heated up.
3) The harmonica: Bob played the harmonica much, much more in Jax than
in the two shows I attended in the past. By my count, Bob played the
harmonica on at least five numbers in Jax. And rather than just finishing
off a tune on the harmonica, Bob started off most of these tunes on the
harmonica. Again, a departure from the few shows I have seen in the past.
4) Desolation Row: Simply amazing. The first time I have seen this tune
done live. It was played with a real edge to it. Not laid back at all.
No instrumental introduction at all on this one. No guitar or harmonica.
Bob just went right into the vocal.
5) The drummer: George is going to be great. No doubt about it. The
up-tempo tunes sizzled on Tuesday and the drummer contributed to this with
a lot of energy. On the other hand, I thought George seemed a little lost
at times on some of the acoustic numbers. "Don't Think Twice" comes to
mind. Whatever George was playing did not seem to jive with what the other
musicians were doing. No one can fault George if there were any minor
stumbles on his part. It has got to be pretty daunting to start playing
with a performer who can change the set list so much from night to night.
Tony Garnier on the bass spent more than half the show turned from the
audience - - facing George - - giving him encouragement and some guidance.
6) The crowd: Yes, I would agree with the other review that has been
posted. The crowd was a little laid back. Not that there wasn't some
excitement. During "Leopard-Skin," a woman probably in her 30s who was
in the front row up against the metal fence in front of the stage climbed
up on stage. This is no small feat given the elevated stage referred to
above. This happened directly in front of Bob as he was singing. Bob's
security people ran over and grabbed the woman before she was able to do
more than climb on stage. The woman was hustled off to the side. Bob
didn't miss a beat. He has seen it all, right? The security personnel
lowered the woman to the floor, where security for the Coliseum began
rushing the woman towards an exit. However, Bob's security man waved them
off and indicated that the woman could stay. No harm, no foul.
7) An animated Charlie Sexton: Bob appeared to give Charlie more rope
than I had seen in the past. In Sioux City, for example, Bob occasionally
nodded in Charlie's direction and let him go off on a solo. The nods
seemed to come more often in Jax. And Charlie seemed much more animated
with the guitar. Charlie stooped or leaned down and held the guitar low a
number of times throughout the night.
8) Larry's smiles: Okay, okay. Yeah, Larry does smile a lot. But he
looked positively euphoric in Jax, grinning from ear to ear more often
than I had seen in the past. His playing was excellent, as always. It
was a bit of a disappointment not to hear "High Water." The banjo was in
sight and, at one point, it looked as though one of the technicians was
carrying it to Larry but, alas, the number eight slot went to "Stuck
Inside of Mobile" on this night. A very rousing performance of that tune
removed my disappointment over not hearing "High Water."
9) Bob's bobbles: Very few bobbles with the lyrics were noted. The only
thing I recall is that Bob dropped a line in the second verse of "Blowin'
In the Wind."
10) The set list: It was simply inspired. Only eight of the 20 tunes
played in Jax were played last fall when I saw Bob in Sioux City.
I met a couple of folks after the show who had been standing in front of
me. Hadley from Gainesville and a gal from Pittsburgh. The gal had seen
all four of the Florida shows. She pronounced the Jax show the best. It
truly was a great, great show. No doubt about it. However, sometimes I
wonder if, with the rush of adrenaline, "tonight's show" is always the
best show. All three that I have seen have been a thrill and I look
forward to seeing Bob again on the road looking for another joint.
Review by James Mahoney
The last time I'd seen Dylan at the Coliseum was in March of 1966, also
the last time Dylan had played the place. It was an odd crowd, a fairly
full house with less young people than in concerts I've seen in the
Northeast, professionals, short-hairs with dates, older folks who didn't
look like 60's types and at the end were raving with everybody else, in
front anyway. The staff were nice people, working people, sports ushers,
and our front row seats were, yup, all the way on the side. We could see
Dylan just fine, and the rest of the band well enough, and it was an
education in itself to watch Dylan from his left side a lot. I could see
how deliberately he worked with audience members, how he played into the
band, and it was like almost 36 years ago, he was in deep, aesthetic
trance, with his very bright blue eyes intent in whatever transpersonality
he was accessing or addressing. He sometimes looked like the Pan-figure
he was projecting in the 70's, and as ever, as usual, a wide variety of
personalities made their appearance during the night: the bitter city
snarler, the wily trickster, the sophisticated wreck, the mystic oddball.
Except when he was sometimes out of aesthetic steam - or just tired - he
was out there playing to his great Muse (who also must have been specific,
attractive women in the crowd, no way around it). Dylan plays either very
personally or to that vast Listener, and he seems almost always out beyond
himself up there.
The pre-show music was that compendium of Americana that's always the
pre-show music, Copeland's Fanfare for the Common Man, etc., beautiful,
and then that person who always says, "Will you please welcome Columbia
Recording Artist, Bob Dylan" introduced the band, now very dressed up.
Dylan's wearing his Bill Munroe white hat, the black American Gothic frock
coat and white & black "gambler" shoes, and Campbell's in a maroon frock,
Sexton's in a burgundy suit, and George Receli's wearing burgundy, too,
with a beret like Kemper's, while Tony's in burgundy with a modified
bowler. These are stage identities, now, something Dylan's clearly put
some attention on. The concept is, likely, the kind of theatricality any
Nashville or major country Star would select for his or her band, a Grand
Old Style that is supposed to be as much intentional drama as "Floater,"
is for example. No, Dylan's grandfather wasn't a duck trapper, but we're
supposed to imagine his was, in the song, the same way we're supposed to
imagine he's some old Porter Waggoner-type music icon who looks so
anachronistic and stylized he's actually dignified by the get-up. Fine,
it really works.
The band did "Hallelujah, I'm Ready to Go" to begin with, then he went
directly to "Times They Are A-Changin'" which was made far more elegant
with his reaching for the harp to finish it, with that high, wide-reaching
Americana from a long time ago, those lonesome train whistles in the night
he evokes so well. Hard to know exactly what this song means to him now.
Then a nice, hard "Desolation Row," that George knew how to punch up, the
way David did, so it really moved, as Dylan swam in and out of the
microphone, giving his snaky emotive intention to somebody, a lot. The
next song was "Searching for a Soldier's Grave," standard as ever. Then
they went electric, straight to "Serve Somebody," crack, spare, naasty,
and a surprise. "Floater" was delightful, and, again, to see him say
those words about "bullheads" and "rebel rivers" as newly-phrased as he's
always compelled to make his songs when he performs them, reawakened the
whole song. Charlie and Larry were having fun with it, certainly, and it
was amazing to see how much the two of them have begun to share out their
solos and tighten their vocals, so in other, further songs like "Blowin'
in the Wind" and "I Shall Be Released" their harmonies and timing are
peerless. We were sitting on Campbell's side of the stage, and it seemed
that he was taking a larger share of the solo work than he had been.
Maybe that was something of a distortion, but there it is. It seemed like
Tony was spending a lot of time working directly with George, which was
Then "Lonesome Day" started, which was damned perfect. That song is so
9/11 it's scary, and to be close enough to see Dylan say all those lyrics
in that delayed, spit-out way he almost always does live was so, well,
real. To see him say, "I'm 40 miles from the mill," or "You can't make
love aaall by yoursellf" was killer. "Memphis Blues Again" was temporarily
incomprehensible, like "Serve Somebody" had been, since I'd forgotten
enough of both lyrics. Next was "Don't Think Twice," always done with
such beauty and dignity now. Dylan used the harp again, very poignantly,
and it was flawless. "Masters of War" was performed in blue light, in
that choppy, rhythmic way he does it now. Again, maybe it's topical,
maybe not, he isn't saying, he's singing it. "Tangled Up in Blue" was as
wonderful as ever. He and everybody else loves this song, and his harp
playing was again, right on it, not wheedly as he sometimes accidentally
is, but lyrical. George hits well, he just isn't as sensitive or as
interested in lighter-nuanced fills as Kemper was, and it showed in TUIB.
When the stage lit up again for "Summer Days" I was praying we wouldn't
get "Sugar Baby," and have "Mississippi" and released the desire as well
as I could. "Summer Days" had all that slippery guitar work and to see
Dylan sing about a "worn out star" live was almost funny. Right in
character. What came next was "Mississippi." I soaked in every word this
time. I'd been far too drunk in DC this November to really take it in,
and now I saw his face, with every word, again using that delayed cadence
he does, making each word a special choice, released when it's time, only.
I almost cried. "I got nothin but affection for all those who sailed
with me." Yup.
"Drifter's Escape" was also slippery, and an unrecognizable but sharp
arrangement with another excellent harp solo. Dylan's leads were
beginning to get a shade ragged, and by "Leopard-skin Pillbox Hat," (which
he performed in the same space 36 years ago, and must have remembered he
did), he was taking amazing chances with playing past the ends of the
verse, which worked hazardously and came off. Then they left the stage,
and it was time to make noise.
We had been able to slide farther down the row, and I could now see really
well, with the exception for a bit of a big neo-hippie with an amazing
probably 4-year old daughter he was dancing with a shade too vigorously
for people behind him to see, and his wonderful daughter was taking it all
very well, looking at everything, just right there. When the band came
back it was to do a snappy "Country Pie," followed directly and
incongruously by "Rolling Stone," which went very well, especially Dylan's
solos by then. And an utterly moving "I Shall Be Released," very clearly
rehersed, Dylan keeping a lot of the melody. They re-armed for "Honest
With Me," which George was able to step up to very well. Dear God,
though, to see Dylan say all those words, up close and natural: "There a
Southern Pacific leavin at 9:45..." The band played definitely flat out.
And the set closed with a sweet, strong "Blowin' in the Wind," after
which I saw Dylan do something very simple and strange.
He knelt on the stage, away from the audience, took off his hat and
ruffled his hair and wiped sweat away from his face, then put the hat back
on and stood up, to receive the audience's attention, keeping a lot of eye
contact, nodding directly with his blue-eyed gaze, toward the whole
audience. As if he'd ritually prepared himself to quit the stage, in
effect. Then they all left. As my friend Richard pointed out, he seemed
less obviously strong than this fall. In DC he seemed hard and
matter-of-fact, and in Jacksonville he almost seemed vulnerable, the
elf-poet all over again. One thing for sure, he's looking very, very
directly into the crowd, making real contact with some people, who
definitely know who they are when he does it. And I'd bet a lot of them
are women. That's what I'd do if I were him, and what I did as a
performer myself, not just to score - to vitally connect. I'm sure he
page by Bill Pagel
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