page by Bill Pagel
Review by Zac Snabes
SHOWDOWN AT THE ARAGON MOTEL March 5, 2004
Bob Dylan and His Band
They don’t call it the windy city for nothin’ and as we stood outside the
Aragon Friday night, old man winter certainly was not letting us forget
his presence as the cold winds were a-blowin’! They let us in at about
6:30 pm where we promptly entered and found suitable locales to watch Bob
and his band play. The crowd gathered for a little over 2 hours as the
anticipation grew and grew to the occasional beating of a bass drum or the
spaghetti western theme music teases. Bob took the stage at 8:41 pm to
play his heart out for us and he wasn’t a minute too late.
He opened the show with “Drifter’s Escape,” but really got cookin’ when he
brought a second drummer on his next number, “It’s All Over Now, Baby
Blue.” The dueling drummer idea works very well, in this fan’s humble opinion,
as it pumps so much energy into Bob’s already emotionally charged tunes. It
was during the second song that Bob first took second stage with the
microphone and did the “gunslinger shuffle” for us as he sang, finally
returning to his keyboard as the song ended. His keyboard playing is
certainly not perfect, but it doesn’t need to be. The fills he adds,
sometimes appropriate, and other times not, continue to give his songs new
vibes, keeping them fresh.
His band can truly take the audience on a trip. Their arrangement on
“Floater” is particularly special, as the song goes from Freddie playing
parlor music you might hear while you’re eating filet mignon at the ball,
to Larry bursting in with hard country blues licks you’d hear Saturday
night down at the hoedown.
Bob ends his set with “Summer Days.” It’s a swingin’ party. Bob’s
screaming his words and the band is in “full jam” mode. The song ends at
the crowd is definetly jumped, jived, and wailed out, but will not leave
as we all want more. The band returns for their encores, “Cats in the
Well,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” and “All Along the Watchtower.” It gives
closure to the night and for one last time Bob strolls to center stage and
silently gazes into his crowd, and suddenly the stage is empty and we’re
all back out on the streets talking Chicago town blues, coming down from
our “Back Pages” high.
Review by Thomas Van Zeyl
Bob Dylan at the Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL 03/05/04
A Lonesome Death A Million Miles From The Front Row
By Thomas P. Van Zeyl
Freelance Entertainment Writer
[Chicago, IL-March 5th]-Bob Dylan, the original "alternative" artist and legendary troubadour for
everyman, came into Chicago's compact, incense-filled Aragon Ballroom last Friday night with a
fresh concept for his "Never Ending Tour" and his legion of fans: His Bobness on the electric
keyboard playing new arrangements of his vast library for the entire night. With no Bob on guitar
(acoustic, electric, or even air, for that matter), two drummers, two new band members, and the
songs sounding only a thin shadow of their former selves, the show promised to be challenging to
the most devoted of his following. Indeed, it was.
After 40 years spent performing on the road, Bob Dylan can lay a fair claim to owning a good portion
of that road, seeing as he first turned the stuffy world of folk music upside down with his
colorfully irreverent potpourri of language, and then exploded the boundaries of rock music with
his electric guitar and gravelly voice. Dylan has long eschewed the idea of becoming just another
greatest-hits novelty act, like the Beach Boys, and continues to repave this road with each new
persona he adopts, and songs from his newer albums. Lately, Dylan has been rewarded handsomely for
refusing to become an aging rock dinosaur with an Academy Award, and Grammy's for some of his more
recent work. Often, his music and his stage show are better because of this relentless pursuit of
creative expression. Such was not the case this night, the fifth night of the new 2004 tour of
small venues throughout the Midwest and the east coast of the United States; although, for many in
attendance, just seeing Dylan play anything is qualification enough for a good performance.
The show started thirty minutes late, typical for Dylan, with Bob and his band walking out to their
instruments amidst a giant black curtain with a mystical cyclopean eye staring out behind them.
The house lights were turned down, masking this rather enigmatic venue to see a concert in: a
circular parquet wooden floor for 1940s-era ballroom dancing beneath a façade of 19th-century Spanish
villas that made it look like more like a Tex-Mex basketball court than a concert hall. Bob appeared
clean-shaven, wearing a white cowboy hat and an outfit of black shirt and black slacks with white
piping down the sides of the pant legs, and flared bottoms. He saddled the bench behind his electric
keyboard, looked down, and went into a rocking version of "Drifter's Escape", the story of a bum
beating the rap in court, thanks to a well-timed bolt of lightning hitting the courthouse. The crowd
came to life at the end of the song, when Dylan grabbed his harmonica and blew a short solo.
A shuffling version "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue", highlighted by the lilting strains of Larry
Campbell's pedal steel guitar giving the end of each line a greater punch, and Dylan's stretching
of "baby blue" into "bayyyyybe blooo" was nice. Playing the harmonica at center stage, shimmying
left and right, looking more like Neil Diamond with a cowboy hat on than anything else. The crowd
loved it. Newly added percussionist, Richie Hayward, joined longtime Dylan drummer, George Recile,
for a twin drum attack on "Cry Awhile", a country blues number that was given a thunderous drum
treatment. Guitarist Freddy Koella, his slide guitar familiar to fans of Zachary Richard's band,
came out a couple times from his perch behind Dylan's keyboards to delight with his stinging lead
riffs. Back at the electric piano, Dylan was clearly enjoying the band's playing, as evidenced by
his nonstop bouncy leg.
Blues treatments were also given to "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" and "It's Alright, Ma
(I'm Only Bleeding"), but suffered from a muddied vocal mixing that rendered Dylan's phrasings almost
indecipherable. Koella's scorching riffs on his big Gibson guitar, fitted with capo and played high
up the neck, saved this song from Dylan trying to trip up Recile by changing the tempo. "Girl From
the North Country" sounded less like the song that inspired Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair",
but benefited from beautiful performances by Tony Garnier on the stand-up bass (with bow!) and again
from Larry Campbell on the pedal steel. The band looked as if they would really stretch out on the
outro of this song, given how beautifully they played it, but Dylan cut the upbeat ending somewhat
abruptly. Perhaps future performances of this classic love song will get the fully-fleshed out
ending. Younger, twenty-something fans didn't even know the song at all, which is part of the
beauty of seeing Dylan live; you never know what tricks he's going to pull from his deep bag of
tricks. Dylan always seems to find a way to send his audience back to their CD collections to give
a new listening to his older material.
One of the highlights of this evening's performance was the pleasing arrangement of "Most Likely You
Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine"). Bob Dylan really found a way to growl his lyrics to match Campbell's
guitar licks, and then came out center stage and sang the last verses holding the microphone like he
was about to throw a left-right cross of punches. His stage presence here looked like Sammy Davis, Jr.,
and the crowd ate it up, rewarding Dylan and the band with a hearty ovation. The cold, stark version
of "Million Miles" (from 1997's "Time Out of Mind") had the opposite effect; some in the audience
thought they were merely distant spectators sitting in on Bob's jam session. The song felt out of
place, given that a rollicking "Highway 61 Revisited", was next, met with a myriad of whoops and
cheers from an appreciative audience.
Perhaps Dylan is still working out the pacing of the show, as a mellow "Floater (Too Much to Ask)" was
met with respectful applause and followed up with a snappy, fun version of "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere"
that turned into a crowd sing along on the "Ooh wee, ride me high" refrain. At the end of "Floater",
the crowd seemed tired from the heat being generated by 5,000 bodies standing tight against each other,
as this was a general admission show with no chairs on the main floor. With no water fountains in
sight, people seemed to be drinking more beer, as the $6 beer stands off to the sides of the hall were
jam-packed with people carrying two or more beers. "Honest With Me", another newer song, also was a
highlight of the night, as it came in right at 9:45 p.m., in time with a line from the song mentioning
"the Southern Pacific train leaving at 9:45" and Dylan finding it "hard to believe some people were
ever alive". This song has a guitar hook reminiscent of the original version of the song "Highway 61
Revisited", some very clever lyrics, and George Recile hammering out a machine gun beat on the drums.
The band showed off how tight they were, and Dylan gave them the cue to keep it going before he sang
the final verse.
The Aragon was buzzing after this song, and then seemed to die as Dylan pulled out his gospel-sequel
"Every Grain of Sand", one of the most beautiful testimonies of faith anyone has ever written. One
member of the audience was left wondering if Bob knew, or even cared, how many people spent the song
yakking with each other while he gave a heartfelt rendition of this underappreciated gem. The
rockabilly "Summer Days" got the crowd dancing, even if (for one young woman in the back corner
wearing blue jeans and a yellow tank top) it was only by themselves.
"Summer Days" plays well live, and will likely be in Dylan's set list for many years to come. Much of
the dancing was fueled by beer, more so than any dance lesson could. Koella's guitar sounded clearer
here than any other time this night, and the band whipped the crowd into a frenzy as Bob kept singing
as if he didn't want the song to ever end. He gave a squat-like bow as he grabbed his pant legs at the
end of the song, and acknowledged the appreciative audience.
The band encored their performance with "Cat's In The Well" (picking up where "Summer Days" left off)
running right into a potent reworking of "Like A Rolling Stone." The stop-start style of the "How
does it feel?" refrain makes this classic seem fresh all over again. A quick trip through "All Along
The Watchtower", and Bob left the stage at 10:30 p.m., with the crowd still cheering for more.
To Bob Dylan's fans, no performance is ever a bad performance. To those who think of Dylan as a whiny
singer who can't play guitar, no performance is ever a good performance. Still, tonight's show left
some wanting a lot more than they got with their $47.50 general admission; mainly, a chair, some
circulating air, better sound quality, and a set list that moved better than a car running on seven
cylinders. The new arrangements will challenge many to actually listen to the material, and not just
go to hear Bob play; more artists would do well to take this kind of a risk with their own song
catalogs. Dylan's stage presence could also use some improvements; he sits at his keyboard and faces
the band, not the audience, and he should move his microphone a little closer so he doesn't have to
contort himself to sing into it. Hearing Bob's musicianship on the keyboards all night is way too
long, given that he really only seems to be playing rhythm piano, at best. Many in the audience would
have enjoyed the show more had Bob picked up the acoustic guitar for a few of the songs.
Review by Nick Pappas
We arrived in Chicago and checked into our hotel to find that Dylan and crew were staying at the same
place: The Ambassador (in the Gold Coast). Saw Freddie in the Lobby as he was boarding the bus! We
were psyched. Got to the show 3 hours eary to find a pretty long line, but as the doors opened we
found ourselves on the rail to the left, directly in bob's line of sight from behind the keyboards.
The Aragon was a cool venue, with some greco-renaissance design and a high stage. Bob came on very
late- probably around 840 or so dressed in his usual black embroidered cowboy shirt and pants, a jacket,
and his white cowboy hat. The band launched into drifter's escape, which i thought was a good opener.
Bob got a good response after closing the song with the usual harp solo. Next came baby blue, which
when i first heard larry play the steel guitar notes, i was not too excited for (i heard it in Europe
too many times!), but this was a much better version, more focused with a kind of stuccato phrasing.
Bob stepped to the center mike for the harp solo, then repeated the first verse, center stage, vegas
style, with just the microphone in his hand. It was pretty wild. Cry A while came next, sung well, but
nothing out of the ordinary. Hattie Caroll I liked, but his vocals were too low in the mix, a lot of
peopel around me complained that they could not understand his words. It's Alright Ma was rockin, he
got most of the lyrics right and this got a good response. Girl Of The North Country followed, and
was played and sung pretty well...but once again I think his vocals were too low in the mix. Most
Likey...was fun..once again bob stepped to the center mike and sang the second bridge front and center.
He bent on his knees and howled: "I'm not gonna tell you why that is"! Million Miles, which was the
first suprise was sung well, and the boys kept a good rythm. This was perhaps my favorite song of the
The Encores were pretty standard, but I will say i like the new chorus arrangement of Rolling Stone,
it was a stop and start with bob saying "how does it feel" then the band playing the signature riff.
The crowd loved all 3 encores and bob enjoyed the applause. Overall I thought it was a good show,
nothing too special, but a lot of well sung songs. I think that the sound techs need to put bob's
vocals higher in the mix; i know all the songs, but for people who don't it's hard for them to
understand what he is saying. Just another note: during the introductions bob said something like:
"I wanna say hey to WKLT Radio station, hopefully they'll play my records" before introducing the band.
Review by Michael Smith
The Aragon and The Riviera are two very old (some would say historic)
Chicago institutions located practically across the street from each
other. Before Dylan took the stage on Friday night, a DJ from the local
station WXRT (who was sponsoring the concert) introduced the show by
reminding us that Benny Goodman used to play the Aragon. Aesthetically,
they are both intimate and very faux-opulent – like some American’s idea
of a European opera house. The interior of the Aragon has been better
maintained, complete with cheesy fake twinkling stars on the ceiling, but
the Riviera, with plaster and paint crumbling everywhere, has the better
acoustics. Go figure. They are also both within walking distance of my
Both shows gave us Dylan and his band at a very high level of their
performing artistry. Dylan was engaged and energetic and his singing was
very strong, much like the fall European tour. There was no “upsinging” to
be heard and there was none of the rasping, gasping,
one-syllable-at-a-time delivery that marred some of last summer’s shows.
If the setlists weren’t quite as adventurous as one would’ve liked
(especially given the size of the venues), Dylan more than made up for it
with two solid shows and, at the end of the day, that’s all you can really
It’s difficult to compare these two shows because they were so similar
(only five songs difference from one night to the next). Right now I’d
have to say I preferred the first, if only because it was the first show
I’ve seen on the tour and thus, the new arrangements didn’t delight my
ears in the same new way the second time around. But both shows saw Dylan,
similarly attired in black suit and white cowboy hat, having a lot of fun,
rockin’ and boppin’ behind the keyboard, leaning into his lowered
microphone to croon and snear and snarl, then stepping back and attacking
the keys with wild abandon, looking like some mad scientist mixing up his
Highlights and lowlights from the shows included:
Drifter’s Escape – believe it or not this was arguably the best vocal of
the first show. Dylan’s voice was very strong and every syllable landed in
what felt like exactly the right place.
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue – Yes, a new arrangement, very fast tempo.
Probably the fastest this song has ever been, but it works. This is the
first song to feature two drummers. It’s difficult to imagine Richie
Hayward being anything other than an understudy for George since they’re
both playing the same beat at the exact same time. No poly-rhythm (or
steamy cauldron of drum theory) here. At the first show, Dylan ends the
song by walking out to the center of the stage and blowing a harp solo
into the vocal mic that’s been set up there. When he’s done with the harp
solo, he whips the mic off the stand and sings the last verse with the mic
in one hand and the mic cord in the other, gently swaying to the music.
The crowd loves it.
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll - This was a highlight of the first
show. The same lilting arrangement from the fall Euro-tour. Dylan sang it
so beautifully and carefully that my girlfriend remarked it was as if Bob
were really telling us the narrative of the song for the very first time.
Unfortunately, the performance on the second night was marred by some
forgotten lyrics in the second verse.
It’s Alright Ma – As far as I’m concerned, he can give this song a rest.
This is basically the same arrangement he’s been playing since fall ’02
(with George pounding the bass drum once between each line Dylan sings to
maintain a sense of rhythm and the band playing a swampy, swinging, bluesy
part between each verse), but this song never really comes off for me as a
whole. Frequently there are parts of it that are awesome - with Dylan
sneering out the lyrics in an impressive and appropriate fashion - but he
never maintains it for the whole song. Even when he gets all the words
right, it seems like his phrasing will eventually fall too far ahead of or
behind the beat, which will lead to him playing catch-up and/or sounding
tentative and uncertain.
Down Along the Cove – This was a highlight of the second night. I love
this new arrangement from the Euro tour. The guitar parts sound very
similar to something the Dead would have done (not unlike, say, Alabama
Getaway) and Bob sings the hell out of it. We also got a new lyric last
night – “Down along the cove, I feel as a high as a bird/ I said “Lord,
have mercy, AIN’T THAT THE SWEETEST THING YOU EVER HEARD?!”
It Ain’t Me, Babe – The absolute highlight of both of the first two shows!
This isn’t just a new arrangement; this is a brand new song that happens
to share the same lyrics with a certain song from Another Side of Bob
Dylan. This is unquestionably the most dramatic re-arrangement of this
song ever (more so than Rolling Thunder, more so than ’78) and it is the
most drastic re-working of any Dylan song I’ve ever had the privilege to
see in concert. NOBODY in the audience knew what it was when the band
started playing it. It sounded very dark, ominous and weird with Freddy
and Larry playing the same sparse, choppy chords over and over. At first I
thought it was a new arrangement of Masters of War. Or perhaps a new fast
version of Love Sick? Or a cover of Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger!? Anything
but It Ain’t Me, Babe! Even after Bob started singing and I recognized the
lyrics, I had no clue what song it was because my mind was scrambling to
place those words within the context of this strange music! Bob is singing
“You say you’re looking for someone . . .” and the guy next to me says
“Just Like a Woman?” . . . and, for a second, I believe him that that’s
actually what we’re hearing! Midway through the first verse, everyone
finally realizes what the song is and goes apeshit. Then, there is a very
loud crescendo, courtesy of Larry’s cittern and Freddie’s guitar, and
we’re into the chorus with Dylan enthusiastically singing the familiar
refrain. This new It Ain’t Me, Babe is the reason why you see Dylan in
concert. It’s one of those strange, beautiful, perverse, what-the-fuck?,
mind-twisting, soul-thrilling moments that only Dylan can give you. I
really want to hear this again.
Most Likely You Go Your Way –On both nights, Dylan starts off by
uncertainly singing some dummy lyrics, then pulls it together and starts
belting it out. By the end of the song on the first night, he’s so
confident that he again walks out to center stage where he plays another
harp solo and then sings the last verse to us without a guitar or piano to
hide behind. He’s really into it, crouching down on one knee, while
singing most emphatically. An awesome spectacle.
Million Miles - Another highlight of the first show. This was very similar
to the album version with Larry’s guitar replicating Augie Meyers’ organ
part. There was some epic singing from Dylan on this one, where he really
stretched out the words and made you realize how elastic his voice can
still be. The instrumental jam that concluded the song was likewise great
with some fantastic interplay between Bob’s keyboard and Freddie’s
whacked-out guitar solo. Freddie, I should add here, has finally become
fully-integrated into the band. (It actually probably happened during the
Euro tour but, having not seen those shows, I can’t say for certain.) Love
it or hate it, he knows the songs inside and out and knows exactly what
he’s doing with those spare, discordant solos. And, more importantly, it’s
obviously a sound that Bob wants.
Highway 61 Revisited – Freddie on slide guitar! Very nice. When did he
overtake Larry’s job on this?
Floater – Very well done. Unfortunately, I was distracted by the fact that
Freddie’s violin was totally inaudible during the first half of the song.
At one point he looked off-stage and indicated (with his thumb) for
someone to turn up the sound. Fortunately, the sound of the violin came on
before the instrumental break and he played a really wild solo. Dylan’s
singing on this was very good also.
Every Grain of Sand – This was a disappointment for me on both nights.
It’s the same arrangement as before but the tempo is a little faster and
it rocks a little harder. I would even say it rocks too hard. I don’t
think this song was meant to rock. With Freddie and Larry playing dueling
electric guitars, I don’t think it gives Dylan the proper framework to
sing over. He needs to sing this one tenderly, which he certainly didn’t
do on the first night. The second night was better but wasn’t nearly what
it should have been; this time Dylan started off the song by playing a
harp solo into the center stage mic. It was obvious that he intended to
sing the whole song from this microphone but then changed his mind midway
through the first verse. It looked to me like he perhaps felt too
vulnerable and that’s why he moved back behind the keyboard. What made the
whole thing really bizarre was that he walked from center stage back to
his position behind the keyboard in the middle of the first verse, without
a microphone, while STILL SINGING. Of course, you couldn’t hear him but
you could see his mouth moving. Bob, couldn’t you have at least waited
‘til the verse was over?!
Summer Days – A disappointment on the first night, much better on the
second. On the first night Dylan could not have looked more bored during
the instrumental break. He was just kind of resting on the keyboard,
chewing on a fingernail, while everyone else in the band was playing their
hearts out. At first I thought he was tired but when he came back out
totally pumped up full of energy for the encore, I could only chalk it up
to boredom. Perhaps he needs to find another song for this slot.
Like a Rolling Stone – Excellent on both nights. Not really a new
arrangement but the chorus is completely different with the guitars
completely dropping out during the parts where Dylan sings. The crowd
rightly goes crazy with enthusiasm even though (without the big riffs
being pumped out) it somehow sound less anthemic than before. During the
first night, he was laughing for some reason when he sang, “got it made.”
On the first night, we got some Bobtalk: “I want to say hello to my
friends at WXRT.” Then, laughing, he added, “I guess they play my records
All Along the Watchtower – Excellent on the first night with Dylan
actually singing the lyrics and really stretching out the words. On the
second night, he once again attempted to start the song off by singing
center stage but came in at the wrong time and abandoned the idea before
heading back behind the keyboard. He was so far off of the rhythm that he
looked back at George and just laughed. I can’t help but think that he
really wants to sing an entire song from this center stage mic but just
hasn’t figured out how to do it yet. Hopefully, it will happen tonight at
the Vic. And now, I’m off to join the line!
Review by Ryan Shadbolt
The Aragon Ballroom was unlike any place I had witnessed a Dylan show
before. What a beautiful venue! We were ready, the stage was ready, the
incense was ready, and ready or not, it was time for Bob. Drifter's
Escape rocked as an opener and treated us to some harp early on. Next up
was Baby Blue. I've heard this song live a number of times, but
tonight's version was one of my favorites. Something happened that
I've personally never seen Bob do before. He came out center stage
during an instrumental verse, did a harp solo, and then remained center
stage with mic in hand and sang the final verse. I know that he has done
this on rare occasions in the past, but can anyone tell me if he has been
doing this any other time recently? Either way, the crowd loved it and as
we would later see, it appears that Bob did as well. Cry A While featured
both drummers wailing away. Tonight it seemed that George and Richie did
very few songs together. The two pretty much took turns from one song to
the next, but did play together on a select few. Hattie Carroll was a
nice change of pace, which featured Larry on acoustic. It's Alright Ma
rocked as usual. I really like this newer rendition they've been
playing recently. Larry's cittern playing was excellent. After hearing
the reviews about the new version of Girl of the North Country, I've
been hoping to hear it this tour, and it was certainly a treat complete
with some harp work. The rewards for me continued as Bob pulled out Most
Likely You Go Your Way and Million Miles, both of which were songs that I
hadn't previously seen performed live. As if that's not enough,
during Most Likely, Bob made another cameo appearance and took to the mic
at center stage with another harp solo followed by a singing verse for us!
Hwy 61 is standard fare, but always fun to hear regardless. Freddy then
picked up the violin for a performance on Floater. The mix on the violin
was very quiet initially, but was eventually sorted out during the second
verse. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere was another surprise, and featured,
but yet, another singing performance by Bob at center stage with the mic.
The always crowd pleasing Honest With Me and Summer Days sandwiched a
beautiful Every Grain to round out the main set. For the encores, Cat's
In The Well was a first for me. After the song ended, it immediately
switched into LARS. This new version with the surprise quiet portions
during the choruses is very cool. Next, Bob muttered something to the
crowd, but I didn't catch all of it and then he came out to center stage
and introduced the band members. Watchtower was once again the final
number followed by a brief formation with Bob center stage and then he
trotted off into the darkness...
Review by John Haas
Just a brief review of the Aragon show. I (fan since 1965, about 30
concerts over the years since 1974) went with Bill (fan since 2000, thanks
to yours truly; his seventh show), Sidney (fan since 1963 0r 64, few shows
back in the 60s, one in 1991, but not since then) and Sidney's son, Carlo
(no big fan, first show). The crowd was loud, much talking throughout,
drinking and smoking, making for a miserable environment. Sidney worked
her way to the front and said it was great up there--everyone very focused
on Bob. I drifted to the back after 5 or 6 songs--needed a wall to lean
on. The sound, which wasn't great on the floor, was abysmal in the back.
Playing was outstanding. New arrangements of Baby Blue, Girl of North
Country, and LARS were very nice. Freddy's violin also was nice on
Floater, and I was thrilled to hear Cat's in the Well live for the first
time--my favorite song on one of my favorite albums. Bob's voice was OK.
Several times he left the piano to sing just standing in the middle of the
stage, making strange gestures, which was fun, but odd. Richie and George
went back and forth on the drums, seemed to work fine, but that was odd,
too. Odder still were some of Freddy's guitar solos. The guy can play
(hear him rip through Summer Days, eg), and he's always interesting.
Unlike Charlie who you knew would give you an excellent solo and plenty of
color in between, when Freddy steps out, you don't know what you'll get.
During It's Alright Ma he took a few solos and they were some of the
stangest sounds I ever heard from an electric guitar. If you've heard
him, you know how he often starts slow and awkward and angular, and then
congeals into something cool. These never got to the congeal point.
Bill turned and said, "Who's making that weird noise up there?" He
thought someone's amp was malfunctioning. Anyway, the concert was not one
for the history books for me, though everyone else in our party was very
happy, even ecstatic. I believe I'm getting too old. I need a seat, and
I need to be with a crowd that isn't so obsessed with drinking and talking
and checking their cell phones and all that. Guess those days are gone
for good. On the way home, Sidney and I compared notes on the 1960s, and
how preferable they were, with all their problems, to today. Respectful
crowds who valued the music. Interesting people, who looked interesting
too! But, as we agreed, that decade seems to have been, in hindsight, the
last, thrashing gasp of what Kenneth Rexroth called "the old, free
America." Bob is a nice reminder of those days, as well as a model of how
to move beyond them and keep going, but he stands alone. At least he's
Review by Vittorio Colombo
I will not try to review the entire concert. I was not there and still I
am 10000 miles away from any concert these days. But the phone rang at
five in the morning while in my bed in Italy.... from a "booth" in the
Midwest....from a good friend of mine...And Every Grain of Sand was
ringing in my ears. Ever since my favourite song, this was a gift from L.
as she was standing there after a long survival in the wind and in the
stormy weather. The sound was clear and wonderful; the song has some new
riff and seemed to me much stronger than in recent european renditions.
Clearly Bob now seems to understand the importance of this jewel and gives
it what it's due. That's all boys and girls. This was my concert. Still
much more than any dream at 5 in the morning in the country where I was
vittorio colombo (not in from row, this time)
Review by Jeffrey Johnson
The Maestro's 2004, four venue Chicago tour opened at the Aragon, a
venue much like Disney's "It's A Small World After All." Bizarrely, a
Magic Kingdom type castle appeared inside. Reports of poor acoustics
seemed true for the first few tunes, then the soundman rescued the night.
In one guy's opinion, the 2004 tour marks the reemergence of Larry
Campbell to the forefront. Over the course of four nights, Larry played
up in the mix, reminiscent of his 1997 Irving Plaza performance.
Larry's acoustic work was particularly sweet on the again-revamped
Hattie Carrol and Girl From the North Country. Later, Larry would own the
encores (night after night).
Bob rasped to perfection on Hattie Carrol and similarly so on Girl From
the North Country. It's Alright, Ma spotlighted brilliant cross-stage
exchanges between Larry and Freddy.
The country I come from is called the Midwest, so I can say with certainty
that nobody here in the Midwest has a dang thing to say. Nevertheless,
Every Grain of Sand was performed in a chat room.
Bob wobbled to mid stage several times and did a Tom Jones segment with
the center-stage mic. Not a bad Chicago start.
Jeffrey Johnson, New York correspondent, on location
page by Bill Pagel
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