page by Bill Pagel
Review by Gary Baughn
Six and a half years ago I was mugged on my way to what should have been my first Dylan concert ever.
Instead of listening to Tangled Up in Blue I found myself Stuck Inside of The Emergency Room.
Because of never getting to that concert I have stubbornly gone to every Dylan concert I could since.
Tonight was the eleventh. Tonight was special because not only was I at a Dylan concert, but it was
at The Rave in Milwaukee, which is where I tried to see him what seems like ages ago. A circle that
had been broken was now somehow complete.
Tonight was also special because my daughter Julie was there, along with our good friends Bill and
Megan. Across the floor were Roger and Leslie, up in the balcony were Marty and Fanny, MIA were Bob
and Nancy, and all around were past and present students of mine.
And for the eleventh time, Bob delivered something good and different. How can he do it? How can he
keep making the same songs different? How can he have hit records at 63? I guess he really must
believe that he who is not busy being born is busy dying.
I didn't like Freddy Koella's solo work at first, but by Hwy 61 I was a convert. It's hard to
describe what he does, except it's almost as if he plays lead like Dylan would if he could. Bob's
lead efforts are, to put it politely, idiosyncratic. He sort of plucks. Sometimes the same note
several times. Freddy does the same thing. But it works. And he does a lot of other things also,
including making his guitar sound like Bob's harp.
Larry was great and versatile as always, and yet I didn't recognize one lick from previous concerts.
Tony is busy stirring the soup, making sure it gets done but not burnt. A lot has been written about
Bob's piano 'playing,' but here's what I think it does for him: he is controlling the rhythm through
his keyboard. When he played the guitar he controlled the key, but now he's in charge of the engine.
Which makes the two drummers even less explicable. But if there weren't something that made no sense
it wouldn't be Dylan.
The highlight tonight was his voice. They played softly so we could hear him. He was strong. He
played with the words. He seemed to enjoy them again. I swear they were playing a notch lower than
previously, maybe so he doesn't have to strain his voice to get up higher. In my opinion, this is a
good move. You come to Dylan to hear the words and the music, and tonight the music soared but the
vocals could too because everything was in his current range. Long ago, his voice used to dominate
everything, and that has been missing for twenty years, but these arrangements, pitched differently,
allow his voice to become an instrument once again, and rightfully the most powerful and expressive
one on stage, except, of course, for his harp, which was constantly in evidence. And if the amount
he plays the harp is dependent upon him being at the keyboard instead of the guitar, then lose the
axe forever. He's on stage with two great guitarists, but the best solos of the night were on harp.
My intro probably made it seem like I have become obsessed with going to Dylan concerts because I was
traumatized by my first attempt. But obsession would be going back to the same thing, and Bob is
never the same. Depend on it. I'll be back tomorrow, hoping for Blue, expecting to be surprised,
wishing Reitman a speedy recovery, and glad to be forever young.
Review by Donna Bennett
Good fortune smiled on me several weeks earlier, when after having
bought my GA ticket, I was gifted (technically won) 4 balcony seats. I
felt truly blessed. I had been trying to get my nephews to their first
Dylan concert and now I had the tickets to do so. I could also invite my
brother who hadnt seen a Dylan concert since the Street Legal tour. We had
excellent seats, and though our benefactor was laid low with bronchitis,
two friendly Dylan enthusiasts shared the stage center box with us and
turned out to be excellent company. Dylan looked to me like Kokopelli the
Flute Player (for those of you who know the tale). Instead of a playing a
flute, he stood bent over the small piano keyboard. He remained in that
position most of the night. His wore a hat with a straight wide brim. He
was dressed in black except for the gold that flashed from his hat, the
front of his shirt, and from the sides of his pants. The gold accents on
his hat and down the sides of his pants shimmered everytime he moved.
Periodically, a flash of gold escaped from his chest. Someone I met the
next night said he thought he had been wearing a gold medallion around his
neck Friday night.
From the first three songs Dylan sang, I thought Bob’s voice was in fine
form. I hoped Bob wouldnt talk the lyrics too much and happily he did not.
The emotion and sound of his voice comes across better each time I see him
in concert. Bob’s vocal range at this show seems limited in comparison to
the fall 2003 European tour and some of the stuff I heard from one or two
years ago. Yet, the intimacy of his vocals seems to improve with each
tour. I am an enthusiastic fan of his lower, throaty sounding voice. I
thought his range, even during the fall 2003 European tour was still
pretty awesome at times. But he didnt seem to be hitting any or many
higher notes. Perhaps he has learned to not push his voice when he’s not
feeling the best. Imo, he really pushed his voice in Europe last tour,
singing in spite of whatever was ailing him throughout the tour, and is
paying for it now. In spite of a lack of melodic range, he still sounded
great, song after song. My brother thought the sound people were doing an
excellent job coping w/the acoustics (or lack thereof) of a large,
non-cushioned hall where the sound bounces off the walls, etc. He said a
more acoustic show would probably work a lot better in a hall like the
Eagles. He noted that the sound engineers worked diligently to keep Bob’s
voice dominant in the mix. “Hattie Carroll” was breathtakingly clear in
its delivery - I thought to myself as I did a walk about the venue floor.
Such a storyteller this man is! “To Make You Feel My Love” was soulful and
caring. "Spanish Boots" was lovely in its new arrangement (even if I was
hoping for Girl of the North Country ....) “Saving Grace” sounded almost
as though Bob was praying a thankyou outloud, and we just happened to hear
it. Musically, the transition from Saving Grace to Summer Days sounded odd
to me, but once I got over it “Summer Days,” and “Cat’s In the Well,”
along with previously played “Hwy 61” and “Honest With Me” rocked hard in
a driving bluesy kinda way. I thought “Watchtower” was a tad too slow and
that the band sounded out of sync during this one, although I liked its
spot as the finale song. The pacing of the Friday show seemed slow for an
audience that consisted mainly of people who were standing. I was
expecting something more like Saturday night’s show -- Fastpaced, furious
rockin interlaced w/ a few choice ballads. Friday’s show reversed the
formula with the slow songs surrounding the occasional fast-paced song --
until the end of the show, as seems to be standard for this tour. Unlike
any of the previous Dylan shows I have attended - this concert had a dark,
smoky, blues feel to it. Other than shattering the one expectation I had,
it really was fine by me as I was seated and couldnt move about that much
anyway. It was a great show to just sit back and listen. My brother and
nephews are all musicians and I was anxious to hear what they had to say.
They were very impressed with Larry. My brother picked up on Freddie
playing the “Dylan guitar parts.” Larry and Freddy’s different styles
“complemented each other” well. Recelli looked “confident” and played like
“he owned it.” They also liked the atmosphere of the venue and thought the
concert was “well managed.” I think this band is the best incarnation of
Dylan’s bands that I have seen. Larry moved about quite a bit and traded
riffs with Freddie. They all interact a lot more on stage than I remember
from previous shows. I enjoy actually hearing Tony’s bass in the mix. The
drummers do NOT (imo) overpower the music; and if my ears remember
correctly the drummer/s, while maintaining that hard driving beat are more
rhythmically satisfying than in times past (which could be something that
Richie Hayward is contributing ).
In the words of my nephews and friend, “We had a blast, Dylan rocked!”
page by Bill Pagel
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