page by Bill Pagel
Review by Jay
Portland was a nice setting - homey little college bucky fuller dome.
What a difference a few days make. Tonight we are 9 rows back and the
sound is far improved over the orchestra pit of Seattle. Suddenly, the
band really came alive, too. From the beginning, I could see what Bob
saw in these new guys. Stu and Donnie made me say "wow" during Maggies'
Farm, a really great opening tune. This was a classic rendition, Bob in
great vocal form, loving the words. "I just get bored." Wonderful. He
even said "thank you" (he had been terribly silent on Wednesday, all
business). You could hear the piano and it was cool sounds.
On the "Tell me it isn't True", the fiddle rang out beautiful. I
really found Elena a nice addition on most songs (on some she is still
overwhelmed in the mix, but that's OK). She and Bob had a little fiddle
harp duet, where I could swear I heard Bob playing the melody from Shelter
from the Storm. A really good harp solo. Even a bit of a "piano solo"
for a verse (buried in the mix with that fuzzy tone of his piano you
might have just thought that one of the players missed their solo). And
again, Donnie, great!
Down along the Cove - this had great licks traded by Donnie and Stu -
literally on each other's heals. They did that again to great effect on
Highway 61 - a version so much better that Seattle Wednesday I had to ask
if it was the same band. Maybe it's my ears.
Positively 4th Street in fourth slot, called out by the English fellow
behind me, was a nice surprise. Bob sort of milks the words about "a drag
it is to see you" such that I wonder whether he meant us, the audience.
The next 4 songs were repeats from Seattle - Floater was vastly
improved. fiddles are in tune, playing good duets. Elena actually
looks at more than just Bob and expresses herself. And misses one of
Bob's subtle visual cues where he wiggles one eyebrow hair. But much
better vocally and musically - I really like that song. Tweedle Dee also
found some musical crescendos that lend to some excitement. Hollis Brown
was again spooky and well played (no cold coyote howl this night). And H
61 just ripped it up compared to the other night. I like Stu and he can
stay around as far as I am concerned.
I picked out "Boots of Spanish Leather" from the very first notes and
enjoyed this new version. The 2 fiddles play a duet of descending and
ascending notes during the chorus. A nice fiddle solo before the
penultimate verse, then a harp solo and more. A nice closing verse. No,
I am not as fond of this as the sweet guitar works of 5 years ago, but it
was my first time hearing it after lots of shows, so I was delighted.
The vocals were heartfelt and delivered with the care that he seems to be
putting into many songs. Again, a bit of a clipped delivery at times,
but that's just how he sang tonight. Others were not as happy with the
new arrangement, but what are you gonna do with 7 people on stage?
From there, Honest with Me did not work. But am I the only one who
thinks the "hunting bare" pun is funny? LOL. "It Aint Me Babe" however
picked it back up, using what was a new arrangement for me. The very
staccato vocal delivery over a minimalist vamping band built the versus.
Then, a big swelling "Whoa whoa whoa" chorus where he actually sang long
phrases as in days of old. The crowd liked it.
And then Summer Days. A-11 (which was pretty cool), and Watchtower, where
Bob now uses the piano for some endless riffing between versus.
Dischordant audible keyboard riffing. Sort of hypnotic. Weird. Good.
In my opinion, this band needs to get into some 70s Bob songs or some
deep American roots music. Elena's solo during floater was worthy of
Stephan Grappelli - really interesting and surprising and fun.
And then they need to play for 30 extra minutes. But all in all, Bob
is in good form.
Amos Lee was again worth hearing and Merle really was in nice form.
page by Bill Pagel
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