page by Bill Pagel
Review by Marc Schemansky
Ah yes. The best way to see Bob and the band is in a small venue, in
fact the smaller the better. The State Theatre is small, intimate, and a
little rough around the edges, but perfect for a Dylan concert. It
resides in the heart of downtown Detroit and proved to be the perfect
venue, intimate and good acoustics. Bob came out looking like a
character in a Zorro movie, dressed in black with a Spanish style
Stevie Rae Vaughn hat, a lean mean fightin' machine. He played the
piano all night long (sure do miss that guitar) and some harmonica.
He played five songs from Love and Theft and some other well chosen
numbers. The highlights of the night for me were the rockin' numbers; the
band seemed to jam more on those numbers and they seemed more into it.
Drifter's Escape was definitely upbeat and got your attention.. a great
opener, but a little rough on the sound. Lonesome Day Blues was great,
sung with a smirk and a roadhouse feel. Things Have Changed was low down
and dirty, a growling statement of dissatisfaction. Blind Willie
McTell was performed slow and controlled, in a style reminiscent of Robert
Johnson and Son House.. a blues song from the soul. Most Likely You Go
Your Way seemed true to the original. But I felt the best was Summer
Day, this song was so hot and tight, I wouldn't have been surprised if
the stage burst into flames. lead guitar dueling between Larry and
Freddy that could not be beat. I could have watched that all night long.
Review by Tom Zubal
Since Bob refuses to visit my hometown of Cleveland any more, I
decided to visit Bob in Detroit on 3/15. The 2nd time that I've seen him
there. The last time was about 2 yrs ago @ Cobo hall. Fortunately, the
State Theatre is a much more intimate & charming venue than Cobo hall, so
this definitely enhanced the experience.
Not wanting to pay the silly ticketbastard service charge, we opted to see
what the scalpers were selling tix for. We showed up at about 6:15 and
there was already a huge line of people waiting for the doors to open @
6:30. A scalper immediately approached us and offered tix for $60 each. He
claimed the show was sold out, etc... I told him that we'd think about it
& decided to check the box office. Long story short, they had floor GA tix
available for the flat rate of $45 per ticket. *NICE*.
On to the show:
The usual chronological rundown of BD's career of the house PA & then:
1. Drifter's Escape
Pretty rocking, groovy, etc.. Bob was belting it out with feeling. He was
off on the right side of the stage playing his little keyboard. Next to
him was Freddy. Behind Freddy was Richie next to him was George, then Tony
& Larry. Good start.
2. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
Weird new arrangement. Very NICE though. It was solemn and warm.
3. Lonesome Day Blues
Boogie woogie. Ok.
4. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
For me the high point of the night. It was probably the only song of the
night that used DYNAMICS well. Most of the songs were played at one steady
volume, this song was sweet and intimate. The low volume and gentle vocals
made for a BEAUTIFUL performance.
5. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
Yeah. I guess...
6. Floater (Too Much To Ask)
7. Things Have Changed
Been there, done that.
8. Tell Me That It Isn't True
A nice little surprise. Again here is a real nice (lost) love song that
could've been even MORE beautiful if they would have played it a little
quieter and with more intimacy. That aside, I LOVE this song and it was
nice to hear a song with some LOVE (even lost love!!) in it...
9. Highway 61 Revisited
10. Blind Willie McTell
The vocals on this song were lost in the mix with VERY little clarity.
Hence, it was pretty much lost on me & my friends..
11. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
Another nice surprise. Bob was having a little bit of fun on this & it
came across in the performace.
12. Honest With Me
This song was WAAAAYY too long (like a LOT of the L & T songs...)
13. Saving Grace
Another sweet piece. Again, a bit obscured by a loud arrangement that was
14. Summer Days
Yeah, ok. Not as fun as the Kent State version last year....
15. Cat's In The Well
16. Like A Rolling Stone
I gotta admit, this was one of the BEST live versions of this songs
that I've ever witnessed. Just a real nice spirited version. Bob was into
it & the crowd was singing along nicely. Warmed up the old theatre real
17. All Along The Watchtower
Another really nicely played classic. Good closer. Nice variations on the
bassline from Tony...
All in all, I was glad I made the trip. BUT, I THINK THAT:
a. this band is getting bored. They seemed very lifeless tonight.
Furthermore, they are VERY undynamic. They seem to approach every song the
same with very little attention to volume, drama , etc... The band from
the 90s with WW, JJ & BB knew how to start quietly and then ERUPT at just
the right time. THESE GUYS are like the 2000 Cleveland Indians, they are a
bunch of veterans who forgot how to have fun with the music & how to let
the music PLAY THEM. (replace music w/baseball & you'll c what I mean...).
b. Based on his song choices, I think that Bob might be SEVERELY
limited as to what he is able to sing . It seems as though he picks
vocally SAFE songs that do not require any sort of range to sing. If you
compare last night's show to a tape from 1995, you will notice the
disappearance of the type of high to low phrasings that he used to pull
off with great regularity (AND GREAT SUCCESS!). I hope that I am wrong,
but I think that the voice is going....
c. Two drummers is plain silly for the type of music that this band is
playing. I assume that George is showing Richie the ropes because George
has found a gig elsewhere?? Richie looked rather uninvolved for most of
d. Larry also was a bit player in this band. Actually, the WHOLE band was
rather lifeless. I just get the feeling that they could really use a
facelift and some YOUTH in the band. They just seem bored to me (and all
band members have seemed bored at least since JJ left the band....AAAAHH
the fond memories of the 1991-1996 band!!!!!)
e. Song choice is just boring. (IMHO). Where is:
shelter from the storm or anything from BOTT
anything from OH MERCY
anything from NEW MORNING
(I''d even LOVE to hear a version of ANYTHING from world gone wrong!!!)
f. I think that BD being off on the side of the stage and not even
making eye contact with the crowd is NOT a good thing. I just got the
impression that he had no intention of making a connection....
g. I hope things improve on one of these tours. They probably will when
Bob does the SOLO ACOUSTIC tour...
May you all enjoy the rest of the shows!
Review by Eric Shaver
Outstanding! Even if you're a casual Bob Dylan fan you must catch him on
this tour. His concert tonight was one heck of a rocking show. He was
into it and so was the crowd. This was by far the best Bob show I've
seen. And I've seen him many times. The energy tonight was awesome.
Drifters Escape-excellent opening with extremely strong vocal
Lonesome Day Blues-I've never heard him do this one live before, and he
nailed it. Superb job Bob. Floater-the harp solo on this on was extremely
entertaing. Bob and Freddie (on violin) were trading off solos. I don't
know if he's played harp on this one before but it really worked well.
Highway 61-wailing vocals and pure guitar heaven. Freddie's style is
different but I like it. And Larry was fantastic as always. Things Have
Changed-great performance of this one. My feet were tapping. Blind Willie
Mctell-love this song. Another one that was a first for me live. Summer
Days-the band seems to love this one and so do I. It was just so much fun
and everyone was smiling. The standard three song encore of Cat's in the
well, LRS, and Watchtower finished a blistering show.
Observations-The band was great and you could tell they were having a good
time. I don't think I've ever seen Larry smile so much. The two drummer
thing is okay but I don't think it's needed. Bob's piano playing was
pretty decent. I think he gets a bad rap in this regard. I'm going to
tommorrow's show and I can't wait. Love ya Bob!
Review by Michael Frayer
Greetings to the Dylan fans!
Well, Bob showed up. Not that I was worried or anything.
First thing I will say, is that acoustically the State theater is a
great venue for a show like Bob's. Good manageable crowd and
acoustically much more suited to his voice and his band. I think from now
on, I'll only be traipsing out to see him at small shows like this. I was
truly disappointed when I saw him in a semi-large arena in Florida to
really cause me to consider venturing out to see him. But this small place
was just perfect. A few minutes past 7:30 he wandered onto the stage
amidst cheers and the extended 'Bob intro.' He seemed in fine form and
launched right into Drifter's Escape. A great version and he had the joint
jumping. Great phrasing with the voice and the song.
I'm not going to comment on every song. But I will say that the new
piano version of It's all over now was really great. His style, as we all
know which is ever changing as the tour is never ending was great and very
welcome. Just about every song that he did was well phrased and very
thoughtfully re-worked. I thought it was a great surprise that he played
Lonesome day blues. I was actually shocked as it's a song that is
constantly on my list since the release of Love and Theft as one of my
favorite songs off the album. I had a feeling that he may pull out a
surprise for the show. Not that I think that he has a special fondness for
Detroit or anything like that, it just seems that for this tour that he's
pulling a few surprises out of the bag. It was a welcome addition to the
He's going for a blues-y interpretation of the songs. Heavier guitars,
Jerry Lee Lewis piano riffs and lots of Harmonica tonight for us. And Bob
of course seemed completely into it. Eyes darting around mostly at the
band. Pausing occasionally for a random glance at the crowd. But he seems
really in tune mostly with the band. Maybe he needed to freshen it up a
bit. And as much as I love his acoustic stuff, I didn't seem to mind that
he didn't play any of the old standards that he normally plays on the
guitar. I.E. "blowin' in the wind" or "tambourine man." By the same token,
I do miss the harmonizing of Larry and Charlie with some of the songs that
he did a few years ago. Just the heavier stuff. And it was in a way a
welcome change. Aside from a cursory glance at his guitar, he didn't have
an inkling to pick it up. And it's nice to see songs like L.A.R.S. or
Highway 61 done on the keys.
So, even though I didn't think Charlie Sexton could be easily replaced, I
was very impressed and even blown away by Koella. Awesome replacement to
Charlie. I noted that in his collection of Guitars that he didn't have an
acoustic. So I think that this tour will be dominated by the electric
stuff. But Freddie Koella did a fantastic job of taking just about every
solo and making them new but still in line to keep the songs recognizable
and moving along. For the most part, the extended guitar jam seems to be
over. Thank goodness. Just tight delivery of the songs. No extended jams
equals all of the lyrics to the songs. I.E. Bob singing the elusive and
long missing "The fifth daughter on the twelfth night..." verse in Highway
61. Sorry, I personally think it's one of his coolest verses ever. Glad to
hear it and to be able to sing along with it.
I'm not sure about the second drummer. Didn't seem to be much of a
point to have him there. I didn't really even notice if there was a
discernible difference in the songs with him there. Also, I'm wondering
about Larry Campbell. I wonder if he's going to come back. He seemed
pretty bored. I can't say I blame him. After all, I'm sure he can only get
fired up about playing Hattie Carroll a couple of million times. However,
he was really into the love and theft stuff. However, I don't know if it's
a band influence or not, but Bob was all business. Very little noodling on
the piano. Just song after song. There was a certain comical effect to Bob
playing eight notes on the guitar and all before. But it was really great
just to see him tearing it up out there with just the obligatory pause for
Bob did make a statement when introducing the band something to the
"People who call this _______, roadhouse music make me want to Vomit!"
And then the intros.
So, feel free to travel on down the road and see a darker but cooler
show. I've got two more shows and I'll hope for a few of my favorites.
Boiled guts of birds
Review by Don Ely
After passing over Detroit in '03, Bob Dylan rewarded our blighted yet oddly beautiful city with his
first-ever three night stand. The usual mix of devotees older then and younger now packed the main
floor as the band launched into "Drifter's" with all the passion they could muster. Like many fans I
had been somewhat disappointed with the axe work of Freddy Koella early in his tenure; I was
non-plussed at the show in Louisville I attended last spring, but thought he had made great strides
when I saw him again in Noblesville the following August. I am here to testify unequivocally that
Freddy is now The Man on guitar! Listening to the tapes from Shepard's Bush, Hammersmith and Brixton
last fall led me to believe Bob Dylan had His Band back once more!
Each song was not hurried,even oft-played numbers such as "Tweedle Dee", and Bob was in great voice
throughout. "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" was absolutely wonderful. Though the band never
faltered from the outset, they really seemed to hit their stride during "Tweedle Dee And Tweedle Dum".
"Floater(Too Much To Ask)" featured Freddy playing fiddle, a nice touch indeed, and I thought Larry was
the only multi-instrumentalist! I was a bit far back in the crowd,and while the sound was fine I
couldn't see a whole lot.I've been to the State Theater many times, but never noticed how short the
stage seems to be. I could get a glimpse of this head or that, but that was about it. From my vantage
Freddy reminded me a bit of Michael Stipe in his fedora, or even Jude Law as he appeared in "The Road
To Perdition"! With much better dental work, I'm sure.
"Blind Willie McTell" and "Saving Grace" I had seen in Louisville to mixed reaction, but here they were
both gorgeous moments that reached the pinnacle of satisfaction for this Dylan fan. It's great to see
Bob layin' back on the keyboard and occasionally harp, where he can orchestrate the players and let the
band weave their magic. From the Georgia blues of "Blind Willie" the travellin' men led us on a wild
ride down "Highway 61", conjuring all the powers the Mississippi Delta (or is it actually the dark north
woods of Minnesota?) can inspire. "Most Likely You Go Your Way(And I'll Go Mine)" continued in this
vein, and it was special to see this favorite, my first since Little Rock 8/14/01.
"Cat's In The Well" proved the only song not seen previously, and though I like the accordion on the
studio track, it's basically a throwaway from one of Bob's weaker albums. Here though it's given the
kiss of life, a vital rocker and perfect lead-in to the crack of George Recile's tom tom that opens
"Like A Rolling Stone", which has lost none of it's majesty after all these years. I may not have been
able to see much at this gig, but my remaining senses collaborated to provide me with a full and rich
experience, a type in abundance at Bob Dylan shows. The little girls understand and we do too, Dylan
fans all. And tomorrow night would be even more exemplary! See you then, Jack Fate...
Review by Charles Cicirella
Bob Dylan and the best band in the land
Detroit, Michigan 3/15/2004 The State Theater
Lady time fly away
I've been thinking 'bout my yesterday
Oh, please listen darlin' to my empty prayers
Sleep inside my dreams tonight
All I need to know tonight are you and my child
Tim Buckley, “Dream Letter”
It begins like nothing you’ve quite heard before. It
is loud and then quiet – a hissing serpent and a
roaring tiger all wrapped into one dream letter, one
memory you’ll never regret. “Drifter’s Escape”, in
Detroit, Michigan and it fits because like Linda (my
friend who I drove up with) and a very nice woman we
met in line, Darlene, both said after returning from a
wig shop down the street, “this city looks like it
came straight out of, “M&A”, and it did from the
homeless that appeared to be quite literally
everywhere to the rubble and rabble of every misstep
we took when dodging another hollow point bullet and I
swear to God I’m on a mission to eradicate myself from
all this turmoil if only I can get on that rail
“Drifter’s”, was on fire from the first licks the
double onslaught of guitarists delivered unto us like
manna from a very non-specific Heaven. Yes this blues
fire-in-the-hole raging moan liturgy kicked me into
overdrive and before I knew it I was drenched in the
madness of another caustic love triangle with me,
myself, and a trained assassin who most definitely did
not believe in carrying anymore dead weight.
With, “Baby Blue”, everything became that much
clearer meaning the saints were not only coming
through, but this band of seasick sailors was going to
take us out beyond the new grove of trees no matter
how we may feel about baring our souls to a moon that
has not been full since she left me out in the cold.
The cold you get to know only too well while sitting
on that street corner from 6 AM to when the doors
finally opened more than twelve hours later. “Baby
Blue”, shined a light on the highway we drove down
when we had to reach Memphis before you killed me just
because you knew you had to do something before it was
too late. It was a born in time moment I savored
because your tears were never more unwelcome then when
it was me that caused them and with the light shining
bright maybe I could find my way out of this God
“Lonesome Day Blues”, puts the final nail in the
coffin and it’s only song three! Forget about
Gibson’s, “The Passion of the Christ”, if you really
desire to know what happened the last twelve hours of
this Prodigal Son’s life listen to this version of,
“Lonesome Day Blues”, which I swear will haunt you
forever. This is what, “Slaughterhouse Five”, really
was all about – just ask Billy Pilgrim after he has
returned from another period in all of our despicable
histories. He’s a time traveler baby, but that doesn’t
mean he isn’t willing or capable to accept
responsibility for his non-actions. “You’re invisible
you have no secrets to conceal”, no shit.
“Hattie Carroll”, is a prayer – yes a prayer for the
scales of justice that are totally still out of whack.
The delivery of these words – these flesh bullets
leave me breathless – removing every layer separating
us from our true selves and our truest and most
despicable of friendly depraved monsters.
Now we journey to the land of nod.. take my hand as
Bob tells us a tale that the Brothers Grimm could have
just as easily have penned. I have a friend who when
he heard this on, “Love and Theft”, said Bob was
talking about the Soviet Union and the United
States... I’m not a political animal and yet it all
somehow makes more sense now after this sacred creed
has been revealed. Only Senor Dylan could have you
dancing while contemplating the affairs of state. He
is a wallflower with a wicked sense of humor and I
yearn to hug him if only for an eternity. “Your
presence is obnoxious to me”, no shit.
“Floater”, Freddie thank you for breaking this song
wide open with your viscous and delicious violin
playing. Don’t pay any attention to the detractors
because they really don’t understand that you were a
true blessing when hooking up with this marching band
.You tear it up and compliment Larry so damn perfectly
and then when necessary imperfectly because music
ain’t suppose to be some finite hollow arm, but in
truth must be infinite in its fever and its hunger to
break everything wide open while also closing in on
itself and disappearing into the ragged and dirty
Detroit wind. You create what I can only see fit to
describe as swamp music and at one point during the
show I swear alligators appeared on the stage as you
slammed us face first into the board with the courage
of a true journeyman. Be it on searing guitar
declarations or jazz singed violin vendettas you aid
in changing the ashtrays on a whole other level and I
“Times Have Changed”, ahhhhh the alligators turned
into Katie Holmes and as she ran across the stage like
a willow wisp this song – this personification of
alchemy and buried disloyal treasure challenged us to
reach deep inside ourselves and for once accept that
change might just be a good thing every now and then
no matter how much we struggle to stay complacent and
“Tell Me That It Isn’t True”, please I’m pleading
with you!!! He goes from being a seer to being the
most hopeless and perhaps even hapless of romantics.
Yes when he sings that it hurts him all over I just
about die every time. Actually I have died as the
Nashville Skyline brandishes itself like a tattoo on
my back and shoulders. The harp playing during this
entire show is so explorative and exemplary in its
ability to show us what resides beneath the surface of
what appears to be standing water. Just tell me that
it isn’t true and I promise to leave you alone – no I
Then the mood shifts into hyper-drive as, “Highway
61”, is revisited and yet it doesn’t sound like some
greatest hit pumped up for maximum effect, but in fact
becomes the blueprint you have been searching for in
the glove compartment existent in your black light
psyche. Yes when I was seven I so wanted the secret
decoder ring in the box of Cracker Jacks now all I
want is to go down to the crossroads and listen to
this song beneath the undeserved pale moonlight. The
guitar playing returns us to another time when being
broke and without your baby by your side was only more
validation that you were paying the ultimate price so
that this blue music would continue to seep from you
like a pageantry of holy spirits and fire medicine.
“Blind Willie McTell”, continues the journey as you
try falling back asleep so you can reenter this dream
letter you imagine she would have written had she
given enough of a damn and you could still be reached.
“Blind Willie”, takes us down deep to the layers
beneath the barren trees where frozen skeletons drift
in and out of endless sleep like celestial fingers of
smoke as Dylan uses his voice like a shovel piling
lime atop the bodies of everyone of us and our regrets
and our endless firing squad excuses. The celebration
of corruptible seed must stop sooner then later if we
ever hope to get free. No one can sing or play the
blues like Blind Willie McTell except for these
untamed and infamous carpetbaggers.
I want to talk about only two more performances of
the night and this isn’t because the rest of the night
was only so-so for there could be nothing further from
the truth. It’s just I want there to be some surprises
left for you to uncover for yourself. “Most Likely You
Go Your Way”, this is like a personal ad for the
disenfranchised. I swear Dylan gives a whole new
meaning to the word sardonic. Forget about intimate
anguished crucifixions like, “Positively Fourth
Street”, for the time being and check out this
carnival stomper. This is the music angry clowns play
when they are by themselves and drunk out of their
unfunny disdainful minds. It is a full eclipse with
all the ring dancin' Christmas carols on all of the
Christmas Eves and I swear it not only leaves you
empty and hardened because life can really suck it
also fills you completely up with righteous
indignation which can only keep you keeping on because
survival of the fittest is most definitely contagious.
"Saving Grace", is the last song/prayer I want to
speak about in this most unconventional of reviews.
“There’s only one road and it leads to Calvary”, and
as you witness this song on this very night in
Detroit, Michigan everything becomes possible
including your very own resurrection.. They say beauty
is in the eye of the beholder and yes I believe that
you can see it that way, but it also must be true that
to behold beauty you must be able to face and accept
the truth about yourself and Bob does that right here
right now as he looks at death through a pair of deep
turquoise and tells us how it feels to be judged and
then prayerfully forgiven. This performance isn’t for
the faint hearted, but what music is that’s truly
worth its weight in gold.
March 18, 2004
page by Bill Pagel
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