page by Bill Pagel
Review by Adam Dean
It was simply one of the best Philly Dylan shows I have ever attended (I
go back to 1974 Before The Flood Tour). The Tower Theatre is a classic
venue, fabulous sound, and from our center loge seats, we could see every
member of the group and catch all the interplay between Bob and his Band.
To Be Alone With You - A great set opener! This really rocked, you
could tell Bob was into it.
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - Country music live on stage! Larry's pedal
steel really makes this one. Bob was crooning and very clearly singing all
of the words, very laid back and oh so sweet.
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum - I really like L&T and was expecting several
tunes from it; Bob sings this with a growl and though I had expected
another "run through", this song was really quite good.
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right - The crowd went nuts when Bob started
this one; we were hoping for a guitar but Bob left the strumming to Freddy
and Larry; this was a real treat to hear again, it really took me back,
way back to an earlier era. A lovely ballad and Bob sang this one with a
Things Have Changed - The "Grammy" song. Probably (for me) the least
interesting song of the night. Perfunctory. The crowd, however, was quite
into it and gave Bob a "Standing O" as this one wound down.
Highway 61 Revisited - The first real "rocker" of the evening - a very
interesting interplay was going on between Freddy and Larry during the
instrumental sections, kind of a front-line shuffle around center stage.
This was re-arranged from previous takes and went over real well with the
Moonlight - A real treat! This pleasant two-step had Bob dancing around
the stage during the beginning of the song. He sang with a real lilt in
his voice, very passionate, and really seemed to be enjoying himself.
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again - Back to the
country sound again; this one has been around a long time but Bob really
tried to put some fire into it, well done.
Man In The Long Black Coat - I had really wanted to hear this, kind of a
spooky sound and very well done.
Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine) - Another golden oldie! The
band really makes this song, and Bob seems revitalized by the sound behind
him when he sings it. Again, very well done.
Standing In The Doorway - This was in the "crooner" slot tonight, kind of
Sinatra-esque (yes I saw Frank a few times), and Bob delivers the moment
with the spotlight on him.
Honest With Me - This one really rocks, although I am getting kind of
tired of hearing it. Apparently, Bob isn't.
I Believe In You - A first for me, a very beautiful and lovely ballad from
the Man Who Has Found Jesus.
Summer Days - Set closer, rockabilly, people dancing in the aisles and
hanging off of the balcony! WOW!!!
Cat's In The Well
Like A Rolling Stone
All Along The Watchtower - Standard encore selections, someone
commented sveral shows ago about how Bob must be into these particular
songs at this point in his career, as he keeps rolling them out night
after night after night... LARS is always nice to hear for nostalgia but
hopefully Bob will mix up the encores a bit more.
Still, a very satisfying and very well played show!!
Review by Stephen Walter
Whatsa matter with me, was this show just okay? Or am I growing -- and
here you may pause to draw as much breath as necessary to convey an
impression of horrified suspense -- jaded?
How can I complain when Bob Dylan had the consummate generosity to gift
his own fans with such a heart-rending rendition of Sam Cooke's "A Change
Is Gonna Come," which had seen its live debut the previous night for the
assembled elites at the Apollo in New York?
Wake up already. These streets are too dead for dreamin'.
After too pricey-for-too-little drinks at the
too-hot-n-smoky-n-crowded-with-Dylandorks Waterford next door (my own self
not excepted), we staggered a bit too stably past Dylan's a bit too-shiny
tour bus into the Tower Theater, which is, no bits about it, indisputably
a gem, a lovely old vaudeville house that seems to have undergone a
hodgepodge renovation in which authentic gilt detailing sits incongruously
alongside lunettes with quasi-psychedelic murals featuring a blood-red
sunset and other planetary dross. Decent seats by the soundboard, where a
young-Eugene Levy look-alike engineer kept us entertained with awkward
hand claps early on and general twitchy movements throughout the night's
proceedings. Seemed like a fairly relaxed, appreciative, well-behaved
crowd on the whole; not sure how many felt a burning urge to rise up, but
the ushers were keepin' 'em down anyhow, up until the encores. Don't you
just hate The Man?
My last show was the final night at Hammerstein in NYC last summer, and
I'm rather distressed to report that this one basically picked up where
that one left off -- albeit on a much-more consistent and "professional"
level -- as if all the ground broken in Europe had reverted into weeds: no
raving "Desolation Row," no town-crier lament of "Hattie Carroll," no
chamber-folk settings of "North Country" or "Spanish Leather." To say
nothing of London, an episode which, in fact, I have resolved not even to
think of anymore, for fear of the flesh falling off of my face and my eyes
popping out in steaming blobs of rage upon the floor.
The concert began strong with, ah, what was it? Oh, "To Be Alone With
You." No, that's not exactly right. Started strong-ish might be better, or
maybe I just wanted it to be? I think he missed most of the first verse,
as is his wont with this typically sloppy and lyric-less opener. But still
there was something there, a little spark of divinity that kindled into
flame for the next few numbers: a "Baby Tonight" that faked us out yet
again with "Nowhere" leading nowhere, so I wonder if it's now a deliberate
ruse. Very JWH-reminiscent harp and warm, sensuous vocals here. Then
"Tweedle Dum," which I've renamed for the duration "Twiddle Yer Thumbs," I
hope nobody minds. Blah blah, yeah, the singing was purty good, but lawd
is this a dozer anymore. "Don't Think Twice" leapt out of bed like a
sleepy kitten and purred along very nicely for awhile: I guess you could
call that a surprise, like for instance, if you went walking in the
orchard in the cool of an autumn day and a big fat quince or apple slapped
you on the head, you could say, oh what a surprise! -- I didn't expect
that at all. Someone call Isaac Newton. Good stuff, though, rich
vibrations from the larynx.
"Things Have Changed," well, not really. You still used to care, right? We
get the picture. Maybe you've grown jaded too. (Oh! The horror!) But the
wave of power crested here -- a wicked-grin ad lib after the line, "I'm in
love with a woman that don't even appeal to me" ... something like, "oh!
sooo sad!" -- and the rest of the show was to prove distinctly choppy.
Don't get me wrong, there were still high points to come, probably higher
than any of these, yet it was at this point that Dylan seemed to lose that
clear, blue gemlike aura that enabled him to redeem even the most
uninspired setlist choices that also continued popping up like stale Pez
from a defective machine. "Moonlight" in its "new arrangement" was
cringe-makingly abysmal, marred not only by its goofy, lumpy (glumpy?)
musical incohesion but by a near-total lyric lapse at the end, less a flub
than a total misplacement of the thread, not in the funny black hat or
somewhere on the "keyboard," but in yesterday's jacket, already headed for
Let me speak the good before I get carried away. In no particular order, I
mean really, who cares? -- a "Long Black Coat" that was, if not as
fearsome as it has sometimes been known to be, at least suitably ominous
and, by the end, almost keening; a "Standing in the Doorway" that used the
by-now familiar cascading arrangement to build, verse by verse, an elegant
study in despair, with a telling lyric change (hope this isn't the Scotch
talking): "I'm strumming on this gay guitar / I'm wondering wheeere you
are ...." Perhaps most impressive, however, was the revamped "Most Likely
You Go Your Way," a song that as recently as this summer I could hardly
bear to listen to, the damned thing just wouldn't die. Instead of seeking
revelation afield, this version knocks back on the door of Blonde on
Blonde and finds it, well, standing right in the doorway, in the crisply
obnoxious economy of those rolling climaxes and fills, ably matched here
by Dylan's sneering vocal and an introductory harp solo for the ages, at
least for the age of iron, seeing that what it unleashed was purely speed
and steel and glorious destruction.
It might be said that the extensive harmonica work was the most
consistently amazing thing about the entire concert; it continued proudly
even after Dylan's vocals had begun, in the latter half, to slip and fray
around the edges. The last and perhaps most dramatic standout was "I
Believe in You," delivered with a passion -- that's lower case, not as in
THE (still hoping for a "Bright Side of Life," myself) -- that inspired me
less for its devotion than for its sheer audacity and daring: a summoning
of chthonic forces to nullify the rasp, a brazen lie against time, a
victory against the odds of loss and limitation in the body and possibly
the soul as well, defiant affirmation drowning out the absent murmur. All
of these things it was, but mostly it was an expression, however
desperate, of pride, yes, pride, spiritual sycophants be damned --
intertwined with rage against the dying of the light. This it also was,
but mostly it was beautiful.
But for the rest of it, ugh. Gave me a case of the mealy-ears.
Arena-rrangements wedged stubbornly into a comparative shoebox space that
should have seen a much higher proportion of quieter, more subtle and
adventurous choices. (At least we weren't subjected to double drums, as
Hayward and Receli alternated tonight.) "Highway 61," despite Koella's
long-best efforts -- Dylan just stood there eying him impassively as he
tried ... and tried ... this wasn't just extra homework, people, it was
more like summer school -- just thudded and thrashed along without ever
digging down into its molten core. In fact, Dylan did a good deal of
impassive standing around all evening -- he'd often step back from the
keyboard, even, and just sort of gaze around uncomfortably like an actor
who's wandered onto the wrong set; don't know if was the sit-down audience
or a hard night's partying with Quincy Jones, but I saw very little
movement or animation from him whatsoever, a stark contrast with the
summer where he was continually doddering around like a mental patient off
his meds. At least he's found a safe home for his harmonicas this time
Even worse than "Highway 61," "Mobile" lowed like a downer cow on its last
legs until it finally collapsed into a quivering mass onstage. "Honest
with Me" had me fleeing into some kind of defensive dream-reaction where I
imagined picking up Big Bird, whose face we'd seen emblazoned on a
billboard-cum-water tower for Sesame Place while driving down to Philly,
and playing a game of cards, or hell, anything, blocks, Legos, with him
for the duration of the song. Then I imagined him standing up afterward in
all his resplendent golden plumage and shouting out a request for
"Jokerman" or "Landlord" or "Durango." (I know I promised not to talk
about London, but this is a dream state so it doesn't count.) I mean,
who'd turn down a request from Big Bird?
People, it's late, and I'm talking about Muppets. It was an okay show. One
thing I've discovered since the summer is that I can no longer tolerate
the encores from anywhere but the lobby. I lingered for "Cats" as I hadn't
heard that one yet, but by that point the wave had pretty well receded
and, honestly, a Muppet could've sung it with more wit and precision. On
the way out I resisted an urge to berate the jiggly sound guy for jacking
up the volume well beyond 11 while safe to pursue his various tics behind
the cover of earplugs; but I resisted, knowing that he must have his
marching orders from above. That they are completely mad and pathetic is,
I suppose, a futile observation. I'm mean, Jeez criminy, if I wanted cheap
thrills like that, I'd go see Van Halen. Indeed, when it comes to Dylan
encores these days, you really might as well jump.
Review by Willy Gissen
A Bob Dylan concert is almost always an adventure, and tonight at the Tower
Theater, in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, Dylan lived up to his own,
very high standards.
The day began with a pleasant surprise. Having failed to monitor bobdylan.com
on a daily basis, I was uncharacteristically shut out from getting tickets to
tonight's event. Even though I secured admission to the Electric Factory
concert tomorrow, Dylan is so infrequently within driving distance of New York
that I try to make as many of his concerts as possible.
The TicketMaster web site suggested people keep on checking sold out events
since additional blocks of tickets may become available. This morning at 11 AM,
I hit the jackpot. Not just a ticket to the event, but lower orchestra, left
center. In other words, directly in front of Dylan's spot on the stage.
The concert was not what I expected. Dylan has almost completely revised his
repertoire since his last tour. Yes, he's still ending with "Summer Days,"
doing some other standards from Love and Theft (e.g., "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle
Dum," "Honest with Me") and finishing with "Like A Rolling Stone" and "All
Along the Watchtower."
But, in between, there were some real gems. He played several new romantic
(or anti-romantic) songs, starting his set with "To Be Alone With You," a
teasing country song from Nashville Skyline. He also played a sweet version
of "Standing in the Doorway," from Time Out of Mind, and the somewhat mystical,
"Man in the Long Black Coat," from the Oh Mercy album. Another concert rarity
was "You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine," from Blonde on Blonde. One great thing
about Dylan is that he's written so many songs (500 plus?), that he can
completely revise his act without even composing anything new.
Dylan seemed to both enjoy and respect the audience tonight, and the audience
responded in kind. The good vibes prompted Dylan to open up and share his
inner feelings, and he played the deeply religious song from Saved, "I Believe
in You." Perhaps, the initial reaction against Dylan's Christian songs was one
reason why he stopped playing them so much. Not from any lack of faith or
change of heart, but because "you [we] can hurt someone [Dylan] and not even
know it." (lyric from "Things Have Changed")
Finally, Dylan graced us with a three-song encore. He went right from "Cat's
in the Well" into "Like A Rolling Stone" without the usual huddle in between
songs, then gave a friendly introduction to the band before playing the finale,
"All Along the Watchtower."
All in all, an unexpected, enjoyable and entertaining evening and well worth
Review by Sandra Cramer
After having been to the Riv in Chicago...I was somewhat doubtful
about the tickets I had already purchased for Upper Darby. The Riv
left me very disappointed. However..... Bob can still sing !!! His
voice at The Tower far surpassed the band. No longer was the band the
predominant figure. It was Bob Dylan......and that s what I came to
see. Mr. D still has a voice !!!!! You all know the setlist by
now.... and it was good. Not what I would have chosen but then again
Dylan fans everywhere are picking setlists that don't happen. What I
wonder is......the audience response is the greatest to things like Like a
Rolling Stone, All Along the Watchtower, and in philly , Dont think
Twice. Wonder what would happen if he did Tangled Up in Blue, Buckets
of Rain, Visions of Johanna, Simple Twist of Fate, Shelter from the
Storm, It s all over now Baby Blue? or... Blowing in theWind? Maybe
the theatres he contracts with wouldn't allow cuz the crowd would go wild.
His performance in Philly was exceptional......much harmonica.....and
his band is really good. I go to see Mr. D....not his band. But my
companion, who is not a Dylan fan, totally enjoyed the eve...cuz he said
the band was great. he could not understand a word of Dylan (but what's
new with that)...I understood....and commend him for his voice. I read
an article in Philly in some newspaper that mentioned the young generation
responding to 60 s and 70 s music....that is perhaps why we have such an
outpour of "youngins" at dylan concerts. (i AM dYLAN S AGE) So, Mr.
D..... give these kids what they want... 60's and 70"s.... they love
it....and, by the way,,, so do I. When Dylan finished and walked off
stage I noticed a stiff gait....maybe a bit of arthritis? But no, I did
not see him dancing or enjoying himself in Philly.....just singing....and
he was magnificent doing what he has always done... song and dance
man....without the dance. Love you Mr D.....come back to the ole USA
real soon. Safe trip to other countries.
page by Bill Pagel
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