page by Bill Pagel
Review by Bob Shiel
What in God's kingdom on earth keeps Bob Dylan relentlessly touring on the verge of his 64th birthday
next month? I have theory. Perhaps Senor Bob derives shear joy from assembling new casts of characters
as he has done on his current five-night stand at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago. When recently his
lead guitarist and multi-instumentalist Larry Campbell scrammed to pursue his solo career, it might have
spelled doom for Bob's never ending tour that never seems to end. However comma, tonight this new
entourage proved both their competence and versatility as they stomped through an eclectic, choice set
list that left the audience wanting more.
The new members of the band are all to be praised for their input into a much fuller and intelligent
sound than Bob's fans have known in recent years. Starting with guitarist Denny Freeman, whose solos on
The Times They Are A Changing and Hard Rain more than proved his worhtiness, one quickly and shockingly
quickly could forget Larry's seemingly irreplacable presence in Bob's ensemble. Elana Fremerman on
fiddle is musically and visually a perfect fit, right in front of stellar drummer George Recile's bass
drum. Her violin is capable of doing lead guitar riifs that rhythmic fillers, interchanging various
fabrics into the mix. Donnie Herron plays mostly pedal steel and mandolin (in the Bucky Baxter
tradition) and a little banjo and guitar. One gets the impression that in time Donnie will stand out
in an ironically understated fashion. With 7 people on stage now, each must defer not only to Bob,
but to each other. This is already happening, and this band will only get better.
Senor in the second spot was a moment in time. Bob's vocals were spine-tingling. As is Bob's custom
at Sunday shows, he sang about "God" as the band rocked out God Knows. Great version even though it
took some rough turns. The band ought to be given a grace period. The steady, trusted bass lines of
Tony Ganier not only hold together the basic sound that Bob has been going for in recent years, but
they educate the new members on what to play off of.
The silly, Chaplain side of Bob suddenly appeared in Shooting Star, which now sounds exactly like
Mississippi as Bob fakes out the folks trying to be the first to guess the next song. He is so clever
in his new arrangements. Great harmonica on Don't Think Twice. Backstage Merle Haggard surely was
smiling during You Ain't Goin' Nowhere. I Shall Be Released works very well with this entourage.
Merle and Amos were simply a pleasure, but Bob did not disappoint. There's was a funny vibration
permeating the venue tonight, and it wasn't just the best accoustics in town. Bob's got new material
in the tank or in the works. Spring, and Bob Dylan's towering creativity, are in the air.
By the way, there's also credibility to the theory that Bob's breakneck touring pace is about running
away from something. Nevertheless, all we as beneficiaries are left to say is, "Thanks Bob!
We love you!"
Review by Mike Stillman
The concert started with DRIFTER'S ESCAPE, played in a slightly different
arrangement with the guitars muted for a beat, adding another
stop-and-start element to the song. The sound at the back of the main
floor was perfect as always in the Auditorium, strong and clear. There
were brief solos from Stu Kimball on guitar, Don Herron on the electric
mandolin, Elana Fremerman on fiddle, and then Bob on harmonica to the end
of the song. Bob's harp playing was especially strong this weekend in
Chicago, hitting clear individual notes that were well-chosen and
purposeful. Next was one of the songs I most wanted to see, SEŅOR, and it
was no disappointment in this eerie new arrangement with violin. Bob had a
touch of hoarseness in his voice that wasn't present last night, but it
was intermittent and did not detract. He delivered Seņor with precise
inflection, giving special emphasis to the "forget me not" line that he
sometimes chooses to understate. Denny Freeman took a pointedly effective
guitar solo, then Elana on her fiddle, and then Bob stepped out to center
stage to take a harp solo, standing not at the center mic but in front of
the drums, between Elana and Tony. As this fine rendition ended, my friend
Bob Shiel declared that he had already received full value for his $80
ticket, and I didn't disagree.
The third song of the night was GOD KNOWS, which began with Stu Kimball
strumming the rhythm as Bob declared several examples of divine
omniscience. A good song for a Sunday evening, and it rocked harder than I
expected when it took off at the halfway point. Next was THE TIMES THEY
ARE A-CHANGIN', well-received by the crowd, with another good guitar solo
by Denny (who took more solos than Stu tonight) and a turn on the
harmonica by Bob. In the #5 slot was CRY A WHILE which hasn't been played
much recently, and it seemed a little tentative in this new arrangement.
Don played banjo, which is not his best instrument. There were glimpses of
potential, and Denny took a decent solo, but this song was one of the only
below-average renditions of the night, in my opinion. I was beginning to
theorize that maybe this band is nowhere near as good on the uptempo
blues-rock numbers as some of their predecessors, but their performance
two songs later would cause me to reconsider.
The sixth song of the evening was DON'T THINK TWICE, IT'S ALL RIGHT in one
of the strongest versions I've seen in the last couple of years. Don's
pedal steel wove the melody through the song's fabric, and he took two
solos that seemed to elaborate on Bob's words in brief but interesting
statements. Bob once again stepped out to the center of the stage to play
a harmonica solo that fit in perfectly with the pedal steel. Next was
HIGHWAY 61, which was the most convincing blues/rock performance I've
heard yet from this new band, live or on recordings. I thought that most
of Saturday night's uptempo rock songs were not particularly well-played
by the guitarists, and that this band might not rock as well as it swings,
if you know what I mean. But Highway 61 was a highlight, driven by Tony
and George, with a good solo from Denny, and an excellent pedal steel solo
by Don. One of the great new elements in this band, Herron's searing pedal
steel (through an effects box that adds a little bite) reminds me a little
of Robert Randolph's Hendrix-inflected steel playing.
Next was a curious rendition of SHOOTING STAR, which was played in a
manner that was very suggestive of Bob's L&T song Mississippi. The starry
backdrop behind the stage was unveiled, which looked great next to the
maroon curtains. Though marred by some "you can call me phlegmmy"
hoarseness, Bob sang with feeling and purpose. On the first bridge, he
sang "the last radio might be - MIGHT BE! - playing," and then when it
came around again at the end of the song, he emphatically sang "the last
radio IS playing." A nice little touch. The ninth song of the show was YOU
AIN'T GOIN' NOWHERE, but it did go somewhere in a circuitous but pleasant
journey. This was one of the first times that I've heard this band really
reach its potential as a unit, playing with a bouncy country swing style
that was just plain fun and grin-inducing to everyone in the house. In its
first few weeks, this band has sometimes seemd like a mish-mash of
disparate elements that didn't entirely coalesce. But tonight's show was
the strongest I've heard from this band live or on recordings, and it
bodes well for the rest of the tour. Tonight's show was twentieth show of
the tour, exactly its halfway point, and the band is really starting to
take on a collective character and personality beyond the sum of its
parts. The Saturday show had some brilliant highlights and superb singing
by Bob, but tonight's show was strong from start to finish with some minor
exceptions. There is almost too much talent in this band, and some of the
members will probably go underutilized on any given night. On Saturday
night, Elana and Stu took most of the solos, but on Sunday night it was
Don and Denny making their statements. I enjoyed hearing more from Denny
Freeman tonight, whose dry, slightly twangy tone is a good contrast to
Stu's more sustained Stratocaster sound. Denny's playing seems to be a
little more informed by blues and country than Stu, who is primarily a
Then came TRYING TO GET TO HEAVEN, which was sung very well by Bob,
dressed in black tonight as was the rest of the band. It was followed by
HONEST WITH ME, back in the setlist after an evening's respite. This song
was stronger with the old band, but there was a fun little exchange of
trading fours between Don, Elena, and Denny (four measures of solo-playing
each). Then the main portion of the show ended with A HARD RAIN'S A-GONNA
FALL, which was a good change of pace from the usual uptempo closer,
well-played with some fine mandolin work from Don Herron. Like almost all
the songs tonight, there was nothing rushed or perfunctory about this
rendition, delivered with precision and care. Bob and the band left the
stage to a standing ovation from the crowd.
After a brief pause, the band came back on stage for the first encore, I
SHALL BE RELEASED in a powerful performance. This was the perfect call for
this slot at this place and time, and we appreciated it. Don took a pedal
steel solo, Elana played a few lines on the fiddle, and then Bob stepped
out to center stage with his harmonica for the third time of the evening
and played a melodic harmonica solo that concluded the song to much
applause. Then Bob introduced the band, and they charged into ALL ALONG
THE WATCHTOWER. It didn't have the verse echo like last night, and maybe
it wasn't quite as good as the best Larry/Charlie versions, but George did
that manic drum roll after the first verse and everything was just fine.
This band rocks in its own way, and this was a good show that will bear
repeated listening. 'Twas a fine night of music.
Review by James Hauser
So Far, Sundays show has been the best yet at this years Chicago shows.
Amos and Merle had there best shows Sunday also. It was a beautiful day
in Chicago, so I think everyone was feeling good that day.
Bob Started with Drifter's Escape. Stu Kimball gets this song rocking
every time they play it. The new guys (Donny and Denny) are starting to
come into their own, and although it's hard not to miss Larry Cambell, I
am impressed with the new additions. They get better every night.
Next was Senor, which was great to hear. I wanted to hear more of the
Gypsy Violin thing from Elana, but they have here violin a little to low
in the mix sometimes. With so many great musicians on stage, I guess its
hard to get everyone in the mix so you can hear it. I think Elana is
still getting used to playing at this caliber, but to me here playing in
this group gets better every night. I think she needs to burn one and
listen to the Mahavishnu orchestra or something, cause she still seems a
God Knows was alright, but a little loose and off kilter tonight. Bob
saved it though with some amazing vocals. I am always amazed every night
when things start dropping or slowing down, that Bob or someone else in
the group will pick it up and get everyone else going again.
The Times are a Changin and Cry Awhile were both good, but one of the
highlights this tour is Don't think Twice. Stu's acoustic guitar is pure
country soul, and it is very true to the original arrangement. Donny and
Dennis add some great touches, I think Donnie could give Larry a run on
the pedal steel, the sweetest I have heard in a while. I prefer him on
the steel and staying off the Violin because he is a pretty good fiddle
player, and I like watching the pretty girl play the violin. The sound
guys need to give Elana his fiddle mix. . Hiway 61 was the same as usual,
but You Aint Goin Nowhere was awesome. The swing kind of songs work great
with this band.
The highlight for me was Tryin to Get to Heaven. I have been listening to
a cover version of this song that I got with Q Magazines Dylan issues a
few months back, and was hoping Bob would do this song. Great lyrics,
great delivery, great night.
I shall Be Released was the first encore, and is one of my favorites.
Then came the finish, and All along the Watchtower. Stu nails the solo
every night. Elana needs to go nuts on this one, I think she will by end
of tour. Bob amazes me that he can bring freshness to these songs every
Thanks Bob, keep it rollin'
James D. Hauser
Review by Steve Adams
We attended the Bob Dylan show on Sunday April 3, 2005. It was held at the
Auditorium Theater in downtown Chicago, which if you are not familiar with
it, is an acoustically perfect classic venue of a classical style. A
favorite place to see a show. (Or as Merle Haggard said, The fanciest beer
joint they've ever been in!)
It was my first time to see Mr. Dylan, so I was not sure what to expect.
He and his band really threw a wall of sound at us, from the first song.
Immediately after the full-width curtain raised. BTW
Of the songs I am familiar with, all had a new very different arrangement.
Highway 61 really got a revved up treatment as it went on, and it was
either "You ain't Goin Nowhere, or "Honest with Me", that evolved into an
almost Grateful Dead-like groove. It was very cool. (I'm not familiar with
either song, so my quest is to now figure out which one it was!)
The Encore of "I Shall Be Released" was memorable as well.
He's gonna get a sore back bending over the keyboard to sing into the
microphone like that!
All his band members sure keep a close eye on him during the songs.
The end of the show, prior to the encore, had a very freaky moment as the
entire band lined up and just stared at the audience. It was kinda
Not one bit of acknowledgement of the audience.
Review by Adam Selzer
Hot damn! Bob's vocals were ragged tonight compared to the last two
(some report that he seemed ot have a cold), but the band simply took over
when necessary for a show that was, quite simply, very cool. People who
really loved the guitar attack may not dig this band; those of us who
don't care much about jamming are really digging it. The arrangements are
tight and melodic, and occasionally just plain fascinating. Honest With me
and Cry Awhile sounded like whole new songs to me.
Here's the blow by blow:
Drifter's was a tight, strong opener.
Senor - spooky as all hell with the violin, some good singing from Bob and
a great centerstage harp solo. Began the evening's spookiness which showed
up in unexpected places throughout.
God Knows - the most guitar of the evening. It is Sunday, after all. not
much different from older versions, but nice to hear since I haven't heard
it in person since 95.
Times - bit of a lyric flub, but some very strong singing towards the end.
Not a version to write home about, but perfectly strong, anyway.
Cry Awhile - NOW we're talking. I could barely beleive it when this song
started out with Tony on an upright bass and Donnie playing a banjo. The
new arrangement made it a totally different, much smoother song, sounding
like a country band full of satanists determined to blow the roof off the
place so you can all SEE that you're in Hell. First comment I saw was
negative; no accounting for taste. The banjo solo actually did work on
this. This was damned cool - and even a bit spooky!
Don't Think Twice - same as it ever was, but the fiddle and pedal in the
arrangement make me feel like I'm living in the woods, dating girls named
Polly, and walking through the meadow a lot.
Highway 61 - very interesting arrangement - not as great a rocker as it
was, but cool in a different way.
Shooting Star - YAY! Gorgeously rendered by the band, reasonably well sung
by Bob. Hit the high notes well.
You Ain't Goin Nowhere - Lots of great singing "ooohheee, ride me
high....YES! we gonna fly" and a sharp arrangement made this one a lot of
Trying to Get to Heaven - YAY again! Not quite as slow as the 2000
arrangement, but about midway between that and the album. Bob did some
very nice work on the keyboards at one point, believe it or not.
Honest With Me - get ready for a surprise: this was one of the
highlights of the night. Very well sung, and the band simply cooked on it.
Sure, I've heard it before. But I haven't heard it with this band. Even
similar arrangements are a whole new ball game with the new band.
Hard Rain - well I'll be - THIS is the closer? No Summer Days? This was a
great arrangement, the band sounding like the skeletal orchestra that
sadly announces the nuclear holocaust, with some singing by Bob that was
basically great, but seemed to be reaching for REALLY GREAT, like the kind
of breakthrough you see sometimes. Bob was clearly going for one of those
on this, and didn't quite make it. Great try, though.
I Shall Be Released - NICE. Lovely arrangement - this band really shines
its hardest on slow electric songs. Also very well sung. Not sung at all
like it was with Larry and CHarlie on backup. I do miss the backup
singing, but this version was very strong by itself.
AATW - a new arrangement! Slower and quiter, like most of the song was
made up of the "quiet section," punctuated by another great violin solo
and a few moments of BANG at various points. Not the scary horrror version
we've all known for so long - more like a spooky drive. Kind of similar to
the current It Aint Me Babe verses.
things are getting interesting. No Summer Days tonight meant tha there was
only one song in the set that had been played during the rest of Chicago -
and the fact that it disappeared makes me think that Bob is making a point
of not repeating himself in the city. Maybe he'll run out of steam for it
after the day off and figure that most people on Tuesday/Wednesday weren't
at any of the first three. Or maybe we're in for some really, really
interesting sets the next couple of shows. One way or the other, I'll be
Review by John Pruski
The two spectacular shows that I saw on Saturday and Sunday (2 & 3-IV-2005) by Bob Dylan and his
newer version of his band at the truly classy Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University in downtown
Chicago across the street (well park) from nearby Lake Michigan were, well, SPECTACULAR! And the
accompanying shows by Merle Haggard were very good as well.
The song selection was glorious! I'd guess it's been a while since most readers of Bill's here page
saw Bob back-to-back shows with only a single composition repeated, this being the encore Watchtower.
I see in Glen's new Tangled page 470 that I Shall Be Released has been played a whopping 470 times.
I'll nevertheless hazard to say that I Shall Be Released being played in the same show with You Ain't
Going Nowhere, as we were treated to Sunday, was a rare occurrence. Given that I Shall Be Released
and You Ain't Going Nowhere were each played Sunday, I'd have to say that, by default, Sunday was my
favorite of these two shows. I've lived each of these two songs since first hearing them in 1969 on
Joni's Any Day Now record. I was dead center in row M of the orchestra section on Saturday, whereas
on Sunday I was high up in first (of, count 'em, three) balcony, so my lesser seating of Sunday surely
didn't influence my preference for Sunday's show. Rather, I must simply say that I Shall Be Released
and You Ain't Going Nowhere being played in the same show, as we were treated to Sunday, delivers
Sunday's show as among the more important Dylan shows of recent memory.
My overriding impression is that the newest version of the band is as great, talented, whatever, as
those with Larry, Charlie, Bucky, etc. Perhaps, as said elsewhere, the three newest members needed a
few weeks of experience before they jelled as a unified unit with Bob, Tony, George, and Stu. I can
say that without hesitation, however, that the band indeed had jelled and jammed as a unit by the time
I saw the second and third of their five Chicago shows.
General comments include mention that Bob played bunches of harp at his piano as well as out front
each night, seemingly 4-6 songs per show. Only Saturday included songs with double fiddle, this being
on two songs, and with Donnie then getting the spotlight. Well, that is if it is possible for anyone to
get the spotlight with Elana's gorgeously glowing persona present. Speaking of Elana, she played many
lower register notes and kept time by tapping her right foot, that is when not simply rolling side to
side. I specifically drove up from St. Louis so that I could see a Sunday show and its religious songs.
Given that John Paul II died the day before, I was thus not surprised that two of the first three songs
Sunday (Seņor & God Knows) were holy songs. Other standouts were Shooting Star on Sunday and Saturday's
Desolation, I Believe In You, Most Likely You Go Your Way, and my first ever Sing Me Back Home. This
weekend's shows could perhaps only have been more stellar had either (or both) 4th street or A-11 been
performed. Back to the band, Donnie was great on mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel, banjo, as well as
fiddle. Stu perhaps took more leads, but Denny clearly took advantage of his leads with some very tasty
runs, these basically not on his less frequently played hollow body ax. And as I remember Tony even got
a bit of a solo on Saturday, Bob took one bassy piano solo of note, and George was tasty as ever. The
men in Bob's band was uniformly dressed in Maroon suits Saturday and dark suits Sunday.
This classic theatre's curtain's falling and rising was really something. The curtain rose only after
the band was introduced and had begun to play, and the curtain was lowered as the band stood in their
post-encore re-formation. So novel for the crowd was the curtain's antics, that the thunderous
applause each night died instantaneously upon the curtain's fall, although Bob and band mates were
basically within shouting distance. The applause really should never die.
(email@example.com) St. Louis
Review by Don Ely
Beneath the opuent, golden arches of the Auditorium Theatre I sat awaiting commencement of The Bob
Dylan Show on this third night of five over all. This venue is very proud of their sonic excellence,
and deservedly so. Testimony to that fact from it's days as a great opera house can be found
throughout the building. While waiting in a beverage line I attempted to read words of high praise
lavished on this theater by a critic a century ago, now posted on a wall far above the bar. From my
vantage both downstairs tonight and in the balcony saturday night, I couldn't agree more.
The fare this week was not the cultured music of high society, but rather the distinctly American
culture of the beer joint band. The curtain raised on Amos Lee and his band, who offered a set
superior to the recordings on his Blue Note lp. Fine record that it is, in the live setting the band,
comprised of a good bottleneck guitarist, acoustic bass player, seasoned drummer, and Amos on
acoustic guitar, breathes more life into songs that are all basically quiet four-in-the-morning
numbers in their studio incarnations. They got into an extended funk workout during one song, and
tunes like "Arms Of A Woman" and "Seen It All Before" shone much brighter than on record. Last
night's stellar set-closer, Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" was replaced by the standard, "All
Of Me", also finely played.
The curtain raised again on the bona fide beer joint act, Mr. Merle Haggard and The Strangers. This
band of honky tonk angels and devils has probably logged more road miles than anyone this side of
Bob Dylan, forty years, as Merle would tell you. Not all the members have been along for the entire
ride, but some, including the fiddle player and drummer, have been serenading wranglers and cowgals
a mighty long time. I haven't had the privelege of seeing many country artists of Haggard's generation
(maybe none unless you count crossover types like Jerry Lee Lewis or Roy Orbison), so it was a real
treat to be able to enjoy The Strangers these two nights. Although I'm not that familiar with the
material, they played some different songs each night, and Merle even told some different jokes. He
still introduced The Strangers during each set, as each musician shook hands with his or her bandmate.
More fun than a car full of windshield vipers!
The curtain raised the ultimate time on Bob Dylan And His Band, who stood with sixguns a-blazin',
firing "Drifter's Escape" at the folks gathered there. I'd been itching for a shot at "To Be Alone
With You", a number I've never caught before, but "Drifter's" blew me away just the same. Some
Boblinks reviewers of previous stops on the tour feel the sound is too dense, that one instrument is
imperceptible from another, but if the sound is mixed properly, that shouldn't be a detriment. One's
placement in the house can also affect one's perception of sound quality, but this being the
Auditorium, that wasn't a problem! Fiddler Elana Fremerman played the hero on a really beautiful
"Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)", a version that I would have to say was the best I've ever heard.
Let's see, that one's on "Street-Legal", now if we can just go back one more album, to
"Desire".......we're gettin' so close!
A set with "God Knows" is an automatic thumb's up in my book. This one relied heavily on the opening
riff, but was a thrill nonetheless. That song never fails to raise a little gooseflesh. "Cry A While"
was a winner, and works live whereas "Lonesome Day Blues" doesn't quite cut it. "Shooting Star" is
always nice, and "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" was the most "country" since the days of the Campbell/Sexton
harmonies. Another tight fit for this particular assemblage of talent.
This band is goin' places. I would like to see this group stay intact for at least a couple years, or
until Bob rides his next tangent off into the stars. I would like to think Elana could juggle her
responsibilities to the Hot Club Of Cowtown with the requirements of Bob Dylan And His Band. Stu
Kimball is kickin' some serious a-double-s now, and Donnie Herron appears to be a force to be reckoned
with. Second guitarist Denny Freeman may currently be the weakest link in this line-up, but he shows
promise. And Tony Garnier/George Recile are a rhythm section without equal. It's very nearly unfathomable
that Tony's been slappin' the bass for sixteen years come this June. Talkin' Around The World
Never-Ending Tour Blues! I would like to see this group behind Bob in the studio playing on his next
record. I've always thought it a shame that Bob never really recorded Larry and Charlie, so it would be
wonderful to have this band documented in a medi! um other than live performance.
I had a great time at these shows, and as always, Chicago played a gracious and effervescent host.
Looking ahead, it's the hometown show on April 12. Seeya there!
page by Bill Pagel
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