April 16, 2013
Review by Alex Leik
A gem last night...
Some days you have it, and some days you don't…Tuesday 16APR in
Richmond, our hero and his crack band, born again with the addition of
one Michael John "Duke" Robillard, had "it"!!
Let me say Dawes did a fine job of warming up the crowd, although the
gushing over their good fortune of landing the opening slot on a Dylan
tour was a bit much. But they accomplished their goal, which, in my mind,
is to make me want to go out and buy an album or 2 of their material.
Well done, boys.
Not long after the roadie announcement about enjoying the live
experience in person, and not through a cell phone screen (the mirrors
and dim lighting are clearly a solid & seemingly successful effort to keep
the photogs at bay), Bob & the latest version of "His Band" took the
stage about 8:40, Stu strumming the opening riff that seems to have
replaced the much loved Fanfare for the Common Man (at least in the
common man's mind). Immediately, my concerns about losing Charlie
Sexton were put to rest. Duke's blues fills on Things Have Changed
(2000) immediately caught my ear and had me thinking we might be in
for a wild ride…and Love Sick (1997) confirmed that. Easily the best
version I have heard of this "new" classic since the early days with Bucky
or Larry on pedal steel. Duke has a grasp on this song from his own
recording, and Bob replaced his signature "noodle note" guitar solo with
a blistering harp solo that brought the house down. Duke's "kid in a candy
store" approach continued on Highwater (2001), and you had to wonder
here if Duke was thinking to himself "JHC, this is about as good as it gets".
Well, it got a whole helluva lot better…
Soon After Midnight (2012) kicked off the Tempest tracks, and Bob is
clearly proud of his latest offering, as he damn well should be. This has
become my favorite track, with the nod to Santo & Johnny's 1959 classic
instrumental, Sleepwalk, in the guitar solo. Talk about bringing it all back
home. It is on this track where I notice Bob's piano is way up in the mix,
and his vocals are clearer than I can recall in some time. The Tempest
love fest continued with Early Roman Kings (2012), and low point in the
show, but still had me stomping my foot.
We soared again with a simply beautiful TUIB (1974), a slight reworking of
what he has been playing of late, and Donnie getting some nice highlights
here, but again it was Duke who had just the right fills, and Bob seemed
to recognize this, throwing a few nods in his direction (my better half was
heard asking "Is he SMILING??!!") - yes, we all are J. Pay In Blood (2012),
as has already been commented by so many, has a swampy feel, a
departure from the album version. Clearly one Bob feels is not yet finished
(where as the other 3 Tempest offerings of the night were pretty much
carbon copies of the album)
The evening reached a new level I have not seen in some time with
Visions of Johanna (1966). Tony drove this one perfectly, just at the right
level in the mix, and Bob's second best vocal of the night. That's correct,
it actually got BETTER after this. While Spirit on the Water (2006) was a
bit of a break in the energy, Bob seems to enjoy it. And if it is what got
him the in mood to deliver the harp with the passion he gave it in Beyong
Here Lies Nothing (2009), well then keep it in the set list, Bobby. No
trumpet, no bob on guitar for this together Through Life gem, just hard
rocking blues. The momentum kept going to Blind Willie McTell (1983),
the same version as the past years, but it was here I found myself thinking
"Johanna & Willie in the same set…that is a blessing I'd take 1,000 times
The show reached epic proportions for me with What Good Am I? (1989).
Firstly, I had never seen this track live in 70+ shows. Not one of my favorites
from Oh Mercy, until tonight. The vocal was the highlight, sung with such
care, reminiscent of the half acoustic/half electric shows in the Larry/Charlie
days. Yes, he can still do it, and tonight was the proof. The audience did a
very nice job of quieting down and letting our hero deliver, and as I looked
at the band, they seemed to recognize they were indeed in one of those
Dylan "moments", one I will not soon forget.
We wound down with a very raucous Thunder on the Mountain (2006),
Scarlet Town (2012) and the required AATW (1967) for the main set. I
love the choice of Ballad of a Thin Man (1965) as the encore, and I am sure
Bob doesn't mind a break from LARS.
This band has life again. I really thought I would be disappointed with
Charlie's departure (I was the first time), but about 3 songs in, I realized we
have a whole new energy, and Duke is getting leads the likes of which I have
not seen for a "newby" that I can ever recall. The talk about the set list not
changing because Duke is getting comfortable is bunk…that guy could play
his way out of a sunken submarine 5 miles deep. This stagnant set list is just
the current version of the 'Bob Dylan Show'. It's not always about a
changing set list, its about the performance overall, and tonight that
performance was simply sublime. You will notice I also listed the year for each
song in my review, so that you can fully appreciate the scope of our hero's
work that is now being presented each night. I found it quite amazing as I
wrote the years down on my notes.
So, in 2013, if you have the time & money, just go. If you don't have the
time and money, make the time, and find the money. In the past 5 years I
can honestly says I never thought I would have one of these moments again,
but I will gladly call the show I saw in Richmond on 16APR, 2013, one of the
top 5 shows in my Dylan watching career. Thank you, Bob!
Comments by Paula Jones
Extremely enthusiastic, sold out crowd. Dawes was great. We had been
watching the set lists and knew exactly what to expect. Bob, the band and
the show were the best of the 5 we've seen. Bob's hand over his heart in
appreciation was very touching.
What concerned me was the problem Bob seemed to be having with
knees/and or hips. He had on white with black spectator type shoes, so
his feet were very visible. (We were in the center balcony with binoculars)
His stance was very wide - approx. 3 feet - as if he needed to keep his
balance. Then, too, the sitting at the grand piano. I have witnessed joint
instability first hand, as my husband has had both knees and hips replace
over several years. This was classic. Big change from the 7/2009 concert
we attended. Sorry for your pain, Bob!
Review by Thad Williamson
Having gone on countless trips by plane, train, and automobile to see
Dylan from one end of this continent to the other over the last 20+ years,
this concert will always stand out for me as being the closest to where I
live--literally two miles away from my house. Beautiful spring day here in
Richmond, capped by walking into an ancient theater and knowing you've
just passed by Bob Dylan's tour bus--that's pretty sweet. It's also nice
to be able to write this review just a few minutes after the concert ended
rather than hours later.
As everyone knows from the set lists, Dylan's tour this spring has been
very heavy on material from 1997 onward. Since I happen to be working on
an essay about "Love and Theft" and Modern Times, this suits me fine, and
I'm increasingly impressed by the lyrical depth of Dylan's elder statesman
But musically, it's easier to begin with observations about the "old"
songs. Tangled Up in Blue is given yet another shading with Bob tickling
the ivories, and making a genuine effort to enunciate the lyrics at a pace
it's possible so that even those not highly trained in deciphering Dylan
would have a reasonable chance of making them out. Visions of Johanna is
even more impressive--just a lovely arrangement, presenting the song in
its fully glory. Towards the end of the show, Watchtower and Thin Man
were less memorable, but they served the purpose of pleasing the crowd.
Of the more recent songs, I thought Spirit on the Water really stood out
as an outstanding performance; having seen Soon After Midnight live
already I wasn't quite as blown away as in DC, but it still was very nice
with added time in for extended guitar soloing by Duke. Dylan really seems
to enjoy performing Early Roman Kings and packed some real venom into the
delivery. What Good Am I? was also just about perfect.
The most interesting performance both lyrically and musically though is
"Pay in Blood"--a songs that fascinates me precisely because while it's
obviously very heavy stuff, the meaning isn't obvious and is open to
multiple interpretations. Before anyone gets too invested in their
interpretation, they might want to hear Bob's live rendering, which
changes some of the lyrics around and also is not the chords, at least the
way the chords sound in the refrain. I couldn't make out all the new lines
but one was something like "life isn't long, you might be dead tomorrow,
better sing your song."
Overall it was a great concert. The audience was appreciative and not put
off but how hard Dylan is to make out at times, especially in the opener
Things Have Changed in which you had to know the words to have any chance.
But I wonder how deeply the audience knows and appreciates the material
from these shows, and the commentary loaded in these songs, many of which
touch on race and slavery, esp. Blind Willie McTell. Race, slavery, and so
forth are key topics here in Richmond, former capital of the Confederacy.
I was hoping Dylan might make an even more explicit nod to the venue by
breaking out something crazy like "Cross the Green Mountain." Of course he
didn't, but what he did play was pretty damn good.
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