Asheville, North Carolina

U.S. Cellular Center Arena

April 30, 2013

[Duncan Hume], [Tom Kerr], [J. Matthew Martin], [Bill Morris]

Review by Duncan Hume

How much longer? How much longer? So goes the refrain in New Pony. Based
on tonight's performance the finishing end isn't at hand. Not even close. Way 
back he said "What do they want from me? I've given them enough already"
and yet he's still there, night after night doing what he sees as his job and 
what we see as remarkable. Anniversary's come thick and fast. 52 years since 
his first paid New York performance has just passed us by. His peers meet their 
maker with alarming and increasing frequency. Death's honesty has thankfully 
not yet fallen upon him yet.  Ding dong Daddy. His bell still rings.

An energetic start with Things Have Changed to a half filled barn of a place; 
Bob hatless in a dim light stood stage center holding the microphone and using 
it as a prop; the back lighting giving his tangle of unruly fluffy hair a halo effect. 
Love Sick giving the new boy Duke a chance to show us his chops and he's got 
plenty to offer. The rotund Mr Robillard, static for most of the evening, lets his 
guitar do the wandering to great effect. He is clearly a great addition to the 
band. No leaping about the stage, (I'm not sure he could actually leap) but he 
brings an authority, a gravitas. He doesn't continually watch Bob for queues but 
listens closely and provides some really fine interplay with Bob's unorthodox 

The stunning highlight of the evening is What Good Am I? Faithful to the New 
Orelans studio heritage so fascinatingly glimpsed in Chronicles Vol 1. The hairs 
on my arm stand to attention as I think about the performance. The vocal 
delivery was sublime. Staggeringly great. Deep, rich, considered and masterful.  
Soon After Midnight was also a delight. Crooned and casually gorgeous. 

He's left fans behind and picked up new ones along the way as we know; the 
younger crew probably more familiar with Modern Times, "Love and Theft", 
Together Through Life and Tempest than say Knocked Out Loaded, Infidels, 
Saved, Real Live, Self Portrait and even maybe Another Side of Bob Dylan. 
Everyone knows Bringing It All Back Home, Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 
though right? Right? You wouldn't have known it from the crowd, most 
seemed near death, offering a reserved smattering of applause at the 
conclusion to most of the new songs and many of the old. Visions of Johanna 
was the first time in the evening Bob sat down on the piano stool. He crafted 
his masterpiece that was greeted, not with a deserved rapturous response 
from the crowd, but with a polite round of applause that I found very odd 
and somewhat sad. 

There is still the bizarre element we come to expect. The mirrors on stage to 
foil the casual snapper using a flash is my theory, supported by the pre show 
announcement admonishing those who attempt to watch the show through 
their camera phones rather than "live and in person". The glances and glares 
and a hundred expressions delivered at band members. You know the looks, 
'I approve' with the eyebrows, 'I wish you were not here' with a sly squint, 
'my hair is okay isn't it?' with a tug, the thumb and forefinger chin rub. The 
hands on the hips and belt fiddle. The body bends and chaplinesque 
moments. They were all on display tonight as usual. 

So what of the 2013 version of Bob Dylan? He's said he continues to make 
music for new audiences and again proved that by show casing four songs 
from the latest release. Only Pay In Blood didn't work. A song that lacks a 
tune became more tuneless, if such a thing were possible, while Bob tried to 
crowbar the flabby lyrics into some sort of structure. Tangled Up In Blue by 
the way is re-arranged ambling around until the title line is thankfully delivered 
in its original format. 

The set list remaining unchanged is a change. Unusual for the so-called Never 
Ending Tour but then look at the setlists from earlier years. Those pre 'Never 
Ending Tour' shows. Those pre internet ExpectingRain Boblinks set list trackers. 
Those pre Dylan Pool 'guess what he's gonna play tonight' gamers. 

The stage has been set for the "Bob Dylan show" now. One could explain the 
lack of song changes with the arrival of his new lead guitar player. There's 
probably an element of truth in that but he's clearly a very accomplished 
musician who can turn his hand to anything. He's a very exciting addition. 
Asheville 2013 demonstrates to all who care to listen that Dylan is still engaged 
and can still leave me speechless. There were moments of majesty tonight I 
very much doubted I'd ever see again. After all these years he can still do it. 
These years have not been long and wasted. Far from it. What a ride it's been.


Review by Tom Kerr

I have read many reviews from this tour from people who didn't much
like the shows they attended. Several referred to how "dark" they were,
using words like "dirge" and "death" to describe the overall performance/mood.
That's bullshit. The stage ambiance is low-light and minimal, and Dylan
uses trademark snarl in some of his vocal deliveries. Some of the lyrics
go into dark places. But the music and its performance were far from funereal. 
Instead it was elegant, uplifting, poignant, and sexy. Dylan doing his thing, just
as he's done for decades by being the incomparable artist that he is.

If you want a rockabilly show you will likely be disappointed. If you buy
a ticket wanting a strong emphasis on Western swing you'll likely be
disappointed. My guess is that folks who wrote the downer reviews had high
expectations of the version of Dylan they would prefer to see this time around,
and when they didn't find it they felt bad and blamed him. (Sound familar? 
Haven't we heard that kind of disgruntled whining since Dylan was in his 
early 20s?)

But that says a whole lot more about the reviewers than it does about Bob 
Dylan and his band. They just put on a kick-ass beautiful performance with a 
particular kind of musical arrangement and set that won't agree with 
everyone's personal taste.  Was the show any good? Are you kidding? 
Phenomenal from start to finish. Leave your preconceived expectations at 
the door. Then listen to and enjoy this memorable tour.

Oh yeah, and for those who think Bob has lost his juice.
One pretty young thing took off an article of clothing and
threw it to the stage a few minutes before the encore. She
was obviously pleased and not feeling too dark and bored.
The only show I can compare it to in mood and ambience
was one I saw years ago in a tiny venue in Spain with Jimmy
McGriff on the Hammon B3 organ and Hank Crawford on guitar
- a jazz blues gig. Bob may be aging, but like fine single malt.


Review by J. Matthew Martin

I had reservations about last night’s show at the U.S. Cellular Center (formerly 
the Asheville Civic Center). The usual cast of characters was going: Terri, 
brother Bob, the kid and her friend, our buddies from Cherokee and, yes, 
even Bubba, although he did not attend with us but rather with his pal. I 
wanted the teenagers to have a good time and some reviews had been, if 
not dour, at least problematic. Still, we got free parking on the street and 
that was both rare and welcome. It turned out to be a good omen.

I liked Dawes just fine. They seemed enthused just to be there and promised 
to return to the Orange Peel in July. The teenagers particularly enjoyed the
lead guitarist. Terri said that their parents force fed them a diet of the first 
two Eagles albums for all of their toddler years and that could be true.

What I thought was a late arriving crowd never really showed. Over the last 
decade or so, attendance for Bob at the Civic Center has diminished each 
time and this go ‘round the old bunker was maybe 35% full. The show would 
have fit and perhaps worked better, in the smaller Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, 
next door. Still, I should point out that the sound in the Civic Center has 
historically always ranged from dreadful to barely adequate and might have 
kept some away. However, tonight, the sound was superb, never better. 
Maybe the suits from U.S. Cellular have gotten involved.

The main event was marvelous. However, if you wanted the full on rockin’, 
the roadhouse bar band of yesteryear (or even last year), you were bound 
to be disappointed. This is a totally different show in theme, pacing and 
timbre. The driving elements are not the guitars, but rather the base, drums 
and Bob’s voice (which I thought was not bad for a septuagenarian smoker). 
The guitars added the fills, but only occasionally took the spotlight. Stu plays 
all of the hard parts on the acoustic type songs (Love Sick, Soon After 
Midnight, Tangled up in Blue, Visions of Johanna, etc...) while Duke comes in 
and out with little leads, watching Bob for cues. Donnie basically ties it all 
together. The piano was plonked, pinged and played, depending on the 
song, but only on Ballad of a Thin Man did he play the whole song on the 
piano. He did not play the keyboard, but it was set up. It looked to me like 
he had lyric sheets, lying on top of the piano, but that is just a guess.

Yes, the staging is dark. There are no spotlights. Yes, there are a couple of 
mirrors at the front of the stage facing outward, but I hardly think those can 
deter or impede filming. Brother Bob opined that the whole show sounded 
like the album Tempest. If you like the pacing and sound of that album, you 
will love this more reserved, somewhat dark show. Terri thought it was like a 
club show from the 1940's and that is an interesting observation. The pacing 
was deliberate, but languid. He did not speak to the crowd, but did tilt the 
mike toward himself while rocking back and forth in a rickety manner.

Our hero wore a slightly large black suit with a 5 button coat, fitted out with 
red piping up the legs, across the wrists and between the buttons on the 
back. His white shirt sparkled with rhinestones or some sort of twinkles. He 
wore a bolo tie and his collar was open. His white boots were adorned with 
black tips. All of the band members except Donnie wore hats and were 
attired in crisp suits. Bob had a hat, which he did not wear, and it appeared 
to me that it held harmonicas.

The highlights were Soon After Midnight, Early Roman Kings, Tangled Up in 
Blue, Visions of Johanna, the incredible harmonica solo in Blind Willie McTell,
and Scarlet Town. I am not sure that I had ever heard What Good am I live
and it was a treat.

How does an old guy like that stay so cool that teenagers in the audience 
are shouting "I love you, Bob!"? The only thing I can think of remotely close 
to this phenomenon, and it is a phenomenon, is perhaps late Pablo Picasso.

Thank you, Bob, for coming back to the Land of the Sky once more. And 
thanks to Bill Pagel for providing this wonderful community space—it 
obviously takes a lot of work.
J. Matthew Martin


Review by Bill Morris

Bob and company hit the stage in Asheville, all  looking sharp- promptly at 
8:30 with 'Things have changed' followed by 'Love Sick'.  Bob at center 
stage in a black suit with the usual vest and frock coat....pants and coat 
with red piping.....the  description 'funky admiral' came to mind. There 
have been some great descriptions of his outfits over the years: riverboat 
gambler / mariachi gunslinger / wild west undertaker and last night he 
scored with both his attire and the show.  
Duke Robillard adds a lot of heft to this band with his leads and it appears 
Bob enjoyed giving him the nod to take over...lots of grins from Bob 
compared to what seemed like years of non-stop (almost) scowling.  
Donnie Herron versatile on banjo, guitar and steel;  Bob stood over his 
grand piano most of the time, but when he sat down he turned more 
to face the audience, especially when during 'Spirit on the water' he sang  
'you say I'm past my prime / show me what you got / we can have a 
whopping good time' . I was up close on the floor and you could tell the 
band knew that they were clicking. Bob pulled some cool poses at the mic, 
playing harp with one hand, and the other in his pocket. 
I miss seeing Bob strap on an electric guitar and would like to have heard 
them stomp through 'Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat  or Sweet Marie, but I did 
hear 'Blind Willie McTell' for this first time, and they absolutely scorched 
"Watchtower" and 'Thunder on the Mountain". The  Modern Times and 
Tempest songs were all weak spots in this show.   Just after 
10:00  They wrapped it up with 'Thin Man' convincingly and heading for 
another joint -  Charlotte, then Raleigh.

Don't miss this tour. With My Morning Jacket and Wilco opening some 
shows this summer (right?), it will be the best lineup of the year.
Bill Morris


Comments by Tom Kerr



Click Here
to return to the
Main Page

page by Bill Pagel

Tour Guide
Tour Guides
Bob Links
Set Lists
by Date
Set Lists
by Location